After an owl attack on her 14-pound Maltese, a woman from Happy Valley-Goose Bay is cautioning pet owners to be extra vigilant when letting their dogs out, especially at night.
Betty Collins-Menne and her husband Jeff were relaxing at home late Monday evening, Jan. 21, when they put both their Maltese dogs outside in their high-fenced yard to do their business.
Cicie and Pixie are 10-year-old sisters. They’ve been part of the family since they were puppies.
The small-breed dogs are never out long this time of year, Collins-Menne said, because of the frigid temperatures.
After a couple of minutes, the dogs started barking and jumping at the door to come in.
“We took her into the laundry room and started wiping the blood away. We couldn’t tell where it was coming from. We started washing her and checking her for wounds.” — Betty Collins-Menne
As soon as she opened the door, Collins-Menne realized that Cicie was bleeding.
“We took her into the laundry room and started wiping the blood away,” she said. “We couldn’t tell where it was coming from. We started washing her and checking her for wounds.”
That’s when Collins-Menne noticed a puncture wound under Cicie’s ear and more wounds around her neck.
“Her mouth was bleeding,” she said. “So we think, when the owl actually grabbed her, he took her by the back of the neck and one of his talons went into her mouth and ripped two of her teeth out.”
Collins-Menne returned to the door to see what could have caused her dog’s injuries.
It was then that she spotted what she initially thought was a huge cat sitting on the deck.
Taking a closer look, she and her husband soon realized the animal was an owl.
Although her husband tried to shoo the owl away, she said, it stayed on the deck for about 20 minutes before finally taking flight.
While traumatized from the attack, Collins-Menne said, Cicie was up and about walking. She didn’t realize the dog had been physically injured so badly, she said.
However, x-rays at the veterinarian’s clinic showed the dog had two jaw fractures.
Because of her age and complications that would likely result from surgery that would need to be done out-of-province, the couple made the heartbreaking decision — in consultation with their vet — to have Cicie euthanized.
“We brought her home on painkillers,” she said. “We got to cuddle with her for a few hours. Then we brought her back (to the vet for euthanization).”
Since the attack, Collins-Menne said, Cicie’s sister won’t go outside by herself.
“Pixie is traumatized today; she’s still looking for her sister. They’ve been together since birth,” Collins-Menne said during a phone interview on Jan. 23.
Collins-Menne was in contact with wildlife officials the evening of the attack.
In a statement from the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, it was confirmed that conservation officers in Labrador occasionally receive a report of an owl attacking a pet. In the last two years, the statement read, officers have responded to three similar complaints involving owls from various communities in the region.
Collins-Menne has posted to social media about the attack and agreed to tell her family’s story to The Labradorian to caution other pet owners about the risks owls pose to pets.
“I would never have thought this could happen, and I want people to know about it,” she said.
Advice to pet owners
• If possible, limit both the number of perches in the area and the ability of the birds to use the perches (i.e. use a pointed structure on a clothesline post).
• Light the area well, survey any adjacent trees or perches prior to going outside and accompany the pet when the pet is outside.
• Do not get close or threaten the bird, it may react to protect itself. When trying to flush a bird from the area, ensure you are near cover should the bird react.
• Decoys (other raptors, birds or even other owls) may elicit more aggressive behavior. It is not recommended to use them to deter eagles, hawks or owls.
• Keep an eye on pets at all times when a bird is in the area.
Source: Department of Fisheries and Land Resources