16 Teeth Marks, Five Deep Wounds’: Dog Attacks Local in Garibaldi Highlands Trail

By Joanna Schwarz 
Published: Aug. 20, 2014

In my 63 years, I have never been attacked by an animal, let alone with such severity. As dog owners in the past of two lovely German Shepherds, my husband and I have had only good experiences with our animals until two weeks ago. Joanna

The dog attack was over in a matter of seconds, the time it took the doberman/shepherd to puncture my left calf in five places and rip my forearm.  

It was Saturday, August 16, and my husband, our chihuahua and I were walking towards the Garibaldi Highland school via the Mike Weeks Trail off Highlands Way North. We were a quiet threesome and I was slightly in the lead.  I noticed two men with a dog playing off-leash on the field ahead.

Suddenly, without a moment’s hesitation, the doberman barked and lunged straight for me. He was not interested in the Chihuahua that was with me.  For a brief second I thought the animal would sniff first.

But he clamped immediately onto my bare left leg. I screamed in pain and instinctively threw out my hand to ward him off. He chewed on the underside of my forearm. The blood soaked my white capris and dripped onto my leather sandals.

My husband could only look on in shock. Thank God the owner was able to call his dog back. I reached in my pocket for the cell phone I always carry and with bloody hands, dialled 911. “I’ve been attacked by a doberman” I cried. “I’m bleeding heavily.” Somehow I was able to explain that we would walk the 60ft to Highlands Way North and wait for the ambulance there. 

The dog owner’s friend had in the meantime secured the dog and the owner walked with us to the road. He brought two clean cloths from his truck and we applied pressure to the wounds.

The ambulance arrived about six minutes later. The owner gave his name and contact information and let the attendants know the dog’s shots were up to date. We are grateful to him for that!

Friends who have been in touch with me have shared many dog stories. It’s as if my accident has tapped into a reservoir of fear.  How often have we heard an owner say, “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly. He’s never bitten anyone.”  But do any of us want to be the first one? Do any of us want our pets or a child to be the first one? Joanna-2

Squamish is a dog lovers’ town. There are 2,200 licensed dogs and perhaps as many as 5,000 in total. There is one Animal Control officer for all these animals.  Her 40 hours a week were recently reduced in 2014 to 35 hours weekly.

I asked about “off-leash” parks. At present, there are only two small areas in town – each about the size of a backyard – where owners can officially let their dogs run free.

What if council designated some trails and park areas as off-leash?  Then, people who wished to avoid dogs on the loose could stay away and those who wanted their dogs to play freely could do so.

Though I’m determined to not let this attack make me fearful of every dog encounter, I do know that my husband and I will never look at dogs on the loose quite the same again. After my first walk around the block last night, I had a grisly dream about a body being dismembered.  

The dog that attacked me has been declared a dangerous animal. The owner has signed papers and must ensure that his dog does not leave the house in Valleycliff without a leash and being muzzled at all times. If ever a violation is noted, the dog will be seized. 

Most nights when I fall asleep my mind replays those awful moments. What if the dog had attacked my husband who is on blood thinners?  What if I was unable to use my left arm to play piano or take photographs? What if the animal had killed our son’s beloved chihuahua?  What if. . .it had been a child?

Have you ever been attacked by an off-leash dog in Squamish ? Email news@squamishreporter to share your story.


  1. Hugh Kerr says:

    Why is it that owners of aggressive dogs feel they can let dogs off leash in a public area such as a school yard ? Certain breeds such as dobermans are known to attack unexpectedly. It’s not only the dog who should have consequences in a case like this. There ought to be a very stiff fine. The owner should also be required to pay any medical costs for such an attack as well as any counselling required because of the trauma suffered by the victim.

    • Mike says:

      So lucky it had not been a child near the school it could have been much worse… Even fatal. What does the dog owner have to do other than muzzle his dog? I’d think there should be a fine and or some damages for pain and suffering.

  2. Cat says:

    Hugh: there is great danger to all other dogs and humans when one classifies a breed as more dangerous and more likely to attack than others. There are far too many factors that could possibly cause an animal to attack to simply say that,”…certain breeds such as dobermans are known to attack unexpectedly..”
    It is not a breed that makes a dog dangerous and more often than not it is human negligence that can cause aggressive behaviours. Unfortunately breed biases and breed specific legislations have a nasty side affect: if a breed is not listed as an “aggressive breed” then they must be safe. Please read the ASPCA and CDC’s positions on this. It may ease your mind.
    And to Ms. Shwarz: I truly hope that all your wounds heal and the scars fade fast. I completely agree with your idea with off leash areas and hope it happens soon!

  3. Carol says:

    Thank goodness the dog owner at least helped to get Joanna to the road. But how about covering costs of ruined clothes and sandals?

