Northern Alberta community mourns 5-year-old boy killed in dog attack

A northern Alberta community is mourning the death of a five-year-old boy who was killed by his family's dogs on Sunday.

Child was receiving child intervention services from the province

A map.
RCMP are investigating after a five-year-old boy was killed in a dog attack on Whitefish Lake First Nation. (CBC)

A northern Alberta community is mourning the death of a five-year-old boy who was killed by his family's dogs on Sunday.

RCMP say the child was fatally mauled by three dogs near his home on Whitefish Lake First Nation, about 400 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. 

In a message Thursday, the boy's mother said that her son was a happy child who touched many people's hearts. 

CBC is not naming the child because he was receiving child intervention services from the province.

"My son was only five years old and had a whole life ahead of him," the mother wrote. "I can still hear his voice in my head, saying how much he loves and misses me."

RCMP continue to investigate the death. No charges have been laid. 

RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff said officers with the High Prairie detachment were called to the family home around 5:30 p.m. 

The boy was found dead outside, just steps from the family home, Savinkoff said in an interview Thursday.

Three dogs are believed to be involved in the attack.

Two of the animals were killed by residents of the family home before officers arrived at the scene, Savinkoff said. The third dog was killed by RCMP officers shortly after.

Savinkoff said two of the dogs were the family pets. Police are looking to determine who, if anyone owned, the third.

"Two of the dogs themselves were owned by the homeowners," he said. "My understanding is a third was not from that residence. I don't know if it was wild or if it belonged to another particular residence."

The bodies of the dogs were recovered from the scene and will be examined for signs of disease, including infections such as rabies and distemper. 

"The thing that comes straight to mind is rabies," Savinkoff said.

No other dogs are believed to be involved. 

Savinkoff said at least one family member was home at the time of the mauling but it's unclear if anyone was witness to the attack.

"These investigations are very tragic," he said.

"It's extremely sad and I feel for everybody out in that community." 

A community in grieving

Albert Thunder, chief of Whitefish Lake First Nation, where the boy attended school, said his whole community is heartbroken.

He said the community is working hard to support the boy's family.

It's hard to believe something like this could happen, Thunder said. 

"A small community, really tight-knit community, almost everybody is interrelated and so these kind of devastations that happen – it really impacts the whole community," Thunder said.

Thunder said the community held a prayer meeting to mourn  the little boy's death and the death of another community member who died last weekend. He said it's an incredibly difficult time, but that community members are holding each other up.

"We pray together, we're united especially when things like this happen," he said.

Thunder added that his community has a locally organized and funded crisis response team that has been critical in getting support to the family much more quickly than what outside agencies are able to offer.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Children's Services Minister Mickey Amery said that because of privacy law, the ministry is limited in its ability to provide any information that could identify a specific child.

"There is no greater tragedy than the death of a child, and our hearts go out to all the loved ones grieving the loss of any child,"  press secretary Chinenye Anokwuru said.

She added that whenever a child in care dies or is seriously injured, it is publicly reported and a "rigorous examination" of the circumstances is undertaken.


Paige Parsons is an Edmonton-based reporter for CBC News, currently covering health. Send Paige a story tip at paige.parsons@cbc.ca.

With files from Wallis Snowdon