Civic fines could total $120,000; criminal charges may be pending
CALGARY, Alberta, Canada––On July 20, 2022, the first day in ten that no one was reported dead from a new pit bull attack, Calgary residents Denis Ivan Bagarić, 33, and Talyn Lexie Calkins, of similar but unclear age, were jointly charged with 12 offenses under the Calgary Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw for the June 5, 2022 pit bull mauling death of their former neighbor Betty Ann “Rusty” Williams, 86.
“Each offense carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or up to six months imprisonment for a fine that goes unpaid. As the owners were jointly charged,” reported Sarah Moore for CBC News, “that means a maximum fine of $120,000 if convicted of all offenses.”
Euthanasia order awaiting judicial decision
The three pit bulls, resembling each other closely enough to have been litter mates, were identified by Calgary chief bylaw officer Ryan Pleckatis as a North American pit bull terrier mix, a North American Staffordshire mix, and an American pit bull.
All three were impounded following the fatal attack on Williams.
“The city has submitted a Dangerous Dog Application to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta requesting that the dogs be euthanized. The dogs will continue to be held pending the outcome of the application,” Moore said.
“Within the City of Calgary records, there was no prior history with these three animals,” Pleckaitis told Moore. “We’re seeking to have them humanely euthanized, as we believe that they pose a significant risk to public safety.”
Why did ambulance take half an hour to come from 10 blocks away?
Possible Alberta provincial criminal charges against Bagaric and Calkins are reportedly still under investigation.
Alberta Health Services and the Health Quality Council of Alberta are also investigating why Williams waited 30 minutes for a Calgary Emergency Medical Services ambulance to transport her ten blocks to the hospital where she died, after a dispatcher classified Williams’ injuries as “non-life threatening.”
Results of those investigations are to be disclosed in September 2022.
Pit bull advocate dismantled animal control system
Williams was a retired Canadian Armed Services veteran and a recent cancer survivor. Her death drew renewed attention to how former Calgary Animal Services chief Bill Bruce from 2000 to his retirement in mid-2012 dismantled the once renowned “Calgary model” for doing animal control, replacing it with an entirely different approach that put pushing pit bulls ahead of public safety.
There were a then-record 58 dog bites reported in Calgary in 2009, 102 in 2010, 127 in 2011 and 201 in 2012, 70% of the total reportedly by pit bulls, when Bruce retired.
Bruce, post-retirement, became a roving consultant for the pit bull advocacy group Animal Farm Foundation.
“High rate of speed & alcohol”
Defendant and pit bull owner Bagarić has long been known to police. Reportedly born in Croatia, Bagarić apparently emigrated to Canada with his family in childhood.
Bagarić attended McCoy High School in Medicine Hat, Alberta, about 200 miles southeast of Calgary.
As a high school senior, Bagarić on January 29, 2007 at about 7:15 a.m rolled a 1990 BMW off the road in Kin Coulee Park in light snow, one day before the end of semester break.
The crash killed Bagarić’s passenger, 16-year-old Quinn Christine Tewsley-Schwabe.
Police reported that “a high rate of speed and alcohol appear to have played a factor in the crash,” according to James Neeley of the Medicine Hat News.
Bagarić himself was hospitalized with what Neeley described as “undisclosed non-life-threatening injuries.”
Cocaine, marijuana, & illegal gun
Two and a half years later, on December 29, 2009, Bagarić and co-accused Nicole Neilsen, along with two other men, were arrested in Medicine Hat in alleged possession of 83 grams of cocaine, nearly six pounds of marijuana, and an illegally possessed nine-millimeter semi-automatic firearm.
Pleading guilty in September 2010, Bagarić in December 2010 received a 90-day intermittent sentence (meaning that the time was not to be consecutively served) for possession of 300 grams of marijuana.
Rumors that Bagarić had turned confidential informant against other defendants surfaced online in October 2014. If authentic, Bagarić would share this alleged background with Charles Owensby of Newport, Tennesseee, whose Cane Corsos on April 1, 2021 killed Tony Ahrens, 52, and on July 12, 2021 killed Amber Miller, 29, at essentially the same location in front of Owensby’s home.
The Cocke County, Tennessee sheriff’s department is still awaiting results from forensic tests before considering charges against Owensby, Abby Kousouris and Paige Hill of WVLT reported on July 12, 2022.
Would-be “media influencer” on pit bulls
Bagarić by 2014 had become a heavily tattooed body-builder, reportedly employed as a welder in the Alberta oil fields.