  4. peter austen says:

    Hard to believe the dog was not euthanized.
    \ The minimum here is that 1. the dog should be put down
    2. the lady should sue for mental and physical trauma for at least 50000$
    A German shepherd dog attacked my dachshund. she got gangrene from the bites and her leg was cut off. The owner ignored the whole thing. I sued him for the vet bill of 2000$. I garnisheed his wages . It took 1 year, and 50 hours of my time and 12 visits to the SLOW law courts to get it settled. Someone has to send a message here before a child gets killed. Maybe this is it.

  5. Elliot says:

    A well publicized law suit will fix everything. Think twice, you owners of aggressive breed dogs that have the potential of doing damage.

  6. KB says:

    We muzzle our dog when in trails off leash or our dog is always on leash b/c we understand that our dog is strong…yes the people in our community stare at us b/c our dog maybe with a muzzle on at the time, i just inform them that our dog is not always dog friendly, with humans so far great, but still we keep our “safety first method”. I would like to say i hope the women and the dog owner heal from this and was the women s little dog on leash? anyways people don’t look down at dogs or owners that have a muzzled dog, instead act normal smile say hi… this will help others feel of the norm.
    p.s it is the law to muzzle your dog in public in Europe.

  7. heather gee says:

    Those wounds must be very painful, but in addition, one’s life also suffers because of the fear one develops for all dogs. In this case I was surprised to read that the dog owner gave his name; normally owners of aggressive dogs curse profusely and turn and walk away.
    I’ve never seen so many careless and arrogant dog owners as in Squamish. I saw two dog-fights this morning involving owners who were on their way to the crowded Farmers’ Market; they were big strong dogs which their owners could hardly control.
    There should be very severe consequences for people or pets being attacked by dogs owned by all those irresponsible dog owners.

  8. Rita Kyle says:

    Joanna, I am really sad about your fear and suffering. You are exhibiting such grace. I hope you heal well. I’m also frustrated. Some dog-owning friends and acquaintances decry my fear of dogs (once bitten, twice shy). More dog parks/runs would be awesome, if the municipality can do it.
    Sincere thanks to all my dog-loving friends who do not insist I share their passion


  9. G_h says:

    The dog should be euthanized. Earlier this year a bobcat was killed by Squamish conservation officers, presumably because it posed a risk to pets (bob cats are too small to pose any risk to humans). If as a community we accept the latter – and it seemed many people did at the time – then we should equally accept a dangerous dog being destroyed.

  10. Mike says:

    Well said Peter. In a car accident type situation there is insurance coverage, and suing ICBC is much easier than trying to do it privately. Maybe dogs should come with basic liability insurance if their breed is a higher risk of attacking? I think there needs to be some compensation here beyond new pants.

  11. Sibylle Stipp says:

    Joanna, I am impressed that so shortly after this incident you are were able to write such a thoughtful, well-balanced story about it. I think I would have been much more biased in my opinions. I do hope that at least what happened to you can have a positive impact on more off-leash areas so that dogs really are only off-leash in those places so people do have a choice. And this dog owner does sound like a responsible dog owner; giving you all of his info and doing what he could to help. We have a dog across the street that was once aggressive with another dog, but not with people. The owners are very responsible and the dog never leaves their property without a muzzle on. I’m glad you are healing so well; keep up the good work!

  12. Ed says:

    As Cat says, there are far too many possible reasons ANY dog may turn on a human be it their owner or another, the key to avoiding this with any dog, small, large, aggressive breed or not is CONTROL in public by the owner, the only way to surely avoid the possibility of this happening again.

  13. Angela says:

    I find it difficult to think that the only penalty for this vicious dog owner is to leash and muzzle his dog. One could argue that he did not foresee this violent attack but this does not hold up for me and I believe that such owners are culpable. If you own a dog who is capable of such attacks you should always leash and muzzle your dog. If you do not and your dog injuries someone by either running them over or much worse by bitting or mauling, there should be significant financial compensation to the victim and a hefty fine. Should such a dog live when wild animals are so easily done away with?

  14. Ed says:

    II haven’t been mauled by a dog since I was 7 years old. But I can still remember how much it hurt. Apparently most children in North America have been bitten by a dog by the age of 14. Dogs, like their close relatives, wolves (which never attack children by the way), are genetically programmed to belong in a hierarchal system with clear dominance order. When dogs are treated like human children however, they are likely to become neurotic and unpredictable. Dog owners who think it’s cute when their pets charge or jump up on people are clearly not in control and are asking for trouble.

    Since I am not a woman or a child, and I’m now tall, fit, and unafraid of canines, it is unlikely that I would be attacked again by some reckless owner’s dog — at least not until I’m old and frail. Too bad. I live near the playground where Mrs. Schwartz was attacked and sincerely wish that the dog had tried to have a go at me instead of that poor woman. But then again we shouldn’t take it all out on the dog. I hope that Mrs. Schwarz sues that owner’s ass off. Send a message please.

