FORT ST. JOHN -- It’s a farm owner’s worst nightmare, their trusted herd dog goes missing -- but for one family in the Peace Region, they didn’t expect what would happen next.

In the evening hours of February 3rd, Clayton and Ricki Hartley were getting ready for dinner when they called out to Pearl, their Anatolian Shepheard, who works as a livestock guardian dog on their farm two hours northwest of Fort St. John.

Pearl never made it inside, leading the Hartley’s on a two-day search for the dog that was unknowingly caught in a leg-hold trap believed to have been set up by trappers to catch wolves.

The next morning, Clayton went on his snowmobile searching the property and the places they thought Pearl would go, but he didn’t return with the dog.

On Sunday night, Ricki began hollering out for Pearl and heard distance howls.

It wasn’t until the sun came up Monday morning that she heard the howls again, sending Clayton out in the direction of a valley where he found Pearl trapped, her leg completely frozen.

Clayton managed to get the dog out the trap, but Pearl couldn’t walk, so he strapped on snow shoes and carried the dog back to the snowmobile, and to his farm, where they began the frantic two-hour drive to Fort St. John for veterinary care.

"By the time we'd gotten her to Fort St. John, her foot had swollen to about five times its size and the vet did a responsive test, and it was unresponsive. So it was either euthanasia or amputation, and of course, we chose amputation," said Ricki Hartley in an interview with CJDC TV.

The Hartley’s say they reached out to conservation authorities, as no signs were posted of trapping underway in the area.

“They didn’t do a site investigation, they didn’t really check anything out – they didn’t do anything,” said Ricki Hartley.

Hartley believes that trappers should have a legal responsibility to localities where they operate to reduce traumatic accidents like Pearl’s.

This led her to reach out to The Fur-Bearers, a charitable organization committed to the end of the commercial fur trade, conservation, advocacy, and education on wildlife across the province.

“Residents of British Columbia shouldn’t fear going for walks with their dogs or allowing Livestock Guardian Dogs to effectively do their jobs,” says Lesley Fox, Executive Director for The Fur-Bearers.

The organization sent a letter to Premier David Eby calling for trapping reforms, providing documents from the Ministry of Forests that show there were 74 similar incidents involving family pets from 2015 to 2021, an average of 10 per year.

“There is no way to know if a casual walk with your family’s best friend will end in a horrifying tragedy – despite clear, simple solutions that could prevent it. It’s time for the government to listen and protect families from the dangers of commercial and recreational trapping,” said Fox.

As for Pearl, she continues to recover and is now walking with the strength of three legs as a house dog, retired from her duties on the farm.