NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Dog owners seen as prime problem
Chief municipal enforcement officer says animals themselves aren't to blame for attacks

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 28, 2013

There is no stray dog problem in Iqaluit, said Kevin Sloboda, the city's chief municipal enforcement officer.

NNSL photo/graphic

Incidents of dogs running loose in Iqaluit, like this one last winter, are often the fault of dog owners and the people who interact with them, rather than the canines, said Iqaluit's chief municipal enforcement officer. - NNSL file photo

The comments follow an attack on the morning of June 19 when a man was bitten and injured by two loose dogs outside the NorthMart grocery store.

The incident stoked the fires of the animal control debate in Iqaluit, which has been raging for years.

In January, Iqaluit resident Natalie Champagne was attacked by two sled dogs and, a few weeks later, a taxi driver was also attacked by a dog.

Sloboda insists the onus is on dog owners to make sure their pets are properly tied up or kept in homes.

"People are letting their dogs out of their houses and letting them run at large and this is the problem," he said.

"The dogs from the incident weren't stray dogs. The majority of the dogs we pick up are people-owned, so owners really need to make sure they watch their dogs and keep them on leashes."

Sloboda said there is also a problem with people letting other dogs go because they feel bad for them.

"Once you get dogs together, it turns into an unpredictable situation," he said.

He's confident a new animal control bylaw, called the Responsible Pet Owners and Sled Dog bylaw - which will be presented to council for approval at the July 10 meeting - will strengthen fines and increase the ability of officers to charge neglectful pet owners.

The new document will streamline many of the provisions in the current Domestic Animal Control By-law and its amendment.

"We have two documents right now and there is a lot of repetition," he said. "We want to cover more things and just tighten the ship up more."

At a council meeting on June 25, the issue was raised by councillor Terry Dobbin, who said kids shouldn't pay the price for neglectful owners and vicious dogs. Some residents are more prepared for attacks than others, though.

"I have heard that many elders are carrying sticks and it's not always because they have bad hips," he said.

Janelle Kennedy, president of the Iqaluit Humane Society, said dogs need to be cared for from birth in order to ensure they have a good temperament.

"Dogs need exercise, food, water, petting and socializing with not just people but with other dogs, too," she said.

"Having worked with dogs most of my life, I have had my share of bites and can tell you, half the time it was my fault and the other half it was the dog's. As a kid if one of the farm dogs nipped at me my dad would ask me what I did, and that question always confused me until I grew up and learned more about dogs, what they need, what they like and don't like, and how best to raise and treat them."

Last fall, the society presented its No Bite program to young Iqaluit students, many of whom didn't know how to act around dogs.

She said although most attacks can be prevented, they can happen with any breed, regardless of the dog's size or age.

"Unfortunately combinations of dog breeds, irresponsible owners, poor treatment, lack of exercise and inconsistent care can turn a dog into one that we would label 'aggressive' or 'vicious,'" she said.

Education, prevention, training, keeping dogs on leashes, giving them care and putting rules in place to prevent animal abuse are all important things to consider going forward, she added.

"We very much support municipal enforcement and the city to put forward laws that result in limiting harm to people and to dogs," she said.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.