A young Calgary girl will be left with a permanent scar, but her family says the dog who inflicted the grisly injury should have been spared and they’re levelling harsh words against city officials.
Manharman Nijjar, 8, was playing near her Temple home the evening of May 30 when she was bitten on the face by Athena, a French bulldog owned by next door neighbour, Brendan Halge.
Both Halge and Nijjar’s family have said Athena was chewing on a bone at the time and that some of the kids got too close for the bulldog’s comfort.
Nijjar was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery. Even still, stitches prevent her from fully opening her mouth and she will be forced to undergo more surgery in the fall.
Athena, meanwhile, was seized by city bylaw workers and forced to undergo a behavioural assessment — this practice is standard when a bite occurs.
But Halge says he faced a $2,800 tab to keep Athena in “crappy conditions,” until a court date in late September. The few times he was allowed to see his dog he says she was highly stressed and he’d been given an indication of what her ultimate fate would be, given the extent of Nijjar’s injuries.
“She’s never been locked up like that her entire life,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me see her, they wouldn’t let me show them how she really is around people. I surrender her — what else was I supposed to do? I didn’t want her to suffer.”
In a rare twist, Nijjar’s family agrees with the owner.
“They shouldn’t have put the dog down . . . the city wasn’t being supportive at all,” said relative Mandeep Kang, who spoke on behalf of Nijjar’s parents, who aren’t fluent in English. “He (Halge) was very sorry for what happened. It wasn’t his fault either.”
Athena was euthanized late last month.
Alvin Murray, a city bylaw operations manager, said the courts generally decide the fate of an aggressive dog, unless the owner surrenders the animal.
Even still, he appeared to reinforce Halge’s comments on Athena’s chances of being spared.
“The dog was definitely aggressive . . . it ripped that little girl’s face apart,” he said. “When you’ve got a case of a major facial bite, it would be very difficult in any circumstances to put an animal like that back out into the community.”
But Halge said he has three kids of his own and would never put them in danger.
“I’m out my best friend,” he said. “I’ve raised that dog since she was four weeks old . . . when I went to see her for the last time, the manager said ‘Oh, it happens, it’s all part of life.’ Really? This is part of life?”