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Animals abandoned, and unloved

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 13, 2007

IQALUIT - A group of animal lovers in Iqaluit hopes to revive the local humane society and improve pet services in the community.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

A dog awaits pick-up at Iqaluit's city pound. The city last had a humane society in 2003, but it dissolved shortly after its inception. - Karen Mackenzie/NNSL photo

"There's so much need, it's unbelievable, for proper care and for resources for people to care for their pets," said Janine Budgell, a member of the Iqaluit group.

The original Iqaluit Humane Society lapsed not long after its creation in 2003.

Budgell and another local woman continued some of its work informally, and recently re-applied for society status as the Iqaluit Humane Society 2007.

"Now we've got some really big goals," Budgell said.

As well as creating community awareness of proper care, tagging and registration, the group would also like to conduct an online survey "to assess what the community wants," she said.

One of the biggest problems in the city is a lack of veterinary services, Budgell said.

Aside from the twice-yearly visits from veterinarians, which are organized by the local Rotary Club, there is only one part-time vet in town.

However, she only performs basic services and no surgery - including spaying or neutering.

"People send their animals out, and it costs so much money it leaves people who can't afford it with no choice but to neglect their animals because they can't give them proper care," Budgell said.

The problem is worse in the communities, which don't have even the marginal services that Iqaluit does.

Earlier this summer, Iglulik received a visit from travelling veterinarians from the Canadian Animal Assistance Team.

That was about the only time vets have ever visited the community, according to Theo Ikummaq, a well known musher from the area. "In the past we've had to request for inoculations from the RCMP, and that's it," he said.

The visiting vets gave residents the opportunity to have their dogs spayed and neutered, and vaccinated against rabies and distemper, "which was long overdue in some cases," Ikummaq said.

The Hamlet of Pangnirtung has not been so lucky.

"I wish there was something more we could do," said Ron Mongeau, who once worked with a humane society during a stint down south. "It's a difficult issue to deal with in the communities outside of Iqaluit, because they don't get any veterinary services."

The hamlet holds free rabies clinics a few times a year, which get "generally a pretty good turnout," he said.

Other than that, the municipality is responsible for killing stray dogs and controlling the population.

"If people do want to get their dogs spayed and neutered, that service is simply not available," Mongeau said. "To crate up a dog and ship it even as far as Iqaluit, the costs can become quite prohibitive."

One lasting legacy of the old humane society in Iqaluit was an adoption program for stray dogs with its Ottawa counterpart.

Canadian North provides free flights for healthy dogs on Tuesdays from the city's animal pound.

According to Rod Mugford, the city's chief municipal enforcement officer, about 30 dogs have been flown to Ottawa for adoption this year.

The city picks up between 25 and 35 dogs a month, according to Mugford. Those that aren't returned to their owners or adopted are disposed of by the city.

"A lot of people don't like this generalization, but I think it boils down to irresponsible pet owners," he said, adding that the numbers he encounters here are much higher than those in the south.

"The animals we are running into are let loose. No one cares to claim them. I'm sure everybody in Iqaluit knows we have an impound area."

Structurally, the pound itself is a problem, he added. "It lacks proper ventilation, it's not structurally sounds, and it has no quarantine facilities," he said.

A local humane society, when established, could make his job a lot easier, Mugford said, particularly if they helped to facilitate a shelter.