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Dog owner speaks out after court rules dogs euthanized in fatal senior death

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An emotional Denis Bagaric spoke to CTV News outside of court on Thursday after a judge ruled his two remaining dogs would be killed, after a two year court battle on their fate, for the role they played in the death of a Calgary senior in June 2022.

"It's a big mess up," said Bagaric. "I wake up every morning screaming and crying."

Bagaric tried holding back tears, but was emotional as he recalled that day. He was hosting a barbeque where Williams was invited, before the dogs got out and mauled her to death.

It's been a nightmare," he said. "Before I came to Canada, life was hell, but then as you grow older, you develop love and things you care for. I love animals, it's kind of my favorite thing. I loved Betty. So it's hard. I never wanted all the dogs. I couldn't find homes for them. Nobody wanted them. So I kept them.  I expected a fairy tale and here we are."

Smoki, Cinnamon and Bossi are Staffordshire terrier dogs. Smoki has since been euthanized for the role he played in the death of Betty Ann Williams June 5, 2022.

The 86-year-old suffered fatal injuries to her head, neck, face and body that led to her death after three dogs escaped a fenced and gated backyard and attacked her while she was gardening in a back alley.

Bagaric and Williams were next door neighbours.

"My dogs were never trained to harm nobody," he said.

Grievous wounds, multiple cuts

Court heard that the woman’s wounds were grievous: multiple cuts and bruises to her head and neck; the vertebrae just below her skull fractured, as was the bone under her jaw; injuries to her jugular vein branches and carotid artery; bruises on her legs and cuts on her arms.

The three dogs seized by City of Calgary animal control following a fatal June 5, 2022, attack on a senior in northwest Calgary. (Facebook/Denis Bagaric)

Bagaric says he wanted to tell his side of the story but was advised against it by lawyers.

The city applied to the court to have his two remaining dogs euthanized, which the judge agreed with on Thursday, in his decision.

"These dogs should not be returned to the community because they are a high risk and a danger to the public," Justice Bruce Fraser ruled Thursday.

"The only option is to direct them to be destroyed."

Bagaric asked that the dogs instead be adopted out and given behaviour modification.

His lawyer had argued the two should be spared because there was no proof they were involved.

Fraser disagreed."The photos demonstrate horrific injuries to Miss Williams all over her body that led to her death, particularly to her head, jaw, neck and face. Her lip and one ear had been ripped off. She was covered in blood," Fraser said.

"Miss Williams died a most horrible death."

Prohibited

Bagaric has already been fined $18,000 and prohibited from pet ownership for 15 years. He pleaded guilty earlier to two city bylaw charges: an animal attacking a person causing severe injury, and animals running at large.

The judge in that case said he was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that all three dogs were involved in the attack.

Bagaric says he had taken Williams to the doctor before, ran errands with her and has pictures of her and the dogs together.

His two remaining dogs have been in the custody of the city for 738 days.

"I couldn't go see my dogs, and then for people saying I don't have no remorse, man , I loved Betty like a mom, I got photos I was never even allowed to show anybody these things," he said.

Bagaric says he plans on spending $15,000 on a gold memorial for Williams that will sit near her house. 

"I cry every day, I'm not a big tough guy, I do care for animals and I cared for Betty," said Bagaric.  "I mean, that breaks me, breaks me in half. For my own peace, I really wish that I would have been in her place. I do, every single day. It's a horrible thing that happened."

Some conclusion: niece

Nancy Atkinson, is Williams' niece.

"It's just nice to know that there's finally some conclusion to this, and these dogs aren't going to be out there somewhere," she said from her Ontario home.

Atkinson says she is thankful this situation has finally been resolved. "To hear it's finally happened, it should have happened two years ago, right after the attack," said Atkinson.

"But he(Bagaric) wanted to fight it, and the city has been taking care of them (the dogs) for the past two years, but I'm glad the judge made the decision that they will be destroyed. To finally have a conclusion, it is nice to hopefully try to move on and remember better times, happier memories of her than what happened."

Atkinson says her aunt was a bright light, living a long fulfilling life before her death. "She was a tiny little woman, but she was still a force of nature," said Atkinson.

"She's very independent, she bought the house by herself. She did a lot of work in the house, on her own, took care of her gardens and everything. She was in the air force, and had a wicked sense of humor."

Betty Williams, the 86-year-old Calgary resident who was mauled to death June 5

Atkinson says Williams would always remember to connect with family at the times that meant the most.

"She was very thoughtful about her family, birthdays, Christmas, we'd always get cards in the mails and letters and things from her that, with the distance between us, we didn't see her very often but, she always seemed to be thinking of us," said Atkinson.

She adds that she does not believe Bagaric has any remorse and is sad that his dogs are going to be destroyed.

"I think any remorse he has is over losing his dogs," she said. "I don't feel like he really cared that much about what happened to her, and it was just sort of, 'Oh, too bad. But now my dogs are gone.'"

Bagaric was told if he did not appeal he would have a chance to say goodbye to his dogs, under the care of Animal Bylaw Services either on Thursday or Friday. There is no set date for them to be euthanized.

With files from The Canadian Press

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