Dog owner whose pit bulls killed 86-year-old fined $18K, banned from owning animals

A Calgary man whose three pit bulls killed an 86-year-old woman two years ago was fined $18,000 and banned from owning animals for 15 years. 

“What happened is as serious as it gets in dogs attacking a person,” said Justice Gordon Wong in issuing his sentencing decision Monday. 

In February, Denis Bagaric pleaded guilty to bylaw offences of allowing an animal to attack and injure a person and allowing dogs to run at large. 

On June 5, 2022, Betty Ann Williams, who earned the nickname “Rusty” while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, was gardening in her back alley in the northwest community of Capitol Hill.

That afternoon, Bagaric’s three American Staffordshire dogs — Bossii, Cinnamon and Smoki — escaped from his yard. 

In delivering his decision, Wong noted a witness — another neighbour — testified that she heard a cry for help and found three dogs attacking Williams on her head and neck.

At the time, Bagaric was trying to pull two of the dogs away and back into his yard.

Denis Bagaric pleaded guilty to City of Calgary bylaw offences after three of his pit bull dogs escaped his fenced back yard. The dogs killed Bagaric’s 86-year-old neighbour. (Denis Bagaric/Facebook)

All three dogs were seized after the incident.

Throughout the court process Bagaric has maintained that only Smoki was involved in the attack and consented to that dog being euthanized. 

The fate of the other two dogs has not yet been determined. 

However, Wong did make a finding that Cinnamon and Bossii were involved in the attack. 

“All three surrounded Ms. Williams before her plea for help which made her escaping the situation all the more difficult.”

Although the judge did not make an order for the remaining two dogs to be euthanized — there are ongoing separate proceedings to determine their fate — he did agree to prosecutor Ben Leung’s proposed 15-year animal ownership prohibition. 

“To take no steps to euthanize all three immediately is irresponsible. He puts his own wishes over the safety of the community,” the judge said. 

Defence lawyer Rabie Ahmed had argued his client was a responsible pet owner and said a ban would be unnecessary and punitive. 

Originally, both Bagaric and his partner, Talyn Calkins, faced a dozen bylaw charges. As part of the plea, all charges were withdrawn against Calkins, with Bagaric pleading guilty to two of the 12 offences.

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