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Iqaluit Humane Society struggling to care for animals

“Urgent need for foster homes (including today) … please email animal rescue …” reads a recent post from Janelle G. Kennedy on Iqaluit’s Facebook Public Service Announcement group.
The Iqaluit’s police dog pound, which was previously IQS’s pet care facility. The society now depends on volunteers and foster homes to care for animals. Felix Charron-Leclerc/NNSL photo

“Urgent need for foster homes (including today) … please email animal rescue …” reads a recent post from Janelle G. Kennedy on Iqaluit’s Facebook Public Service Announcement group.

Kennedy is the president of the board of Iqaluit Humane Society (IQS), which has had its share of challenges in the last few years. The organization lost their animal care operating facility, but are still offering their services based on the good will and volunteer work of a few foster homes.

Since the society’s old building was turned into the local police’s dog pound, the animals who fall in charge of IQS now have to be cared for in foster homes or directly at Kennedy’s.

“I personally have around four or five dogs at home at all times,” says the president.

Kara Bohm, who is now on her 11th foster for IQS, worries about the effects not having a proper pet care facility could have on the city.

“There are so many dogs hit by cars and chasing children here in Iqaluit because it’s a real city now and the culture around letting dogs wander hasn’t changed,” she said. “The government needs to provide the land to build a new facility. This problem is getting worse by ignoring it and it will become a huge public safety issue, let alone all the animal neglect and suffering that will ensue if they don’t address it.”

The situation is becoming increasingly challenging given the low adoption rate in the Northern city.

“With the housing crisis, most people aren’t in a position to adopt, either it’s a question of space, finance or even just the right to have animals at home. Most people already live in overcrowded spaces or shared staff housing,” Kennedy explained.

As for funding, the organization has to rely on private charities and donations. All other provinces and territories have a government-funded SPCA but in Nunavut, the reality is different.

“We do not get any government money. We’re very lucky to have two good sponsors, but our costs have definitely gone up now that we lost our air freight discount for our animals,” said Kennedy.

There is no veterinary services available year-round in Iqaluit. For most emergencies, animals have to be flown down to Ottawa. First Air used to offer free transportation for the animals, but that changed when Canadian North took over.

“When Canadian North bought First Air, they switched the deal we had with them to a discounted transportation at first,” said Kennedy. “Last year, though, the airline didn’t renew the sponsorship. For the whole year, this will cost us an estimated $50,000 given prices are much higher in the communities.”

The organization is based in Iqaluit, but doesn’t just serve the capital, she added.

“We’re considering changing our name to Nunavut Humane Society, as we really help dogs from all over the territory,” she said. “In Pangnirtung a few years back, the dog attacks got so bad the government started paying $25 for every dog the residents could shoot.”

Many communities already struggle with the housing and infrastructure crisis, meaning the resources left for pet care facilities and animal control are slim.

Allan and Bernie Thompson, who ran Diamonds in the Ruff, an animal-rescue operating in the communities of Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk from 2010 to 2016, experienced the lack of resources.

“When we left Cambridge Bay, we had an unheated shed donated by the town and maintained by volunteers,” remembers the couple.

What made the operation possible, they explained, is the help from other provinces’ and territories’ organizations.

“Vets Without Borders from Calgary and Edmonton helped out a lot. Could not have done the 300 rescues without the help of Yukon SPCA, Canadian North and Buffalo Air,” they said.

When asked about the future of the IQS, Kennedy said the dream is to have a physical space again.

“We used to offer boarding, grooming, emergency pet first aid, we were doing a lot of that for free,” she said. “If we ever have a place, we’d like to do even more, such as puppy daycare and even getting some of the dogs trained for dog therapy.”

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