Calgary

Fatal dog attack that killed senior leaves northwest Calgary community shaken

The neighbours of an 86-year-old woman who died after a dog attack Sunday in Calgary say they rushed in to help the woman moments after the attack, and held her while she waited half an hour for an ambulance. 

AHS says it's started an 'immediate' review of why it took EMS 30 minutes to respond

Calgary police say an 86-year-old woman died Sunday afternoon after she was attacked by three dogs in the northwest community of Capitol Hill. (Helen Pike/CBC)

The neighbours of an 86-year-old woman who died after a dog attack Sunday in Calgary say they rushed in to help the woman moments after the attack, and held her while she waited half an hour for an ambulance. 

Lane — whose full name CBC News has agreed to withhold — said he had known the woman for 26 years, and said she was a longtime resident of the community. 

He said the woman went by the nickname Rusty, or Red, because of her auburn hair. 

He said he heard a commotion outside, and left his home thinking he might need to break up a fight, when he found the woman choking on the ground. He said he held her up while his wife called 911 and the dogs' owner brought towels to keep her warm. 

Calgary police told CBC News they were called to the 1500 block of 21st Avenue N.W., in the community of Capitol Hill, at about 2 p.m. for reports of a woman being attacked by three dogs. A spokesperson said the woman was in a back alley gardening when the attack occurred.

Police said the dogs were owned by one of the woman's neighbours. Authorities believe the three dogs to be a North American pit bull terrier mix, a North American Staffordshire mix and an American pit bull.

Paramedics took the woman to hospital in life-threatening condition, but police say she died a short time later, adding her identity is not being released at this time.

"This was an extremely tragic event that resulted in the death of an innocent woman," Det. Kerry Parsons, with the Calgary Police Service, said in a statement. "Our condolences go out to the family and loved ones of the victim as we continue to investigate this incident."

Alberta Health Services (AHS) said it has started an "immediate" review of the EMS response.

Alberta Health Services says it's started an 'immediate' review of why it took EMS 30 minutes to respond to the call on Sunday. (David Bell/CBC)

"EMS responded to this call in approximately 30 minutes," a spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News. "This is longer than we expect and is outside of our target response times."

AHS said emergency medical services was challenged with "extremely high volume" at the time of the incident, "meaning there were no ambulances immediately available."

"Our team is reaching out to the family to share our condolences and to discuss the response directly," the statement said.

'A real go-getter'

Lane described the woman as independent, adding she appeared to do all of her own yard work.

"It just puts all of us to shame," Lane said. "Just a real go-getter, really active person." 

Police said in a statement that neighbours tried to help and that the owner of the three dogs was able to remove them from the scene before officers arrived.

"I've seen the dogs before, and I had no idea that they could become so aggressive," Lane said. 

"When I saw them, they looked fine to me in the backyard." 

Police said the city has seized the dogs and the animals will be held during the investigation. Criminal charges or fines could be laid, and the dogs could be put down.

'She had a beautiful smile' 

Georgia Jaw lives in a house near where the attack took place. She said the older woman would wave and smile when she drove past, and the woman was often out trimming her hedges and tidying her yard.

"She had a beautiful smile. Just really nice," said Jaw. 

The house next door to the victim's was silent by Monday morning.

Sean Goebel, who lives a few houses down from where the incident happened, said he often saw a man walking the leashed "big, strong, powerful dogs," but said he didn't know the man had three dogs. He thought he had only two. 

Goebel said he saw bylaw services arrive first. He said it was quiet and he didn't realize an emergency had happened. 

"You worry that sort of thing — I mean, it's just a few houses down — you worry it could happen to you," he said. 

A City of Calgary spokesperson said a criminal investigation is underway and they are unable to provide further details, as it would compromise the integrity of the investigation. 

They also offered their deepest condolences to the victim's family, friends and loved ones.

"We can share that the animals have been seized, and there is no current community safety risk."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jade Markus

Digital journalist

Jade Markus is a digital journalist at CBC Calgary.

With files from Helen Pike, Elise Stolte, The Canadian Press 

now