A North Delta girl is recovering at home after a dog attack left her in the hospital Tuesday afternoon.
Joelle, 9, was walking home on Delwood Drive from Brooke Elementary after school on Sept. 18 when a dog, described as a pit bull and mastiff cross, attacked her, biting her behind her left knee.
Candice, Joelle’s mother, said two men, who presumably owned the dog, pulled the animal off her daughter. (Candice requested her family’s last name not be printed, citing safety concerns.)
“If they weren’t there it could have been a hell of a lot worse,” Candice said. “Thankfully it was just her leg, if you want to look at it that way.”
But the two men left with the dog, Candice said, leaving her daughter where she was. A short time later, one of the men came back and helped Joelle walk to her house a block away. Candice said he left her at the gate, where Joelle’s grandmother saw her and called 911.
“Thankfully he did have a bit of a conscience and took her, because I don’t know if she would have made it home on her own,” Candice said. “She could have bled to death.”
Joelle was already on her way to BC Children’s Hospital when Candice, who was still at work, heard about the incident.
“I left right away, obviously, rushed to Children’s,” Candice said. “It was a long night.”
“It was very scary and I couldn’t look at it,” she continued. “I couldn’t even look at the wound. Everybody just kept mouthing to me that it was really bad. Yeah, it was awful.”
Joelle went in for surgery that night. Doctors stitched her leg back together — the attack had torn away part of her calf — and used a skin graft to replace some of the tissue behind her knee.
She was able to return home late Tuesday night and is now recuperating. She’s on antibiotics, as well as some pain medication to keep her comfortable until she goes back to the hospital for a check-up.
She’s expected to have full use of her leg, although Candice said it “probably won’t be exactly the same.”
“She’s just getting used to having to sit around for a bit here,” Candice said. “She’s a busy girl; she plays hockey, she plays soccer.
“It’s going to wear on her mentally a little bit, but we’re just doing our best to keep just her happy right now.”
On Monday night, Joelle had found out she made the Atom AA team in the North Delta Minor Hockey League. Her leg injury means she will be missing the start of the hockey season.
But Joelle is a trooper, her mother said.
“She’s a real tough cookie,” she said. “She’s going to have some real rough moments but I don’t think she’s going to let this get her down. She’s already concerned about when she can get back to hockey and get back to school.”
According to City of Delta manager of property use and compliance Hugh Davies, bylaw enforcement and Delta police officers were called out to North Delta after the incident.
“The first thing there was to look after the little girl,” Davies said.
After that was taken care of, police and bylaw officers canvassed the neighbourhood for witnesses to the incident.
They found that the dog was known to bylaw officers as it had attacked a woman once before. At that time, back in 2016, the dog was out for a walk when it bit a woman on the thigh.
“The injury there was mostly bruising at that time,” Davies explained. “So after an investigation, the dog was deemed to be aggressive and didn’t meet the definition of what a dangerous dog is under the community charter, which is serious injury to a person.”
Being labelled as an aggressive dog meant its owners needed to comply with certain restrictions, including keeping the dog muzzled and on a leash while out for walks, having a fully fenced yard and getting a dog licence that identifies the animal as aggressive.
The city also came out once a year to ensure those requirements were being met. Davies said the last time they checked on the dog was in August of this year.
Allowing the owners to keep the dog, even though it had already attacked someone, didn’t make sense to Candice.
“I heard from a lot of people in the neighbourhood that the dog is vicious and people are scared of it,” she said.
“I don’t understand how if it had already hurt somebody this would be allowed,” she continued. “If those two guys weren’t there, they didn’t realize the dog had gotten out, it would have killed her.”
After police located the dog at a home in the area, they were issued a warrant to seize the animal and took the dog around 8 p.m. Wednesday night. The school has been notified about the incident and that the dog is now in city custody.
Officers are still investigating the incident, and are looking at the possibility of charges being laid against the owners. They are also seeking a “destruction order” on the dog, meaning it would be put down.
The city has 21 days to compile evidence and bring its case before a judge to apply for the destruction order. If it is approved, then the owners would be notified and have the opportunity to make an appeal. It’s a long process, Davies noted, but said it’s a “legal matter at this time.”