Bagarić next emerged into public view on January 2, 2019 in a Medicine Hat News photo showing him and Ashley LaCosse of the local Anytime Fitness exercise gym walking pit bulls named Dibo and Kalle. Bagarić and LaCosse both appeared in several local Anytime Fitness promotional videos.
A web page posted by the India-based “media influencer” promotion company Viral Pitch indicates that Bagarić hoped to become an influencer on the topics of “DIBO pitbull pitbulls staffordshirebullterrier, pitbullpuppies puppies animals follow puppytreats instagood photography photooftheday Canada Balkan puppy puppylife family pitbullpuppy staffy staffshire @father_and_sons_bulliez.”
Complained about police dispatch of injured fawn
Bagarić was still in Medicine Hat when on September 13, 2019, summarized Zach Laing for the Calgary Sun, Medicine Hat police “were called by Alberta Fish & Wildlife officers just before 10 a.m. after being notified about a fawn” found in a suburban neighborhood with “one leg severed and another two broken.”
Alberta Fish & Wildlife called for police help because there were no wardens able to quickly respond.
Determining that the fawn was fatally injured, and that there would be a high risk of ricochet if a firearm was used to dispatch her, the officers “concluded that the safest way to end the animal’s suffering would be to use a knife,” according to the Medicine Hat police department official statement.
“Could be a better protocol”
Bagarić told Laing he was driving to work with a friend when he saw the fawn and officers. Bagarić stopped, videotaped the scene, and posted the video on his Facebook page.
“He slit the deer’s throat and stabbed it a few times,” Bagarić said of the police officer who handled the knife.
“Now, I get it,” Bagarić acknowledged. The fawn “obviously wasn’t going to make it, but I think there could have been a better way; I think there could be a better protocol,” such as “taking it to a field, or bringing a vet down,” either of which, if even possible, would have prolonged the fawn’s suffering.
“I’ve lost 4 beings super close to Me”
Bagarić appears to have often posted photos and video to social media, but almost all seem to have been taken down in the days after his pit bulls killed Betty Ann “Rusty” Williams in the alley behind her home, a public right-of-way.
One item escaping complete takedown was a July 9, 2022 posting asserting that, “My dogs never were trained with anger or hate! I’ve had years of social media show that, but in the last month I’ve lost 4 beings super close to Me, and I haven’t been myself!
“I’m not asking for your sympathy,” Bagarić said. “I’m asking for you to keep my name out of your mouth before knowing the real story.”
Claimed “I was the one who called 911”
The real story, Bagarić did not mention, that his pit bulls dismembered Williams in a manner that made the Medicine Hat police officer’s dispatch of the injured fawn look gentle.
“I was the one who called 911 and attended, wrapped her with blankets and cried and prayed and prayed!!!” Bagarić asserted.
Michael Rodriguez of the Calgary Herald, however, on June 8, 2022 identified the first 911 callers as a woman named Nicola and her husband, a man named Lane, whose surnames were not disclosed.
“Not everyone should suffer the consequences”
Continued Bagarić, “I did my best, but it wasn’t an act of violence, guys. I’ve lost everything I’ve cared about. I will not give up! Working day and night, no sleep, to retain the best lawyer, because in reality! Not everyone should suffer the consequences! When they weren’t all involved. Not all dogs were involved and it wasn’t anything like the media is projecting. They want me to go Back to my old self when these dogs were my only happy place! I understand a life for a life, but why kill the dogs that didn’t do anything!”
What Bagarić does not appear to understand, beyond that a fatal dog attack is an extreme “act of violence” comparable in effect to ax murder, is that every dog on the scene of a pack attack is part of the attack, helping to corner the victim and encouraging the lead attacker(s) even if not actually sinking teeth into the victim.
Williams, like every victim of a multi-dog attack, was killed much as wolves kill their prey. Typically one or two wolves effect the dispatch, but the entire pack makes the killing possible.
Much less is known about Talyn Lexie Calkins, a mother of two and also a tattooed physical fitness enthusiast, except that according to a brief biography posted by her employer, Springbank Cottage Childcare LTD, she “worked at a daycare center in Medicine Hat for three years,” took “a lot of child care related courses” during that time, and “relocated to Calgary from Medicine Hat in March 2021.”
A representative of Springbank Cottage Childcare LTD emailed to ANIMALS 24-7 on July 29, 2022 that Calkins “was formally employed with us until April 2022.”