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Dog owner pleads guilty to two bylaw charges in mauling death of Calgary woman, agrees to euthanize pet

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The owner of three Calgary dogs that got loose and fatally mauled a woman in 2022 has agreed to have one of his pets euthanized and pleaded guilty to two out of 12 bylaw charges Wednesday.

Dennis Bagaric admitted guilt to one count of an animal attacking a person causing severe injury and one count of animals running at large in relation to the death of 86-year-old Betty Ann Williams.

The other charges under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw were withdrawn and all charges against his partner Taylor Calking have also been removed.

On June 5, 2022, Bagaric’s American Staffordshire Breed dogs – Bossii, Cinnamon and Smoki – were in the backyard of his property on 21 Avenue N.W., when the canines broke free of the fenced and gated backyard into the alley where Williams was gardening.

According to an agreed statement of facts obtained by CTV News, the animals were “not leashed or under the control of Mr. Bagaric when they broke free.”

It also states that Smoki, one of his three dogs seized, caused severe injury to Betty Ann Williams.

As a result, Bagaric agreed to officially sign off on the euthanizing of Smoki, which took place immediately following court proceedings at the City of Calgary Animal Services shelter.

Benedict Leung, the crown prosecutor representing the City of Calgary, is seeking a maximum $15,000 fine and a prohibition against Bagaric from owning animals for 10 to 15 years.

“As you can imagine, this is as serious of an incident that could have ever happened, and so the fines and the term of probation have to reflect the severity of the incident,” he said.

“We can't lose sight of how tragic this was, someone lost their life and it's not something the city relishes, but it's important, that certainly a voice is given to the victim in this case.”

Leung argued in court that all three dogs were involved in the attack, pointing to evidence of blood found on the chest area and the muzzles of all three dogs.

“In this case, the best evidence we have, unfortunately, we're not able to call and so even with the eyewitness that we have, it was only transitory, so it's largely circumstantial to show whether it was one or three dogs who were involved,” Leung said.

“But certainly, the evidence did show that there was blood found on all three dogs, so that's strong circumstantial evidence in our opinion, that should lead to finding that all three dogs were involved.”

Meanwhile, defence counsel Rabie Ahmed has no issues with the maximum issuing of a fine, but he disagrees with the prohibition of pet ownership for his client.

“Animal prohibition would definitely not be appropriate in these circumstances, we think the higher fines of which we agreed to be imposed upon Mr. Bugaric is indicative of him taking responsibility for those actions,” Ahmed said.

“But we don't want to disentangle individuals from owning animals if according to our position, they've done everything that they can, which is our position that the other two dogs did nothing wrong, shouldn't be euthanized and should be returned to them.”

Bagaric was visibly emotional when given instructions at court Wednesday for the euthanizing of Smoki.

Despite the incident occurring more than a year and a half ago and previously vowing on social media to fight for the dogs’ return, he maintains it was always his intent to have Smoki euthanized.

“My client was very clear from the beginning that Smoki was responsible for the attack,” Ahmed added.

“He is taking responsibility for that by indicating that Smoki may be a danger and the appropriate thing would be for Smoki to be euthanized.”

Court was adjourned for the day Wednesday.

On Thursday, a date will be set for sentencing by Justice Gordon Wong, likely for May or June.

No criminal charges were laid against Bagaric or Calkins.

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