Witnesses tell court how they were attacked by dogs on loose in Saint John

·4 min read
Michael Edmond Kirby was charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after his dogs, Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes, allegedly attacked four people in 2018.  (Brian Chisholm/CBC - image credit)
Michael Edmond Kirby was charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after his dogs, Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes, allegedly attacked four people in 2018. (Brian Chisholm/CBC - image credit)

William Stevens had just left his Winslow Street home in Saint John when he came across some familiar dogs loose on the street.

There were only two of them that day in December 2018, but he had seen as many as four roaming the streets of his lower west side neighbourhood.

The two were into some garbage nearby and Stevens tried to quietly slip past, but one of them noticed him, and they both went after him.

They bit him on both legs and had him on the ground before a woman driving by stopped and yelled at the dogs.

"If it hadn't been for her, they might have had me," he said in court on Monday afternoon.

Stevens was testifying on the first day of a four-day trial for a man accused of letting his dogs attack people in 2018.

Michael Kirby leaving the Saint John courthouse on Monday afternoon.
Michael Kirby leaving the Saint John courthouse on Monday afternoon. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

Michael Edmond Kirby, 58, is on trial for four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and one of failing to abide by a court undertaking to keep his dogs on leash and muzzled when in public.

At the time of the alleged attack on Stevens, Kirby was already on a court order to keep his dogs under control.

The court undertaking said Kirby was to keep all of his dogs on his property at all times, except when he took them for a walk. He was ordered to take them one at a time and keep them muzzled and on leash each time.

On Monday afternoon, Stevens told the court he felt blood dripping down his leg when the motorist dropped him off at his house. That's when he started to panic about the possibility of contracting rabies.

Soon the police and an ambulance arrived and he was taken to the hospital. He said the doctor wanted to stitch up the deepest of his wounds, which he estimated to be about a quarter-inch deep.

He told the court that he declined stitches since he had never had them in his life, but he wished he had gotten them, since it took the wound about six months to heal.

The court also heard from Garfield McPhee, a deckhand on a tugboat that was tied up at the port on Aug. 22, 2018. McPhee said he spends two weeks living and working on the boat and two weeks off.

That day, he awoke at about 5 a.m. and started walking to the Tim Hortons on King Street West when a dog suddenly appeared in front of him.

McPhee testified that within seconds, several more dogs arrived. He said they formed a semicircle around him and he knew he had to get out of there.

"I just had a funny feeling that I was in a bad situation," he told the court on Monday.

As he turned to flee, one of the dogs bit him in the leg. He ran to the back of a transport truck parked nearby. As he clambered up the back of the truck, the dogs continued to bite his legs.

He said he couldn't be sure but thought there were six dogs involved.

Michael Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes. The dogs shown here are purebred versions of the breed.
Michael Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes. The dogs shown here are purebred versions of the breed. (American Kennel Club)

He testified that Kirby arrived soon after. He said he told Kirby that he was bleeding and asked him to call 911. Kirby quickly put the dogs on leashes and left the scene without calling 911.

McPhee said he suffered 10 to 12 puncture wounds and missed the next seven days of his two-week work shift because of the injuries.

Allan Howe said he was on his way for his morning coffee on Sept. 2, 2018, when he saw three dogs tied to a pole across the street from the Tim Hortons.

He said he walked past the dogs, commenting to them out loud, "nice dogs."

Howe said that's when he was bitten in the back of the thigh by one of the dogs that got loose from the pole with its leash still attached.

At least one more person is expected to testify about being attacked by Kirby's dogs, which have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog is a medium-large sized dog with a variety of coat and eye colours.

It says the breed "requires firm guidance and early socialization, as they can be independent, territorial, and protective."

The trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday morning. Four days have been set aside.