Nova Scotia

Outrage after dog dies from sinkhole injuries at Halifax park

Halifax Regional Municipality is putting up a temporary fence in the dog park at the Mainland Common after a dog fell into a sinkhole Saturday and had to be put down.

'Fix it and make it safe,' demands owner of dog that had to be put down

Mike Goneau is devastated by the loss of his dog, Bear, who was critically injured in the dog park at the Mainland Common and had to be put down. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

A temporary fence is being installed at a dog park in Halifax after a dog fell into a deep sinkhole and had to be put down.

The improvements at Mainland Common come after Mike Goneau expressed grief and outrage on social media over the loss of his beloved dog, Bear. 

Goneau visited the green space with Bear several times a day and said he knew there were complaints of poor upkeep at the off-leash park.

Saturday morning, Bear wandered into an area with tall grass and his paw slipped into a deep sinkhole, breaking his shoulder.

Mike Goneau posted this photo of Bear (left) and the story of the sinkhole to warn other dog owners as they enter the park. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

"I carried him to the car, took him to the vet," said Goneau.

"They did X-rays and determined that the only thing they could truly do for him was put him down, so we euthanized him."

'Fix it and make it safe'

Bear was 10 years old but Goneau believes his dog would have been around for at least another year if it weren't for the incident at the municipally owned park.

"The city stole 365 days away from me. That's the way I look at it. And that's why I've kicked a fuss about it," Goneau said.

"My point is, if you're going to make us live here, as dog owners, then fix it and make it safe."

The city said temporary fencing will go in immediately to block off the area with the holes.

"We want to make sure Bear didn't die in vain," said Brendan Elliott, a spokesperson for the city. 

A permanent fix will follow.

Councillors were warned

Goneau wrote a letter to Halifax regional council, sharing his loss and threatening to take the city to court for animal cruelty or neglect if a lawyer thought he had a case.

What stings, he said, is that dog owners met with councillors earlier this summer to voice their concerns about the sinkholes, which have injured more than one dog. 

Jonathan Strong says his dog, Ziggy, broke his leg when he fell into one of the holes over the winter. He's frustrated nothing has been done to fix the area. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

In November, Jonathan Strong's greyhound, Ziggy, tripped on one of the holes, breaking his left leg.

"It required very expensive surgery," said Strong, who believes the city could be doing significantly more to ensure safety in the park.

"It was very stressful and dramatic because obviously, carrying a 70-pound injured dog to your car who's [yelping] and crying, it's never fun." 

Ziggy has since made a full recovery. 

Waist-deep sinkholes

George Hickey, who attended the meeting with the councillors, said the latest incident shouldn't have happened.

"The information was put in the city's hands back at the end of June," he said. "It really was avoidable."

George Hickey stands in the sinkhole that Bear fell into to show just how large it is. There are several of similar depth in the area. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Hickey crawled into one of the waist-deep holes Monday to demonstrate just how dangerous they can be.

He said other areas on the Common have been fixed up while the space for dogs and their owners has been neglected.

It's not just dogs that are at risk, said Hickey, but children playing with their pets.

Waiting for change

"The park itself is a fantastic idea. It's a beautiful park, everybody loves it. The dogs have a great time," he said. 

"It's just being very poorly managed at the moment."

Goneau said he's going to keep pressuring the city to ensure changes are made.

"This time I'm not going to let it go," he said.

"The city has to be held accountable for what they've done."

Call 311, not councillor, to complain

Elliott said there have been complaints to 311 in the past about holes in the park and all were filled.

In this case, the dog owners who went to their city councillor to complain. It's unclear if the councillors passed the message to staff to fix the area.

Elliott said the city is now looking into long-term solutions, including weekly patrols of the park to check for holes and installing new surface materials.

He said the takeaway from this story is that people need to contact the city directly about potential safety issues instead of going through their councillors.