Red Deer woman seeks tougher laws after family dog killed by driver

An online petition launched a week ago has 1,300 supporters

The heartbreaking death of a family’s dog — hit by a suspected hit-and-run driver — has prompted a Red Deer woman to start a petition urging for stronger laws.

Carrie Marchtaler’s beloved dog Maverick slipped out of her Vanier Woods yard while she was putting out her recycling bins on May 9.

She immediately hopped in her car with her nine-month-old son in the back seat to look for the dog she and fiancé Shaun Janse van Rensburg had rescued as a three-month-old in 2017.

Sadly, she found Maverick dead on 30 Avenue.

“I saw him laying there and I just knew he was gone … my heart dropped to my stomach.”

An eyewitness, who was shaken by the event, told her that a white truck had hit Maverick and kept on going.

The witness could not get a licence number.

Marchtaler talked to police and hoped that nearby traffic cameras could be checked to see if there were images of the pickup taken around the time of the 5:45 p.m. collision.

But Marchtaler said she was dismayed at the response.

Police reportedly told her there was little they could do, and that if she pursued her case, she might get sued for damages by the truck driver.

Marchtaler feels that’s wrong. Drivers can be charged with leaving the scene of an accident that involves a human. She doesn’t see why the law should not take collisions with animals more seriously.

“I think there should be an investigation when something like this happens and it not be blamed solely on the pet owner.

“Accidents do happen. Most people who don’t own pets will jump to the conclusion that if you had them properly contained, this would never happen. Anyone who owns a pet knows it’s not that easy.

“An investigation regarding this incident would be great. Perhaps, in this instance, the driver was speeding or was distracted, and they are not even going to look at it because, ‘Oh, your dog got out. It’s your fault.’”

Some have downplayed her family’s loss, saying it’s just a dog and she can get another one.

They don’t understand what he meant to them, said Marchtaler.

“Maverick was an equal in our home. Stepping into our house meant respecting me, my fiance, my child, and also Maverick.

“We think animals and their families should be treated with more respect and dignity. It is a life. It doesn’t matter they can’t talk or don’t have the power that humans do. They mean just as much to us.

“It’s something that feels like losing a child,” she said.

After all, there are laws against cruelty to animals, so it is not unprecedented to consider animals in law.

She decided the issue was too important to let go, so she started a petition on eight days ago urging changes in law to hold drivers to account. It seems to have found a supportive audience with 1,300 signing on as of Friday.

“As it stands right now, the owner of an animal at large that was struck by a vehicle can be held accountable for the damages incurred from the incident,” she writes in her petition.

“It doesn’t matter that this owner just lost a part of their family, they have to foot the bill, and be left with both a hole in their heart and pocket.

“We are wanting to take action to have this changed. We are seeking help to have justice served to the families who lost a part of their heart to reckless, ruthless and/or irresponsible drivers.”

Marchtaler is not sure where to go next. She is considering raising it with local MLAs.

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