North Shore Veterinary Clinic staff Alison Columbus and Janice Voth designed their protective harness for smaller pooches back in 2019. Columbus works as a technician and Voth as an assistant at the North Vancouver clinic.
The pair invented their PredatorBWear harness after becoming disheartened by the number of small dogs they noticed were coming in for treatment following attacks from larger threats such as coyotes, raccoons and even bigger dogs.
Despite the harness’s punk rock esthetic, the device was popular with dog owners when it launched a few years ago, said Voth.
But sales have truly soared over recent months following instances of coyotes nipping at people and small dogs in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, and several cougar sightings and attacks in the Tri-Cities area.
Earlier this week, a cougar was euthanized in Port Moody after conservation officers said it was showing unnatural behaviour and hanging around in yards and near a school during daylight hours.
Police have also warned Port Moody pet owners to be vigilant after five cougar attacks on dogs across Coquitlam, Port Moody and Anmore – including two attacks that resulted in the pooches being killed – have been reported in just over the last month.
“Our sales have skyrocketed – it’s unfortunate for the dogs that have been injured, but I think it’s also made people aware of their surroundings,” said Voth. “We keep seeing these attacks. We needed to find something to help those little guys.”
Not for dog park romps
The Velcro harness utilizes a series of hard, hollow and rounded plastic spikes intended to prevent a predator from grabbing a pet with its jaws or claws, according to Voth.
The harness is best suited for small to medium dogs that can be older, blind or deaf, recovering from a surgery or injury, asocial, live near a wooded area or accompany their human companion on hikes in the woods, she said.
“We don’t condone going to the dog park in these things. Our intention is that whatever creature it is that tries to bite down or grab the pet, that they’re going to feel those spikes on the top of their mouth and they’re going to let go,” said Voth, who noted the harness uses hollow plastic spikes so the attacking creature isn’t injured as well.
Recently, Columbus and Voth gifted one of their PredatorBWear harnesses to a toy poodle named Sebastian the duo had formed a connection with after treating the pooch at their clinic twice in the last few years.
Sebastian lost a leg after he was attacked by a bigger dog three years ago, and this past summer was injured again after a larger breed went for his rib cage and neck.
“That poor dog, he’s got terrible luck,” said Voth.
Wildlife advocates wouldn’t comment on the spiky harness specifically but said it was important for dog owners to pay close attention to their surroundings when walking through forested areas.
“We have bobcats and cougars regularly travelling across the North Shore without incident, but there are things we should always be doing when we take our pets on trails,” said Luci Cadman, executive director of the North Shore Black Bear Society.
Cadman said making noise while walking in the backcountry and keeping a pooch on-leash could act as effective deterrents for a small dog coming across a larger wild animal.
“Off-leash dogs could go off into the trails and they might disturb a bear that’s resting. Or they might disturb a coyote family, and that dog will be seen as a threat to those animals,” said Cadman.
Columbus and Voth are now both busy filling international orders for their PredatorBWear harness.
“I think everyone just needs to be aware of what’s out there,” said Voth. “This is just to help, to be a deterrent.”