When a pack of pit bulls came after Jonathan Zandberg and his three friends on Sept. 4, he used his bike like a shield to fend the dogs off.
As he backed up on the shoulder of Yale Road East in Popkum, the 14-year-old bumped into a hydro pole. That's when three of the dogs attacked, leaving him with a puncture wound on his leg and shredded shorts.
Zandberg was with his friends, Elijah Henshall, Chris Rosenow and Ben Rosenow. The three other boys managed to get away, two on bikes and one on a long board.
Bleeding from his leg after the bite, Zandberg shed his clunky shoes and started to run in sock feet as fast as he could.
He, too, eventually got away, but barely.
"This could have been a whole lot worse," Jonathan's mother Lorill told the Times the day after the incident.
"My son is 14 years old; he's a bit older. But what if it was a little child? What if it was my eightyear-old daughter?" Close encounters with dogs and even minor bite injuries may be relatively common in rural and semi-rural areas, but these particular pit bulls have proved a danger and a nuisance to residents, the RCMP and even the local elected representative.
That's because in Popkum-Fraser Valley Regional District Area D-there is no animal control bylaw, which means there is nothing that can be done legally to stop
the vicious animals from terrorizing the neighbhourhood.
Area D director Bill Dickey isn't only aware of these particular "marauding pit bulls," as he calls them; he has firsthand experience.
"They attacked me earlier this year," he told the Times Friday. "There had been problems reported to me by other people so I rode my bike by there and the dogs came right over the gate after me."
The aggressive dogs didn't get any more of Dickey than his pant leg, but they sure got his attention.
The Zandbergs, Henshalls and Rosenows have now forbidden their kids from riding bikes past the property, a particular frustration since the children get to school that way and like to cycle in the area.
"It's not an 'i f ' but 'when' they attack again," Lorill said. "If they are biking every day then there is going to be an attack."
The property in question is approximately six acres in size and backs on to the Cheam Lake Wetlands. No home or structure of any kind is visible from the road but the driveway is blocked by a small, locked gate that as many as six loose pit bulls have been seen jumping over.
After the incident Wednesday, and after a similar close call with one of the Zandberg girls in March, the Agassiz RCMP attended the property and spoke with the owners.
"The pit bulls are an ongoing issue," RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Len vanNieuwenhuizen said. "The issue is that they are on a large property and apparently they are at large."
But because there is no animal control bylaw in the FVRD rural areas, the police can't do much.
"This is very frustrating for us to deal with," he said. "We do not have the legislative authority to deal with this.. .. The times when we have spoken with the owners, the dogs have been penned."
The neighbours can't believe something can't be done, especially now that there has been an attack on a child. But vanNieuwenhuizen said they have tried everything. "We have engaged Crown counsel about criminal code offences and they are looking at it, but there is insufficient evidence to run with a criminal negligence charge."
VanNieuwenhuizen said the only way police could "put them down" would be if police caught the dogs in an attack. Mounties would then have to resort to using their firearms.
"This is a very tricky area for us," he said.
Thankfully, Dickey said the FVRD board will consider an animal control bylaw in October. The only glitch is that because of provincial legislation, the electoral areas can't approve an expenditure that is not already budgeted for. That means they cannot start enforcement of a new and costly bylaw until the next budget year in January.
Between now and then, residents of the area feel trapped by the vicious dogs and their apparently negligent owners.
"Our whole neighbourhood has just had it," Lorill said. "The owner does not care.. .. He hasn't even apologized."
The Times was unable to contact the owner of the dogs to comment.
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