    • Davinder says:

      During my walk on Nixen beach trails, I had to hit a dog in his head after he climbed all-over me, unexpectedly and aggressively. The dog owner was not ashamed of not having control/trained behavior of her dog but she got mad at me for hitting and calming down her huge dog’s wild behavior.

  15. Ross says:

    I have been complaining about this for years , our dog was attack by an off leash dog when she was a pup and now 6 years later is still uneasy around other dogs , in the last number of years there have been jogger’s attacked ,hikers attacked , other “on leash” dogs attacked , children , older people walking attacked and or knocked down , all the district has to do is go to any river , any time and they will see the problem that they all ready know exists , wake up people , I have heard of people coming here from the city to mountain bike and hike with bear spray with them and its not for bears ……..maybe they won’t come back…..

  16. Joanna Schwarz says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write. Your responses will lend weight when I approach Council about off leash parks.

  17. Patricia says:

    Joanna, sorry to hear about your horrific attack. This dog should be put down before he attacks again – once they’ve attacked a human no one knows when, or to whom it will happen next. It is not possible to know what goes on in the mind of a dog. This behavior can’t be fixed. The owner will not be able to monitor its every move all the time. I can sympathize having been bitten several times myself over the years, most recently a few years ago on Plateau Drive. I live in Valleycliffe where the dog that attacked you resides…now I am really scared knowing that it will be up to the owner to keep this dog from harming others – too many dogs here are running off leash and in my experience too many irresponsible owners don’t mind at all when their dog approaches a stranger. I’m sick of hearing how “friendly” they are. Doesn’t matter – I’m out for a walk minding my own business and the dog should do the same. In my opinion, no dog should ever approach any person unsolicited. I’ve also been lunged at and growled at, and 99% of the time the owner looks at me like I’m crazy for asking them to leash their dog. It’s not the dog or breed (usually), but the owner who should be required to take mandatory dog ownership training and how about limiting dog ownership to one per household. It’s shocking that our local Council believes that one Animal Control Officer (when I talked to them a few years back there were two and they were swamped then) should be able to handle all the work and with reduced hours. Forget about discussions and reminders with dog owners, that doesn’t work. Hit them in the pocketbook with a hefty fine, where it hurts most. With the income from those fines, we can afford more Animal Control Officers.

    • Ed says:

      “In my opinion, no dog should ever approach any person unsolicited”
      I agree Patricia. I don’t know why many dog owners can’t get this. Even with the friendliest dog, not everyone enjoys being sniffed and slobbered on by a strange animal.

  18. Tracy McRae says:

    I hope your wounds (physical & mental)heal quickly Joanna. I agree, you have dealt with your attack with grace. I too am a previous owner of 2 lovely boxers & I love all animals. But people must be aware (kudos to the “aware” person who commented & had their dog muzzled while on an outing). My friend had a “not so nice dog” & also kept him on a leash & muzzled most of the time. One day while out for a walk, she came across another owner who did not have her dog leashed, and as the dog rushed my friend’s dog, the owner kept repeating, “he’s friendly, he’s friendly” …. My friend yelled out …”my dog is not, please get control of your dog,” but it was too late and the other dog was injured by my friend’s dog. My friend paid the 1200.00 vet bill & felt terrible about the incident, even though her dog was leashed & she had warned the owner whose dog was frolicking about. It’s a good practice to leash all dogs when approaching other owners with one’s dog/s as you never know what the outcome could be. I have also been attacked by a leashed dog who lunged at me, ripping into my leg, leaving 4 very deep puncture marks, one penetrating my muscle & leaving quite the scar. Dogs are animals & animals can be unpredictable.

