The Fan Hitch Volume 2, Number 4, August 2000

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

From the Editor
Raising Sled Dogs
The Good, the Bad and the ‘Eskimo’ Dog
The Russian Connection
Honoured Symbol Under Fire
Iqaluit Team Owner Speaks Out
The Homecoming
Niels Pedersen, D.V.M:
Challenging Folk Remedies
Janice Howls:
Maintaining the ISD Roots
Book Review: 
Portrait of Antarctica
First Hand Account:
Exploration of Antarctica
Dog Ownership in Modern Society
Baking: Carnivore Brownies
Behaviour Notebook:
 Silent and Induced Heat
ISDI Summit Postponed
Memorable Inuit Dog Encounters

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

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Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

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Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

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Iqaluit dog team                                                  Krizan photo

Dog Team Trouble in Iqaluit: 
A Team Owner's Perspective

by Julia Krizan

Unfortunately, Nunavut's capital continues to make headlines and once again I am urged to write some lines to the Fan Hitch about the latest sad developments in Iqaluit. As discussed in the last newsletter, most dog issues in Iqaluit can be related to one of two categories: 1) dog teams and 2) stray dogs.  Uninformed and careless people tend to mix up those categories more and more.  With the population of Iqaluit residents and their pet dogs steadily rising, the number of strays in town is rising and so is the occurrence of unpleasant incidents with these dogs. On the other hand, the number of dog teams in Iqaluit and surrounding outpost camps has remained more or less stable. Currently, we have 14 teams in this area. Some people started new teams during the past years, some people left and passed their dogs on to other people or shipped them out. As reported in the last Fan Hitch, during the past two years the town of Iqaluit has been trying to work out regulations on how Inuit Dog teams should be kept. Because the town could not come up with designated areas where dog teams are allowed, team owners are currently tethering their dogs in two different areas around the airport. These areas might some day become "designated dog areas".  Some dog teams spend their summers loose on islands in Frobisher Bay (where they can face a variety of problems, which I don't want to discuss at this point, but at least they are safe from dog control officers!!!!). Back to the two airport locations; they are far from being optimal dog areas. One problem with both locations is that there are many dogs chained up in a very small space (up to 50 in one and up to 80 in the other location) and loose dogs are not uncommon. In the past, loose sled dogs were not a problem.   Dog control officers would either call around to find the owner of a loose dog or catch the dog and drive around with it to most dog team owners to find out who's dog it was. We were often able to identify other people's dogs this way. This system worked well, and everybody was satisfied.

Then something must have happened within a few days during the second week of this past July. Several sled dogs were shot under highly mysterious circumstances. It is beyond the scope of this article to explain every single shooting, especially if I would have to include all versions of the reasons we have heard so far.  Rather, I will concentrate on matters that all cases have in common. 

The dogs were shot within hours of being picked up. Hardly any or no attempts were made to identify the dogs or their owners. Our dog was identified by our dog sitter (we were out of town at this time), but the animal was not returned to him. According to the dogcatcher, the dog was to be shot immediately and he added, "We have no time to loose."  Why???? Well, I guess the dog control officer did not quite know this himself. His reasoning was very contradictory.  First, the dog had attacked a person. Then after this proved wrong, it had attacked another dog. Then, after the story did not add up he argued, "The dog was shot because it was loose and untagged."   These contradictions were typical for the other shootings as well;  no clear descriptions of the events, witnesses appeared and disappeared, the timeline changed and even the locations.  These were the reasons why some of the involved dog team owners requested a written report from the town.  Losing a dog is always hard, but losing a dog for nothing makes us sad, frustrated and angry. As of today, more than 6 weeks after the dogs were shot, all we've heard back from the town is a statement that the officer had acted in accordance with the by-law, which allows officers to "destroy loose and untagged dogs".  The reaction we received and are still getting from town officials is non-responsive rather then clarifying. We were turned into troublemakers because we questioned the right of the by-law officer to shoot dogs. We questioned the stories we were told and we wanted clarification.

