SPA Estrie offers free course on canine behaviour after Townshippers left spooked by string of dog attacks

The brutal dog attack that nearly cost a Potton, Que., woman her life this spring has left many people in the Eastern Townships traumatized and afraid of unknown dogs.

In response, the animal protection agency in the region is offering free courses to instruct people on how to behave to avoid getting bitten and to teach dog owners how to handle their pets.

“We have a lot of calls because people saw dogs in the streets and they are fearful, so we think it’s important to do it,” said Marie-Pier Quirion, a spokesperson for SPA Estrie.

She said the course will teach people about canine behaviour and inform owners about their obligations under municipal bylaws.

‘Training starts with people’

Local residents rallied around Dominique Alain after she was savagely attacked by three dogs while out jogging near Owl’s Head in late March. Alain had to be put into an induced coma and has since undergone 12 operations, losing a triceps and continuing physiotherapy to regain use of her arm and legs. 

Since that attack, which led to the three dogs being euthanized, there have been two other serious incidents in the Eastern Townships involving aggressive dogs.

“I think training starts with people,” said Bruno Vallières, a volunteer dog walker with SPA Estrie, as he took Murphy, a one-year-old German shepherd, for a stroll Thursday.

“Dogs, when they come to life, they are not in the wild, and they are not aggressive by themselves.”   

Dogs that are put up for adoption at the SPA Estrie are vetted by staff to ensure they’re safe and good-tempered, like four-month-old Maya. The puppy was adopted within an hour on Thursday. (Spencer Van Dyk/CBC)

Quirion said training is just as important for new dog owners as it is for the pets themselves.  

She said people should steer clear of dogs they do not know and should call the police or local SPA if they see a dog wandering alone.

Dog owners, for their part, should always keep their pet on a leash and should keep a close eye on them if they’re loose in the yard.

The training sessions are free to the public and are set to start later this summer.

Quirion said the staff will extend the courses if they find there is high demand for them.