Wild dogs plague area where boy mauled to death
Victim's cousin also killed by dogs seven years ago
Trish Audette and Jeffrey Hawkins, with files from KarenKleiss, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, November 18, 2006
EDMONTON - Roaming dogs are a chronic problem for the area where five-year-old Lance Ribbonleg was mauled to death Thursday night on the North Tallcree First Nation reserve.
Seven years ago almost to the day, the boy's young cousin also died in a similar fashion on another northern Alberta reserve nearby.
In the attack that killed Ribbonleg around 7 p.m. Thursday, police said several people came to the boy's defence, but not before a pack of dogs mauled him, leaving his face and upper body unrecognizable.
Roaming dogs are a chronic problem for the area where five-year-old Lance Ribbonleg was mauled to death Thursday night on the North Tallcree First Nation reserve.
AP File Photo
He died before a team of paramedics could fly him to the hospital in Fort Vermilion, 45 kilometres away.
"We haven't had anything like this in a while, but there have been numerous complaints about stray dogs in this community as well as the surrounding area," said Fort Vermillion RCMP unit commander Sgt. Ryan Becker. "Usually because they're starving."
It was dark when Lance left his grandma's house on Thursday night, but a few streetlights lit the path to his own home only two doors away.
The five-year-old boy had almost reached his door when he was attacked by the pack of dogs.
His cousin, Cecilia Alook, was also five years old on Nov. 27, 1999, when she stopped to pet a puppy in Garden River on the Little Red River reserve, also near Fort Vermilion.
"It's awful.... it's hard," said Lance's great-aunt Isabel Alook, who was also Cecilia's adopted grandmother.
The dogs that attacked her, leaving her dead just 200 metres from her home, were said to be starving.
"There's lots of loose dogs running around, that's why it's dangerous here," Isabel Alook said.
Two of the dogs involved in Thursday night's attack, an adult male Rottweiler and a German Shepherd cross, have been quarantined.
RCMP say their owner is willing to have them put down.
The other three or four dogs likely were strays.
Becker said the Tallcree band council passed a resolution similar to an animal control bylaw in 2000 after Cecilia's death. The resolution said dogs found untied on the reserve would be taken into custody for one day.
If unclaimed, the band could destroy the dog.
Following meetings with band members Friday and today about new approaches to the roaming dog problem, Becker said the RCMP will assist with any additional initiatives the band wants to impose.
In previous years, other northern Alberta First Nations have hired a worker to shoot wild dogs roaming their reserves in winter.
Dr. Karen Lange, a veterinarian with the Edmonton Humane Society, said starvation breeds desperation.
"When these dogs roam around for long enough they get pretty desperate for food," she said. "Especially when they see a small child."
German Shepherd breeder Sharon Birch said all it takes is one move from the leader of the pack.
"But, in this case, I believe the attack happened because these dogs were allowed to roam around freely in the reserve," she said. "If they were properly maintained, this would not likely have happened."
A counselling booth for the 250 residents of North Tallcree was set up by Health Canada Friday as the community mourned Lance's death.
The little boy had a big family, including several brothers and sisters, and was known best for his love of playing with other children.
"The whole thing is just awful," said Dylan Thomas, a spokesman for the tribal government. "Everybody feels horrible about this."
The Cree community is about 180 kilometres south of Alberta's border with the Northwest Territories and 500 kilometres north of Edmonton.
December, 2004 -- Several dogs attacked and killed three-year-old Cody Anger-Fontaine in his Maple Ridge, B.C., home. The dogs, three Rottweilers and a collie, were removed from the home and later destroyed.
June, 2004 -- A three-year-old boy was mauled to death by several dogs on the Sayisi Dene First Nation reserve near Tadoule Lake, Man. One of the dogs, a husky-cross, was shot and killed by a band member shortly after the mauling.
March, 2003 -- Four-year-old James Waddell was killed by four Rottweilers after he wandered into the backyard of his Kingston, N.B., home by himself. All four dogs were destroyed.
January, 2002 -- Four-year-old Kyra-Lee Sibthorpe was mauled to death by her family dog, a Rottweiler, in Woodland Beach, Ont., near her father's farmhouse. The dog was destroyed.
November, 1999 -- A pack of starving dogs killed five-year-old Cecilia Alook in Garden River, Alta., after she stopped to pet a puppy just 200 metres from her home. One of the dogs, a Rottweiler, was destroyed.
December, 1998 -- At Cross Lake First Nation reserve in Manitoba, an eight-year-old boy was killed by a pack of stray dogs after they spotted him walking home with food in his hand. The boy, whose name was not released, was the second child on the reserve to be killed by dogs since 1996. A two-year-old was also mauled to death in the summer of that year.
1995 -- A 23-year-old Toronto man was killed when he was attacked by his roommate's Staffordshire pit bull terrier.
© The Edmonton Journal 2006