Nunatsiaq News
COMMENTARY: Nunavut January 26, 2018 - 3:30 pm

Legal Ease, Jan. 26

Dogs running loose


In a recent article, I mentioned how dogs allowed to run free can get caught in fox traps. This led a number of readers to write and ask what are the laws regarding dogs running free in Nunavut.

In some smaller communities there may not be much of a problem with dogs roaming around, especially if they are well-behaved. That said, communities are not the way they were, and some places are big enough that dogs running loose can pose a major problem. I well remember seeing a dog hit by a car just outside a Northern store–not something I would like to see again. Keeping your dog under control just makes sense.

The law is fairly clear. Under the Dog Act, section 5(2), the legislation provides:

Running at large
(2) No owner shall permit a dog to run at large
(a) within any area that is defined by the Commissioner under
subsection (1); or
(b) contrary to a municipal bylaw.

The regulations (the areas defined by the Commissioner) under the Dog Act are quite narrow and say that dogs cannot run freely within:
(a) a radius of 0.4022 km from any building at a station of the Distant Early Warning Network;
(b) a radius of 0.4022 km from any dwelling in any settlement in the Keewatin and Franklin Districts;
(c) a Territorial Park; or
(d) the Mackenzie District.

There are also bylaws regulating dogs that are allowed to run free–Rankin Inlet forbids dogs on the loose and local firefighters enforce the bylaw. They pick up stray dogs and post their information online, so that the owners can get the dogs back.

The bylaw in Iqaluit, the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw, provides in sections 8 and 9 that no dogs can be on the loose and no dogs are allowed at all in schools, cemeteries, playgrounds or sports fields.

The restrictions on dogs going into public buildings do not apply to service dogs–seeing-eye dogs for example.

All these restrictions make good sense. It is true that some larger dogs may have trouble getting proper exercise on a leash, but a large dog on the loose can pose a danger to people and other smaller dogs, not to mention being at risk of getting hit by a snow machine or other motor vehicle.

If a dog is running wild and causing damage, there is authority for the dog to be destroyed–as a dog lover, I don’t like this power, but it is necessary. The Dog Act provides:

Destruction of dogs
9. A person may kill a dog that is running at large and in the act of pursuing, attacking, injuring, damaging, killing or destroying
(a) a person;
(b) another dog that is tethered;
(c) a food cache, harness or other equipment; or
(d) cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, poultry or animals on a fur farm.

Frankly, there aren’t a lot of cattle or horses in Nunavut, but the legislation is adopted from another place and that`s a carry-over. The bottom line is that a dog that causes injury risks being destroyed.

James Morton is a lawyer practising in Nunavut with offices in Iqaluit. The comments here are intended as general legal information and not as specific legal advice.

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