Shooting dogs is a sensitive subject in the Canadian far north
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2007:
WINNIPEG–“The solution,” to attacks by stray dogs on Native
American reservations in northern Canada, “is to cull the dog
population, and provide spay and neuter services to native
communities at the same time,” Winnipeg Humane Society executive
director Vicki Burns told Brookes Merritt of the Edmonton Sun on
November 19, 2006.
Though Burns apparently said nothing about shooting dogs,
her remark was summarized in the headline of the resulting article as
“Annual dog shoot proposed,” and in the lead sentence as “An annual
‘dog shoot’ would help keep dog packs on native reserves from killing
any more helpless children, says an animal welfare worker in
Further distributed by the National Post and then posted to
several British animal rights e-mail lists, the article hit raw
nerves in both Europe and Native communities.
Brookes Merritt interviewed Burns, known for “lobbying the
Manitoba government to bring better vet services to native
communities,” he wrote, “after five-year-old Lance Ribbonleg was
killed by a pack of stray dogs at the North Tallcree First Nation’s
reserve near Fort Vermilion.”
In Manitoba, Brookes Merritt continued, “a two-year-old
boy was mauled at the Hollow Water First Nation in July 2006, and a
three-year-old boy met the same fate on the Sayisi First Nation in
June. Some communities there have ‘dog shoot days,’ in which stray
dogs are culled.”
The strays are typically non-working offspring of sled dogs,
or retired sled dogs, left to fend for themselves around the edges
of settlements. Historically, pariah dogs patrolling the perimeters
of encampments helped to protect the Inuit from polar bears–but that
was when the threat from bears was far greater than in recent times.
The children were killed by dogs as a House of Commons
committee completed a year-long investigation of longstanding Inuit
allegations that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police massacred sled
dogs between 1950 and 1970 to force the Inuit off their land, into
Published on November 29, 2006, the House of Commons report “found
that police officers did kill many as 20,000 sled dogs, but for
health and safety reasons,” summarized Bob Weber of Canadian Press.
“What we found is not inconsistent with the Inuit oral
history,” RCMP Chief Superintendent Mike Woods told Weber. “If we
can work with the community and explain why the dogs were killed,”
Woods said, “we’re hoping that there will be understanding on the
part of the Inuit community and we can put the conflict to bed.”
“Members of the Nunavut legislature have spoken about the
alleged plot as if it were fact,” Weber noted. “In 2005, the
Makivik Corporation, which represents Quebec Inuit, funded the
production of a movie called The Last Howl, which purports to tell
the story. Makivik and the Qikiktani Inuit Association, which are
conducting their own investigations into the charges, refused to
supply information or co-operate with the RCMP review. An interim
RCMP report released last year that reached a conclusion similar to
the final version was declared a whitewash by many in Nunavut.
Woods told Weber that in every instance where specific facts
were available from more than 40,000 relevant documents, the dogs
were killed for humanitarian, security, safety and health reasons.
“Investigators also found cases where RCMP officers supplied
distemper and rabies vaccines to communities, even supplying some of
them with puppies to rebuild dog teams,” Weber wrote.