A seven-year-old girl is dead after being mauled by two dogs belonging to friends of her family near Oakbank, Man. 

RCMP said the girl was attacked just before 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. She was rushed to the Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg where she was pronounced dead.

RCMP said the girl was at the home of family friends when she was attacked. Shortly after, Springfield Animal Control seized two Alaskan malamute dogs.

Dan Fryer, the animal control officer who seized the two dogs, said they have not been destroyed and have not been acting aggressively since being taken into custody.

"Right now we have them in a secure facility, and they will stay there until we get further direction," said Fryer.

RCMP said they will not be releasing the name of the girl but did say she was from St. Andrews.

Dogs didn't show aggression, neighbour says

Kristin Nicholson lives next to the home where the dog owners lived. She said she didn’t know of any other incidents with the three-year-old dogs, who are named Shadow and Bear.

Kristin Nicholson

Kristin Nicholson lives next door to the people who owned the dogs. She said she wasn't aware of any other incidents involving the dogs. (Caroline Barghout/CBC)

“They were out here with our kids all the time,” said Nicholson. “I never would have thought that they were capable of doing that.”

Nicholson did say that one of the dogs went missing recently but was later found.

“I think pretty much I'm still in shock, like it still really hasn't hit home that that is what happened,” said Nicholson. “It's unbelievable.”

She said the victim didn’t live in the home where she was attacked, but her grandparents were often there visiting friends.

The little girl visited so often, she got to know Nicholson’s kids.

“She’s been over here playing with our kids also. She came over one day and watched a movie, and she was there lots,” she said. “Lots of times [she was] playing with those dogs.”

RCMP are still not sure what triggered the attack.

“She was seven years old out having a good time playing with the dogs, and something went horribly wrong,” said Tara Steel, with RCMP media relations.

Grief counsellors called into school

CBC News has learned the girl went to St. Andrews School, and grief counsellors have been sent to the school to help students and parents deal with the tragedy.

Scot Kwasnitza, superintendent of Lord Selkirk School Division where St. Andrew’s School is located, said officials contacted the families who had children in the little girl’s class to help parents explain what happened.

“The school administration also was able to contact all of the parents of the students in her Grade 2 class,” he said. “They’re obviously an important part of the discussion, you know. They’ll have this discussion with their children at home, and so we’ve tried to put these resources in place that will help them to discuss this openly and fairly.”

Kwasnitza added counsellors will be available at the schools for the next few days to help families, but he said children have already started to respond.

“They’ve already started to write cards – that’s another way of expressing their grief,” he said.

Big dogs must be watched, expert says

The head of the Winnipeg Humane Society said Alaskan malamutes are normally friendly dogs, but any large dogs should be under constant supervision when they’re around children.

“Big dogs are of concern with small children,” said Bill McDonald. “It doesn’t matter the breed, whether it is an Alaskan malamute or any large breed dog from a collie to a German shepherd.”

McDonald said he’s only heard of children being mauled to death in the province by packs of dogs on remote First Nations communities.

“It’s usually the case of an aboriginal community with pack animals running at large,” said McDonald. “When you’re talking about a domesticated situation, this one is a bit shocking and tragic for the whole family.”

RCMP said there was adult supervision the day the incident happened, but they were gone for only a minute when the attack happened.