Iqaluit parvo outbreak sends bylaw scrambling for emergency powers

Bylaw change gives city power to destroy dogs not claimed within 12 hours

By CHRIS WINDEYER

An outbreak of canine parvovirus has animal control officials scrambling to contain the disease and warning dog owners to keep their pets tied up.

Both the city dog pound and the local humane society shelter are closed now as workers and volunteers try to decontaminate the facilities.

“The contamination rate [from parvo] is very high,” chief bylaw enforcement officer Doug Vincent told councillors Tuesday. “We don’t want to take [a dog] into our shelter if it shows signs of disease.”

City council held a special meeting this past Friday to make a quick change to the animal control bylaw. The new rules allow animal control officers to destroy dogs within 12 hours during a canine disease outbreak.

Vincent said the changes, which apply only during times of disease outbreaks, are needed to quell epidemics and because there’s no place to keep infected dogs while the city pound and humane society shelter are under quarantine.

Blylaw officers will try to identify a dog’s owner, but if an animal isn’t claimed with in 12 business hours it will be put down, Vincent said. That means owners will have more than 12 hours to claim their animal, he added.

“We would not come in at 1 o’clock in the morning and invoke overtime to destroy dogs,” Vincent said.

He said both facilities were being sanitized and that the Iqaluit Humane Society had parvo test kits on order.

In the south, veterinary treatment for the disease is available, but in Iqaluit, where there are no vets, the mortality rate is much higher, Vincent said.

While the outbreak is on, the best defense is for dog owners to keep their pets tied up or inside, he added.

According to an animal disease manual published by the University of Northern British Columbia, parvovirus symptoms begin four to five days after the dog has been exposed. Early symptoms include paleness and sluggish behaviour, and deteriorate to vomiting and bloody diarreah.

Surfaces contaminated with parvo need to be disinfected with bleach, the manual says.

Friday’s special meeting was required because Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik missed Tuesday’s meeting due to illness. Passing all three readings of a bylaw amendment during one council meeting requires a unanimous vote of council.

As of Tuesday, Vincent said bylaw officers had to destroy six parvo-infected dogs.

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