'It just broke our hearts': Lethbridge dog owners on high alert following attack in Gyro Park

A Lethbridge couple is warning others to be careful in Gyro Park after a dog they describe as a pitbull attacked their Jack Russell terrier Thursday night, causing injuries that led to it being put down.

Tony Balfour says a pitbull attacked his 2 Jack Russell terriers, injuring 1 so badly it had to be put down

Barb and Tony Balfour's Jack Russell terrier, Newman, was put down after it was attacked by what they say was a pitbull terrier. (Submitted by Barb Balfour)

A Lethbridge couple is warning others to be careful in Gyro Park after a dog — they describe as a pitbull — attacked their Jack Russell terrier Thursday night, causing injuries that led to it being put down.

Gyro Park allows dogs but signs posted in the area say they must be on a leash.

Barb Balfour says her husband, Tony Balfour, was walking their two Jack Russell terriers — Timbit and Newman — in the south Lethbridge park around 9:30 p.m. when another dog — he described as a pitbull — charged at them, pinning Newman to the ground and biting him.

She says the other owner gathered the attacking dog and took off without exchanging information.

"The owner just had no regard for what had just happened," she said, adding two bystanders helped Tony get the injured pup into his truck.

Tony rushed the dog to an emergency pet hospital, where the decision was made to put him down.

One of several signs in Gyro Park in Lethbridge saying dogs must be kept on a leash. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

"We just felt it was going to be too invasive," said Balfour. "He was so shaken, he couldn't put his paw down and the quality of life he would have ... it just broke our hearts."

Balfour says she's concerned this could happen again to another dog — or worse.

"Ultimately, it shouldn't have happened. The guy lost control of his dog and it's a playground, you know, for kids," she said.

Balfour says she wants to make one thing clear.

"We blame the owner, not the breed," she said.

The entrance to Gyro Park, where a couple's dog was attacked by what they say was a pitbull. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Natalie Kent lives across the street from Gyro Park and fosters pitbulls for Prairie Pitbull Rescue. She says dogs being off leash is a "chronic issue" at the park.

"We moved to the neighbourhood 10 years ago thinking it was an ideal place to live with dogs and kids," she said.

"It's really proved to be a challenge to go for walks at the park with our kids and our dogs due to the off-leash dog situation that plagues Gyro Park."

Kent says she constantly sees people letting their dogs off leash and playing ball or Frisbee with them.

"Which I love, but this is not the place for that. There are specific places for that," she said.

Lethbridge animal control officer Skylar Plourde confirmed they're investigating the attack, but the owner of the other dog hasn’t yet been identified. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Kent says this isn't a breed issue, but rather an issue of people not following the rules.

"When a sign is posted and the bylaws are that this is not an off-leash dog park, it's incredibly frustrating," she said.

Kent added she doesn't walk her dogs or fosters in Gyro Park anymore because of the problem, and she often calls bylaw when she sees dogs off leash in the park.

Animal control officer Skylar Plourde confirmed they're investigating the incident, but the owner of the other dog hasn't yet been identified.

Plourde says this situation is a reminder of why leash bylaws are in place.

"There could be someone passing through the park with their children who has a fear of dogs, and your dog could be friendly, but they're still scared of your dog," he said. "They have every right to enjoy that park as much as you do."

Dog owners who don't follow the leash bylaw could be fined a minimum of $100.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Lucie most recently headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson