Iqaluit approves veterinary clinic in Apex

Zoning change now awaits approval by minister


Iqaluit is one step closer to getting an animal hospital.

On Oct. 12, the city council voted in favour of second reading for zoning measure that would see the Apex home of Duncan Cunningham turned into an animal hospital run by his daughter Leia, now in her last year of studying veterinary medicine in Saskatchewan.

Zoning applications require three readings. In this case, the first reading took place in August 2010, where it was unanimously approved by a smiling city council.

However, Cunningham said that the plans for the NunaVet animal hospital will be delayed because Leia is pregnant.

The family had originally hoped to start the practice in July 2011, but with Leia’s impending motherhood it likely won’t be until the following December.

Leia’s partner is a classmate at her veterinary college and may take part in her practice, though his specialty is larger animals and he’s more interested in working with caribou and polar bears, Cunningham said.

At first, Leia’s practice will be by house-calls, and perhaps renting laboratory space at the new Nunavut Research Institute building for surgeries, he explained.

Converting their Apex home into an animal hospital won’t likely happen until 2012, he said.

Some of the Cunninghams’ neighbours expressed concern about having an animal hospital in their neighbourhood at a public hearing Sept. 14.

Cunningham was not present for the hearing, so the council deferred voting until they could hear his counter-arguments.

Next-door neighbour Bob Hanson said he hoped the animal hospital gets a lot of business, but “where it’s going is the concern that I have.”

“I have three kids and a wife who is quite afraid of dogs,” he said.

Hanson said he worried that having an animal hospital next door would mean loose dogs wandering nearby, a concern that Coun. Jimmy Kilabuk echoed.

“Usually dogs are vicious, most times,” Kilabuk said through interpretation. “It’s going to be dangerous all round. I am not very pleased that they [the Cunninghams] are not here [Sept. 14].”

Hanson also worried about the traffic that the business would generate in his neighbourhood.

“I don’t want vehicle after vehicle in my yard,” he said. “It happens now and I don’t have an animal hospital.”

Also, the Cunninghams’ driveway cuts across the property of his neighbour on the other side, Brad Chambers, who also attended the Sept. 14 public hearing.

Chambers said he would prefer not to have an animal hospital next door, but wasn’t opposing the application.

“I just want to ensure that access is not through my lot,” he said.

Hanson explained that Cunningham’s driveway actually cuts across his property, which is not a problem as a residence, but would be less welcome as a business.

“My issue is the amount of vehicles coming to the clinic and the access to it,” he said.

On Oct. 12 Cunningham attended council to respond to his neighbours’ concerns.

Cunningham said he would stop cutting across Chambers’s property as a driveway and would put signage to indicate the proper driveway for NunaVet customers to use.

He suggested that Chambers put some boulders to block off the part of his lot that customers might cut across, and offered to pay for it in response to a question from Coun. Romeyn Stevenson.

Cunningham also said there would be no loose dogs around because the animal hospital would not let the animals out except to walk on a leash with trained staff.

Animal hospital rules state that each dog has to wear two leashes at the same time so the dog won’t escape if one leash breaks.

And “if it poops, you pick it up,” Cunningham said.

The business is to include a kenneling service, which would be indoors and not attract loose dogs from the area, he explained.

Stevenson said he had lived near two animal hospitals in the South in his life, and never encountered loose dogs nearby.

As to residents’ concerns on increased traffic, Cunningham said the hospital would operate during business hours while most residents are at work outside Apex.

He said each patient visit was about 15 to 20 minutes, amounting to three or four cars an hour.

Coun. Mat Knickelbein, an Apex resident, was not at the Oct. 12 meeting, but Stevenson said Knickelbein talked with other Apex residents and found a lot of support for the animal hospital.

After hearing Cunningham’s responses to his neighbours’ concerns, the council voted unanimously in the animal hospital’s favour.

Third and final reading will take place after the zoning amendment’s approval from Community and Government Services Minister Lorne Kusugak.

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