NEWS

Dog Kills Baby In Airdrie, Alberta

02/16/2012 12:57 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT
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AIRDRIE, Alta. - Police say a newborn baby boy died after a family dog with no previous history of attacks turned on the child inside the family's home.

RCMP said the infant was attacked Wednesday morning at the house in Airdrie, a bedroom community just north of Calgary, and died that night in hospital.

Insp. Tony Hamori called the attack an "unimaginable event." He said the family also has a 2 1/2-year-old son and has never had any problems with the husky.

"There is no history whatsoever of any issues with this particular dog," Hamori said at a news conference Thursday. "It's just a very tragic accident."

Hamori wouldn't release any details of the attack out of concern for the family. He did say one of the parents was at home with the child at the time.

"We do not feel there's anything criminal in nature. No charges are being considered at this point in time," he said. "I'd like to express my deepest condolences to the family for the loss of their child."

Neighbours identified the two-storey grey house where the attack happened. It sits on a quiet street in the Kingsland area of the community. There's a park a few doors down. Someone inside the home angrily turned away media.

Erica Wollen, down the street, has two sons of her own. She said the attack made her think about the danger her kids might have been in playing at the park. A lot of people in the neighbourhood leave their dogs off-leash, she said.

"Its horrible," Wollen said. "I can't even imagine the devastation and for it to be their own animal. It would be just devastating because I am sure they trusted their own dog."

Neighbours said the family ran a dog mushing business. The business website says the company sells dog sledding supplies. The website said the family had adopted four huskies. Police said there was only one dog in the home at the time.

Wollen said the family would sometimes hook dog sleds up in front of their house and it was really fun for people in the neighbourhood.

The dog that attacked is being quarantined until the family and bylaw officers decide whether it should be destroyed.

"We want to do the right thing for the family," said Darryl Poburan, manager of municipal enforcement in Airdrie. "We want to do the right thing for the dog.

"I know it freaks me out. It's not something you like to see."

Counselling was being offered to the RCMP officers who attended the scene.

Barbara Walmer is an animal behaviour expert with the Calgary Humane Society. She says the humane society, along with the Calgary Health region, offers a course for parents with a new baby and a dog.

"It's about being able to train and set the animals up for success prior to the baby coming home and then managing the situation when the baby comes home," she said Thursday.

"One of the big things is supervision — always supervise, if you're not supervising or the baby is napping, close the door, use a video camera or video cam to be able monitor the baby instead of allowing the animal to have access to the child when no one is there."

She says there isn't much research into this type of attack because it is so rare, but says it could be a predatory or an arousal/excitement situation. Walmer says in her 10 years in her position, this is the first time she's been aware of such an attack.

Her advice is to never leave a baby or young child alone with a dog.

"You just don't want to leave it to chance that the dog basically doesn't have the person to be able to help make behaviour decisions."

In 2010, a husky killed a three-week-old baby girl as she sat strapped in her car seat on the floor of a home in Quebec.

Her 17-year-old mother was allegedly outside having a cigarette when the dog attacked. She was charged with manslaughter but has yet to go to trial.

Jaimie Rosteski owns a dog-sitting business in Airdrie and was walking an animal in the neighbourhood where the attack happened. She has a two-year-old son, Noah, and a husky-cross at home.

She said any dog can become jealous of newborns.

"Any dog can be aggressive," she said. "I hate breed profiling. We have about 600-plus clients and the only dog that I've ever had a problem with is a Chihuahua.

"Sometimes things happen. A dog is essentially a wild animal at heart and you just never know."

She offered her sympathies to the family.

"It's awful that they lost their little boy and it's also awful for their dog. It's hard on everybody. It's a really terrible thing for them to have to go through."