Coroner: keep dog teams 500 meters from town

Corononer Percy Kinney is recommending that Iqaluit dog team owners keep their dogs staked, mu led, and penned at least 500 meters away from Iqaluit’s town limits.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Dog teams kept within 500 meters of town limits should be staked, mu led and penned to avoid future deaths, the chief coroner says.

“The status quo doesn’t work — Leah Tikivik is dead,” said Percy Kinney, chief coroner.

Six-year-old Leah Tikivik was killed by a pack of sled dogs in March 1998. The dogs were staked to the sea ice near Iqaluit when they attacked the girl.

Now in a three-page report on the death, Kinney recommends the Town of Iqaluit enact a stiffer bylaw to prevent future tragedies.

Kinney’s recommendations to the Town include enacting a new bylaw that requires:

penning and mu ling dogs kept within town or within 500 meters of any structure on the edge of town including the sea ice.
dogs kept more than one kilometer away from town limits be staked .
Kinney also makes a number of suggestions for Nunavut’s Department of Community Government.

They include:

continue dog education programs;
ensure each community has at least one designated dog control officer ;
encourage communities to review and amend dog-control bylaws .
If implemented, Kinney said his recommendations may not eliminate all possibility of future tragedies, but should reduce the risk.

But the coroner’s recommendations may not be realistic, said one local dog team owner.

“They can’t eat and drink when they’re mu led,” said Matty McNair, co-director of local outfitting company NorthWinds.

McNair estimates it would cost $2,000 to $5,000 to pen a team.

“I don’t think the people have the financial backing to do that kind of thing for recreational teams,” she said.

Since Leah’s death, Iqaluit’s dog team owners have made their own recommendations to answer safety concerns. But McNair said dog teams need to be close to their owners.

“When we talk to elders, the elders are saying that the dogs need to be close so that they can be well socialized with people and you can see what’s going on with them,” McNair said.

Some dog team owners have also changed the way they stake their dogs to keep them further apart and make it impossible for them to team up on a person.

McNair expects that dog team owners again bring forward their ideas again if Iqaluit Town Council presents a new bylaw.

Kinney said his recommendations allow dog team owners to choose to what degree they will have to restrain their dogs based on distance to the town.

“It’s your choice if you want to own dogs. It’s also your choice as to where you want to keep them,” Kinney said.

He said if dog team owners can come up with their own solution to the safety problem he’ll be satisfied.

“If you don’t like these, come up with your own. I don’t care what kind of a plug you use but fix the hole,” Kinney said.

To fix the problem, Kinney believes more than education is needed. And one day he said he’d like to see dogs not staked on the sea ice at all.

Kinney’s recommendations come just as an ad hoc committee set up by the Town of Iqaluit is expected to bring down its own suggestions.

The ad hoc committee included concerned parents and dog team owners, but committee chair Lynda Gunn said she doesn’t expect dog team owners to agree with all of her recommendations.

Her recommendations will include keeping dog teams staked at least 600 meters away from any community residence.

Other “designated districts” within the 600 meter barrier could be created for dog teams, Gunn said. Her recommendations will not include penning or mu ling but council may add those changes.

Gunn plans to make her presentation to the development, works and public safety committee next month.

She hopes to get some dog team owners to back her idea of “designated districts” when she meets with them this week.

But she said she has been advised by lawyers a 600 meter threshold for dog teams and she plans to recommend that to council.

The chief coroner’s report has since been forwarded to Iqaluit and officials with the Nunavut Department of Community Government. Kinney’s recommendations are not legally binding but he called them “morally” binding and he said no matter what measures are implemented, communities must enforce dog-control bylaws.

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