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DNA tests show dogs, not bear, killed B.C. woman: coroner's report

The BC Conservation Officer Service says it is investigating a possible "animal attack" after a woman's body was found in a blueberry field in Pitt Meadows. (CTV) The BC Conservation Officer Service says it is investigating a possible "animal attack" after a woman's body was found in a blueberry field in Pitt Meadows. (CTV)
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A woman killed while picking blueberries on a farm east of Vancouver was initially thought to have died in a bear attack in August 2021, but a newly released coroner's report says she was mauled by dogs from another property.

The report says the dogs responsible for the death of 54-year-old Ping (Amy) Guo at a Pitt Meadows farm were only identified after their DNA was tested when another person died 17 months later at the neighbouring home.

Police say that person's injuries were also consistent with an animal attack, and the coroner's report says the dogs were euthanized shortly after.

“Guo died of multiple blunt and sharp force injuries sustained in an unwitnessed canid attack,” says the coroner's report completed last June.

Police initially treated her death as suspicious due to the “traumatic injuries,” which were particularly concentrated on her arms and legs, it says.

But the report says authorities also “strongly suspected” her death was the result of an animal attack, and a post-mortem examination provided confirmation.

The owner of the farm had called 911 after a visitor reported finding Guo's body among the blueberry bushes, it says.

A social media post from the Conservation Officer Service around the time of Guo's death says authorities were investigating whether a black bear was to blame.

The coroner's report says subsequent DNA analysis of hair and saliva samples revealed they were from a dog or wolf.

Given the location of the attack, it says conservation officers determined it had most likely been a dog, and they concluded their investigation.

A DNA profile was created, but the dogs responsible for the attack weren't identified until another person died at the home next to the blueberry farm in January 2023.

Ridge Meadows RCMP say in a statement that officers observed “lacerations and bite marks consistent with an animal attack” when they responded to that death, which remains under investigation by the coroner's service.

Guo's husband and daughter are suing the owners of the farm, as well as the City of Pitt Meadows, over alleged negligence in failing to ensure her safety.

The lawsuit, updated in June 2023, identifies Baljit Haer as the dog owner and says Haer is dead but used to live at the property next to the farm.

The defendants each deny negligence and owing Guo a duty of care in separate responses to the lawsuit initially filed in February 2022.

The response from the farm and its owners, Kae-Chang Doong and Changling Zhong, say they deny responsibility for “activities conducted on the blueberry fields.”

Prior to Guo's death, the document says the farm owners were not aware of the presence of any dangerous animals on or near the farm.

They had a reasonable system of inspection and maintenance to ensure the farm was safe and free of hazards, including dangerous animals, it says.

The lawsuit seeks general and special damages over the loss of the guidance and care Guo provided to her family as well as funeral costs and other expenses.

Haer and an unidentified woman are also listed as defendants, and a response filed by Haer's lawyer last November denies that he was the owner of an “aggressive, vicious and dangerous dog” as the lawsuit alleges.

In the alternative, it says Haer had taken reasonable steps to ensure the dog remained under appropriate supervision and control and denies any negligence.

The response from the City of Pitt Meadows was filed in January 2023, six months before the coroners' service had determined the cause of Guo's death.

The city “specifically denies that the cause of death ... was as a result of being attacked by a domestic animal of any kind, and in particular, a domestic canine,” it says.

The response says any losses sustained by the plaintiffs were caused by acts, omissions, or negligence on Guo's part, such as “failing to keep an adequate lookout.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.

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