Tragedy struck over a year ago when Betty Ann Williams met her untimely demise in her own backyard, attacked by three large dogs that had escaped from her neighbours’ premises. For her bereaved family, the path to closure remains elusive and tortuous, prolonging their emotional turmoil.
Coming to terms with Williams’ sudden departure has been exceedingly challenging, made more so due to persistent delays over the past year. “We pine for closure, for some semblance of harmony, hoping that justice would be served for the calamity that befell Betty,” expressed her distressed niece, Nancy Atkinson.
The family’s grief is further exacerbated by the glaring indifference displayed by the dog owners. “A simple acknowledgment or a sincere apology for our unspeakable loss is the least we expected. Regrettably, none has been offered,” lamented Susan Williams, another of Betty’s nieces.
Facing a combined total of 12 charges under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, the dog owners, to date, risk penalties up to $10,000 per charge. Their legal counsel abruptly withdrew last week, postponing the three-day trial until November 9th. The presiding judge, however, affirmed that the trial would proceed, irrespective of the lack of representation for the defendants.
Denis Bagaric and Taylin Calkins, the owners of the offending canines, have staunchly opposed handing over the dogs to the city’s management. They had even previously vowed on social media to advocate for their dogs’ return. Notably, one dog, called Smoki, believed to have inflicted the fatal bite, was never formally surrendered, according to city records.
As the predicament lingers on, the three canines remain alive, under the guardianship of Animal Services. By November, they would have spent roughly an unprecedented 17 months in custody.
“Inching towards five decades of expertise as a retired police dog handler, I can vouch that this is a dire state of affairs,” remarked JC St-Louis, an experienced behaviourist adept at managing challenging and aggressive canines. Comparing their situation to a dormant swimmer who instantly recalls how to reach the shore upon falling into the water, St-Louis underscores, “These dogs are innately programmed to attack and bite. That instinct cannot be nullified.”
The family dearly wishes for Betty Ann, affectionately known as Rusty, to be cherished for her amiable disposition and meticulous personality. At the Capitol Hill Community Garden, fruit trees stand tall in her memory, sprouting next to her abode of nearly six decades. A commemorative bench will join this tribute soon.
A GoFundMe has significantly helped in defraying funeral costs. The leftover funds will be generously donated to the community association and Alberta Children’s Hospital.