The dogs are dead and nothing will bring them back. So why then raise hell and point fingers? The answer is clear -  at least to us. A tragedy like this should never ever happen again. It is in our hands to speak up and to not accept this treatment. But what can be done to prevent more senseless shootings? First of all, this by-law needs urgent revision. It should not be up to the judgment of the dogcatcher to shoot a dog immediately.  Dog owners must have a chance to realize their dog is gone and then looking for it. Some effort has to be made to identify team dogs; there are not so many dog team owners in town. For repeated incidents of dogs getting loose, the town could press charges. This would motivate people to keep an eye on their dogs at all times. In cases where loose dogs are accused of having attacked other dogs, witnesses would have to be identified and asked to provide a statement. It should be up to the owners to take action, e.g. pay for damages. The situation would be different if the same dog repeatedly attacked other dogs. This is a very hot topic in my eyes because town officials tend to ignore this matter.  I am thinking of one particular Rottweiler (a "pet dog") that has attacked many dogs in town. Some of them ended up needing surgery. Needless to say, the dog is still alive. The owner did not even pay vet bills.

This leads me to the next point. A standard protocol needs to be in place. Whether pet dog or sled dog, all dogs should be treated according to the same rules. What then is a stray dog? Well, in my opinion a stray dog is an abandoned sled dog (very rare) or pet dog (very often), which is not claimed or can not be identified after a certain period of time (e.g. 3 days, as it was practiced in Iqaluit in the past).  Since there are no facilities in town to hold these dogs, at the current time, it is probably best to destroy these dogs after this time period.

People who should have known better handled our dogs as stray dogs. But does being classified as a stray imply instant death? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. There are so many unattended dogs in this town that it is just a matter of time until serious accidents happen.  How can we prevent these accidents from occurring?? Controlling the number of strays is the right answer. But there are two approaches. One, as practiced in Iqaluit, is killing the dogs. Another approach would be birth control! Having recognized that many pets in town are not fixed and that their owners often don't have the finances to spay or neuter them, a group of concerned citizens got together and proposed a spay and neuter subsidy program for dogs in Iqaluit to a town council committee.  In their June meeting, the town council committee rejected the proposal with the argument that the town does not have the money nor the facilities to carry out such a large scale program. 

Although we are still not over the big loss of our dog, we find relief in being with the rest of the team.  When I went to feed the dogs last night (since they are not at our house anymore and we have to drive across town to where they are tethered), a little black pug "attacked" my car. It is doing this regularly, always in the same area, and my heart always stops because I am afraid I will hit it one day. Good thing that everybody knows the dog belongs to one of our Ministers of the Legislative Assembly, otherwise, you never know...

Could it be possible that there is some kind of  bias? Could it be that dog teams are not wanted in a town that advertises with pictures of Canadian Inuit Dogs, dog teams in beautiful sceneries, in sunsets etc.? Writing this brings to mind one of the very disturbing arguments the dog control officer used to explain why he shot our dog.  "You know, there are more and more people coming to town from Toronto and other big cities. They don't understand our dogs and the way they interact with each other." Do we have to repeat the mistakes from the past? Do these dogs once again have to pay the bill for modern civilization?  I pondered over all those speculations and thoughts while reading an article about Inuit Dogs in the Canadian arctic. The author described their howls and how this beautiful and mystic sound crawls under your skin. He came to the conclusion that these howls were a part of the arctic as well. The reality is that I cannot hear our dogs - they are too far away.  Instead, I hear the yipping and yapping of this little pack of funny looking creatures that have been hanging around our house ever since our dogs were relocated to the space adjacent to the airport. If Iqaluit continues with its practice to mistreat dog teams in town and not support a neutering and spaying program, then this will clearly become the new sound of the arctic! I just wonder how these dogs will look on the postcards, in magazines and books advertising Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut.

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