Neighbourhood's worst fear realized when ignored warnings about roaming dogs ends in attack

·3 min read
Gordon Sopczak was bitten by two dogs while outside of his son's home in the Jackson Heights neighbourhood on Tuesday. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC - image credit)
Gordon Sopczak was bitten by two dogs while outside of his son's home in the Jackson Heights neighbourhood on Tuesday. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC - image credit)

Gordon Sopczak had just dropped off his granddaughter and was doing yard work outside his son's home in the Jackson Heights neighbourhood when he noticed two dogs running toward him.

As he moved toward his car to avoid them, he tripped over the edge of the bumper and fell toward the trunk.

"As I fell in the trunk, my legs came up and the dogs bit me," he said. "They got both legs."

Sopczak wounds, which he showed to CBC News, include punctures on one calf along with a deeper wound along the shin of his other leg.

Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC
Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC

Edmonton police confirm they received a report of a man being attacked by two large dogs in a yard near 44th Avenue and 35th Street on Tuesday at around 5:15 p.m. Police, along with the city's animal control team, are investigating.

The dogs match a description of animals that have been previously spotted loose in the area, Sopczak said.

Days before the incident, Christine St. Jean, a resident of the cul de sac where the attack happened, had contacted CBC News to express concerns about two dogs that had been roaming and occasionally showing aggressive behaviour toward residents.

She was unhappy with the lack of action from the city's animal control department.

"This just reiterates everything we've been saying for years and trying to report to bylaw and warning them," St. Jean said Wednesday, the day after the attack.

Watch: Problem dogs videotaped by south Edmonton residents

St. Jean has shared video camera footage that shows the dogs running unrestrained through the neighbourhood. In one of the clips, a residents holding an item similar to a two-by-four piece of lumber as a dog growls and barks at him.

St. Jean said she has filed close to 50 complaints about times the dogs have been loose in the neighbourhood and says the incidents became more common last fall.

She shared multiple emails between herself, animal control, and community services employees that date back to December. One cites multiple tickets being issued to the owner and escalation of measures.

"Everybody followed the process. They did as they were told. They filed the reports," she said.

"Did all the neighbours report every time? Probably not, but there's lots of documented evidence that a lot of the neighbours have that we put in trying to get this issue resolved."

Brianna Murray, another resident of the cul de sac, said she and relatives have fended off the dogs on multiple occasions. In one instance, she had taken her infant daughter out of the vehicle as one of the dogs ran toward her while growling and barking.

"I can't run in and grab a bottle for the baby because the dogs can jump the fence. It's absolutely terrifying that in a blink of an eye one of our kids in this neighbourhood can be bitten," Murray said.

A spokesperson for animal control said it isn't possible to comment on complaints about the dogs or the recent attack because it's an active investigation.

Supplied by Christine St. Jean
Supplied by Christine St. Jean

In a brief phone conversation with CBC News, a woman who identified herself as the owner of the dogs that neighbours have complained about acknowledged that her dogs have been "a nuisance." She said animal control has worked with her and she feels things have improved.

She said neighbours have exaggerated incidents with the dogs, calling it a "witch hunt." She also expressed concerns about video of her children along with the dogs being posted to social media.

Visits from animal control end without her being ticketed, she added.

She did not agree to a request by CBC News for another interview.

The website of the Animal Care and Control Centre states tickets are issued "in cases where owners have received multiple fines for repeat offences, such as a barking dog or dog at-large, and for extreme instances such as serious dog attacks." Higher fines can be issued by the provincial court, which can also order the city to seize an animal from its owner.

Sopczak said he would like the dogs that bit him to be euthanized and their owner penalized.

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