‘A loaded gun:’ Neighbours say dogs that killed 11-year-old boy were a known danger

By Lisa Johnson, The Canadian Press

Edmonton’s mayor is pledging to find out why two dogs were allowed to remain in a home where previous attacks by the pets ended this week with one that killed an 11-year-old boy. 

“I think we all expect that when people take on the responsibility of having pets in their private homes that they will live up to the expectations that are in the licencing bylaw,” said Amarjeet Sohi on Wednesday, two days after the boys’ death.

Dogs are common in the quiet southern suburb. But neighbours say the large canines at the grey two-storey house, where Beware of Dog signs warn visitors, were a danger and a nuisance.

“It was bound to happen, after hearing what those dogs sound like,” said Justin Pozzolo said Wednesday.

“They’re basically a loaded gun. You shouldn’t be able to own those dogs.”

Police responded to the attack Monday evening and found the two dogs and the boy, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The owner of the dogs lives in the house and the boy had been visiting, police said.

They did not identify the breed of the dogs. The city said the animals were seized and taken to its Animal Care and Control Centre.

“It is so tragic that a young boy had lost his life in these circumstances,” said Sohi.

“You just can’t imagine the pain and the suffering and anxiety the (boy’s) family is going through.”

He said the city will review previous calls and complaints about the dogs and see if there were any gaps in response.

The city has said animal control was called about two recent attacks at the home. One of the complaints was concluded without charges and the other is still under investigation.

There have also been barking complaints in the past year, which resulted in warnings and one ticket.

Police have not said whether the dogs’ owner would be charged. 

A small bouquet of flowers was left beside the driveway of the home. Down the street, Justin and Cheyenne Pozzolo spoke about how they had heard barking and scuffling between the dogs in the backyard. 

“The city let this boy down, and the owners need to be held responsible,” said Cheyenne Pozzolo.

She said they’re now worried about the safety of their young child. 

“I’m so paranoid now. I don’t even want my kid walking to school.”

Marcus Toneatto, superintendent of the Okanagan-Similkameen school district, said support workers have been sent to Osoyoos Elementary School in southern British Columbia, where the boy attended Grade 5. 

“The district’s critical incident team was immediately gathered, notified of the situation and developed a response plan to support students and staff at the school,” he said. “We want to send our heartfelt condolences to the family.”

He said the school and the family are asking for privacy. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2024. 

— With files from Kelly Malone in Saskatoon

Lisa Johnson, The Canadian Press

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