  19. Michelle Jansen says:

    Hi Joanna,
    I am so sorry to hear about what must have been an absolutely terrifying and painful experience. What saddens and frustrates me is that this incident is so predictable and preventable. I own an 8 year old springer spaniel and have done my best to socialize him in every way possible from puppy socialization to dog obedience classes that started at 11 weeks. He was attacked twice on the trail by an off leash crossbreed when he was a puppy and again by a german shepherd while at a veterinary clinic requiring stitches. Since then he has become increasingly more fear aggressive. After the initial attacks he would release his anal glands and take off yelping when another dog came near him. Now he responds aggressively as soon as a dog approaches. I have long since lost any enjoyment out of walking him in this community because while I leash and muzzle him to prevent any incidents the majority of other dogs in this community are off leash and most of them respond to their owners about 50 percent of the time. His fearful responses to other dogs now trigger almost guaranteed aggression and almost every time out I have to be concerned about an off leash dog approaching us and causing conflict. Most recently he was attached while leashed and muzzled at Nexan lands. I called Animal Control to complain and was told their hours have been cut back. I informed the Animal Control officer I will be carrying a stick now to defend myself and my dog as they have left me no choice. I love dogs and all animals but the sense of entitlement of dog owners to leave their dogs off leash is selfish and dangerous. I have friends with young children that have told me their children are becoming fearful of dogs. Not because they have been attacked but because huge friendly off leash dogs come racing over to say hi. How would anyone of us feel if a large animal can running at us eye level? If I had a dollar for every time an owner called out “my dog is friendly” as it came barreling over off leash I’d be rich! If you need somebody to back you at Council please contact me. I would be more than happy to provide feedback, support and first hand experiences to back up your case. Squamish needs designated and enforced on leash, off leash and dog free zones so that all members of this community can enjoy their time in the outdoors not just the off leash dogs.

  20. Dog-tired says:

    The only solution is a fixed ENFORCED stiff penalty posted on signs in all areas where leashes are required. It is not sufficient to rely on “grassing” neighbours. Neighbour rapport is a valuable asset and should be preserved. The DOS should have a budget for regular comprehensive patrols and fine money should help to pay for this. Put the license fees up a bit ( and this comes from a past dog owner). Other countries do all this successfully so why can’t we? Or do we just wait for someone (probably a child) to be killed? Likely, however, Squamish is too Squeamish for such a draconian move!
    Obviously dogs can accidentally roam from their yards from time to time but to let your dog out to pee etc. and stay in bed is just not on.
    I have good neighbours, but sadly they are not all responsible, regarding this issue.

  21. Joanna Schwarz says:

    I so appreciate your comprehensive and thoughtful replies.

  22. Ted says:

    Nobody on here actually knows the guy or the dog… so much unneeded negativity on here.

    • Ed says:

      No, we don’t know who he is because he hasn’t made a public statement or apology. We do know that a woman was injured as a result of his unlawful behaviour.

    • Jason says:

      Who the person happens to be, or ‘knowing’ the dog is inconsequential to people’s reactions. As a dog owner, I would not want to keep a dog that is capable of an unprovoked attack like the one detailed above. The dog should be euthanized, without question.

  23. Observer says:

    Ted, the “negativity” comes from the negative response by DOS to a very real problem which is getting worse…cutbacks regarding the roaming dogs are “negative” so lets have some real, significant “positive” action soon!!!

  24. Maren Bruun says:

    Hi Joanna,

    I am so sorry to hear about your recent dog attack. What a terrible experience for you and everyone involved. Now to take care for your wounds, deal with the emotional trauma and cope with loosing a bit of the awe that you have always had for dogs…

    As a community member, parent dog owner, and dog trainer, I am passionate about promoting responsible pet ownership so that there will always be access for dogs in public places.

    My hope is to form a citizens advocacy group of Sea to Sky community members and work together to promote responsible dog ownership in the area. Other mandates would be to advocate for on and off leash areas and signage, provide public education, liaise with municipal government to draft realistic workable animal control bylaws, provide resources on best practices of dog ownership and information sharing and more.

    If you or anyone else are interested in such a project please contact me by email at maren@pawinhand.com and I will put your name on a list and contact everyone regarding an inaugural meeting.

    Healing wishes,

  25. Joanna Schwarz says:

    Maren, this sounds like a very positive idea! I will send you my email address. Thanks, Joanna

  26. Dogtired says:

    I’m so happy to hear about the formation of a group to work out this problem.I am so tired of being barked at,lunged at and generally harassed by other people’s dogs as I walk about Squamish.I am shocked at the rudeness directed at me as I patiently inform them that Eaglewind park is not an off leash dog park.I will be so happy to see signs that state this,and mention fines.The Animal control situation is really ridiculous,they desperately need more funding and officers!It would be so great if we could enjoy the beauty of Squamish without being fearful of being attacked by off leash dogs,or stepping in piles of excrement.Thank you so much for organizing Rdogs. Dogtired

  27. Hounded says:

    My husband was attacked by a German Shepherd,and needed stitches in his right hand.Now whenever an off leash dog charges me,I cringe,and they sense my fear and become agressive.Please put signs up in the leashed dog areas,to prevent more accidents from happening.Thank you so much for making the public aware of this problem!

  28. John says:

    This woman states it was a Doberman/Shephard mix at the start, then rest of article calls it a doberman all the way through! I also noticed she has owned German Shepards in the past, so she is obviously biased. Dobermans are NOT known for unprovoked attacks on humans. German shepherds are always rated more highly on dangerous dogs lists than Dobermans, so maybe it was the Shephard genes that kicked in? More likely though, the dog has been brought up by the owners to be aggressive…