Witness thought loose dogs might kill a man they had on the ground

·5 min read
Michael Edmond Kirby 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. (Brian Chisholm/CBC - image credit)
Michael Edmond Kirby 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. (Brian Chisholm/CBC - image credit)

During two days of testimony, five people have testified about being attacked by Michael Kirby's dogs in 2018.

All were going about their business when they encountered varying numbers of his dogs, which seemed to regularly be on the loose on Saint John's lower west side.

A teenager testified on Tuesday that he was on his way to catch a bus to take him to school on Dec. 12, 2018 when he was bit from behind by one of two large black dogs.

The boy, whose identity is protected by a court order, was 14 at the time.

He said one dog grabbed his left ankle and the other his right arm.

He yelled for help as the dogs began pulling him backwards and briefly to the ground.

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

Jeffrey McKay was delivering newspapers across the street when he heard the boy's cries for help.

McKay testified that he yelled at the dogs and managed to scare them off long enough for the boy to cross the road to join him.

But the dogs quickly returned and they were both attacked. He said he tried to kick at one of the dogs, but the dogs kept coming.

David Babcock heard the commotion from his front step down the street and ran to help the pair.

Babcock said he had to kick one of the dogs in the head to get it to let go.

Several witnesses testified that Kirby arrived in a grey van, loaded up the dogs and took off without speaking to anyone.

"If it hadn't been for her, they might have had me." - William Stevens

Kirby, 58, was charged with four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm for attacks on four separate people, and one of failing to abide by a court undertaking to keep his dogs on leash and muzzled when in public.

The teenager ended up being taken to the hospital for several puncture wounds on his wrists, ankle, calves, upper arm and back.

The boy told the court that he loved dogs before the attack but is now "kind of intimidated by them."

The court also heard from a man who was attacked by the same two dogs shortly before the teenager was.

William Stevens testified on Monday that two dogs attacked him not far from his home on Winslow Street. 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.

The court also heard from that woman.

Christine Landry said she was on her way to pick up her daughter and granddaughter as she does every morning at 8:15. As she waited in her car for them, she saw two dogs attack Stevens. She said she had suffered a dog bite in the past. She was scared, "but I couldn't not help. I had to help."

Landry said she was worried the dogs would kill him. She jumped out of her car and managed to scare the dogs away long enough to get Stevens into her car.

She dropped him off at his residence and returned to her daughter's place, where the dogs were still roaming around.

Landry said she noticed a teenage boy approaching and saw the dogs begin to charge at him. She said she sped to the boy's location as quickly as she could and the dogs were already attacking.

By the time of those incidents, Kirby was already on a court undertaking to keep 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.

Most of Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes.

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

Michael Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes. The dog in this photo is a purebred version of the breed.
Michael Kirby's dogs have been described as Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog mixes. The dog in this photo is a purebred version of the breed. (American Kennel Club)

It says the breed, originally used to hunt wild boar in the Catahoula Lake region of Louisiana, "requires firm guidance and early socialization, as they can be independent, territorial, and protective."

Kirby was arrested by police after the Dec. 12, 2018 incidents, and by the time the dogs were removed from his tiny Winslow Street apartment two days later, one of them was dead.

Const. Peter Haslett, a canine handler with the Saint John Police Force, was part of a team of officers and SPCA officials who removed the dogs.

While a video of the extraction was played for the court, Haslett described what was happening.

Barking could be heard as two men in protective equipment stood in the doorway of the apartment and spent several minutes trying to coax the dogs out.

Only one came willingly.

On the video, the dog could be seen wagging its tail and wandering around the fenced-in deck area. It was leashed and taken to a plastic dog crate nearby.

The others took a bit more work.

Haslett said the dogs displayed varying degrees of fear and aggression as the three officers went into the apartment.

He said the most aggressive dog was a female that tried to circle behind the first two officers. Haslett managed to catch it with a pole-and-wire device that's common in animal control.

He said the female dog continued to fight and show aggression until she was unable to breathe and started losing consciousness. One of the SPCA officers put a muzzle on her and she was put in a crate.

Haslett said the next dog was also quite aggressive, albeit not as much as the female removed moments earlier.

He said the last two dogs weren't as much trouble and were more scared than aggressive.

Haslett said the sixth dog had obviously been dead for a while and "looked like it was chewed on."

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