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Seven-year-old boy mauled by dog in La Poile

Taylen Osmond, seven, suffered dog bites to his face after being bitten by a neighbour’s German shepherd in La Poile April 22.
Taylen Osmond, seven, suffered dog bites to his face after being bitten by a neighbour’s German shepherd in La Poile April 22.

As so many children do at Easter break, seven-year-old Taylen Osmond went to visit his grandparents, who live in La Poile.

Taylen Osmond underwent treatment at the Charles L. LeGrow Health Centre in Port aux Basques until he was able to return home late Sunday evening, April 23, after being bitten by a dog the day before.

The tiny community has fewer than 100 residents and can only be reached by ferry from Rose Blanche, a trip that takes about an hour and 40 minutes each way.

On Saturday, April 22 Ryan Chant, Taylen’s father, was nearby helping his own father with some fishing equipment when a neighbour came rushing over to tell him that Taylen had been bitten by the family’s German shepherd.

When he got to the house, Chant was taken aback by all the blood on his son’s face, but remained calm for Taylen’s sake.

“I walked in the house and everybody was traumatized, pretty much,” he said. “Everybody was upset because his face was swollen pretty bad at the time and it was covered in blood.”

Other than first aid responder Dolores Vautier, La Poile lacks emergency services. Vautier helped clean and stitch Taylen’s wounds to stop the bleeding.

Chant then rushed his son to the coastal ferry, which had been alerted of the need for an extra crossing to get the child to hospital. Chant says it’s fortunate the incident wasn’t life-threatening and hadn’t happened in the evening.

“If it was in Rose Blanche, we would have had to wait another hour and 40 minutes before the ferry would have come, so I would have been waiting with my son to get him to the hospital — would have been close to four and a half hours,” he said.

“So if the dog had bit him in the throat, he would have probably died right there. He would have bled to death because we wouldn’t have gotten out in time.”

Although helicopter service is available for emergencies in smaller communities such as La Poile, it is usually only called out for life-threatening situations. The attack was traumatic, but a helicopter was not called.

“The marks are about a half-inch away from his eye,” said Angie Colbourne, Taylen’s mother. “So if it was any closer, he definitely would have had some vision impairment.”

She thinks that even if the situation had been life-threatening, gale force winds or thick fog would likely have hindered any attempts to use a helicopter.

Andrew Parsons, minister of Justice and Public Safety and the MHA for Burgeo–La Poile, spoke with The Gulf News about the incident.

“As a parent, myself, it’s absolutely horrifying. It’s scary,” he said. “When I spoke to Ms. Colbourne I think the major issue was the actual attack, but we did talk about medical transportation, and that’s an unfortunate reality in coastal communities.

“I represent Grey River, where it wasn’t that long ago there was somebody who had a medical emergency in the community and actually there was a helicopter sent in to get this individual who suffered a life-threatening medical situation. This is one of those very difficult situations and I represent a number of isolated communities.

“This is one of the realities that we face not just here but all over our province. I don’t know if there was anything else that could have been done differently.”

Taylen had to spend the weekend with relatives in Port aux Basques so he could return to the hospital for antibiotic treatments. He has since returned home to Stephenville and the swelling has begun to subside.

Meanwhile, Taylen’s mother has said she’s contacted the dog’s owner to see what they will do about the animal. The owner asked about Taylen’s condition once he’d learned what happened, but Colbourne said he has not contacted her since. She has also filed a police report.

“In Newfoundland, we have something called the Animal Health and Protection Act, and under that act, part of the act specifies that an animal has to be tethered,” said Const. Matthew Christie, supervisor of the Port aux Basques RCMP detachment. “There’s not necessarily one particular section that says the dog will be euthanized under these circumstances.”

Complicating matters is the fact that the animal was tethered and on his owner’s property. Taylen was bitten when he attempted to pet the German shepherd after another child had squeezed and hugged the dog.

Christie said the matter is being investigated.

“We have not concluded the file, but in this case what we have so far seems to indicate that the animal was tethered on the homeowner’s property,” said Christie. “It’s not a situation where the animal was roaming around the community and attacked the child. It’s a situation where the child approached the animal, which was tethered. So it’s too early yet for me to determine what the conclusion of this is going to be.”

The Gulf News has been unable to contact the dog’s owner.

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