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Rankin Inlet prioritizes rehoming, not destroying abandoned dogs

111 dogs sent south in 2021
Since 2017, Rankin Inlet has been rehoming abandoned dogs in the south rather than destroying them. Seen here is the indoor portion of the dog pounds in the hamlet. Photo courtesy of Mark Wyatt ᑕᐃᒪᙵᓂ 2017−ᒥ, ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᖅ ᐊᖏᕐᕋᖅᑖᖅᑎᑦᑎᓯᒪᕗᑦ ᐃᒃᓯᖕᓇᑯᓂ ᕿᒻᒥᓂ ᖃᓪᓗᓈᑦ ᓄᓇᖓᓐᓂ ᑐᖁᑕᐅᙱᖔᖅᖢᑎᒃ. ᐅᕙᓂ ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᔪᖅ ᐊᑕᐅᓯᐅᔪᒥ ᕿᒻᒥᒃᑯᕕᒃ ᕼᐋᒻᓚᐅᔪᒥ.

Though they’re no longer being destroyed when caught by bylaw, Rankin Inlet’s dogs still deserve proper care from owners.

“We do have a lot of dogs here that I would say are somewhat neglected, that live their lives on the end of chains,” said Mark Wyatt, director of protective services with the hamlet.

When they get loose, bylaw catches them and keeps them in one of two pounds in the community - one outside for bigger dogs that can handle the low temperatures, and a heated indoor pound for smaller dogs.

The indoor holding area was built in the fall using a seacan, framed, insulated and sheeted with plywood and is kept warm by circulating air from the garage next door and supplemented with an infrared heater. The outdoor pen has shelters and space for six dogs at any given time.

Wyatt will usually post the dogs on Facebook or try to contact the owners by another means.

“There are a lot of good dog owners in town,” he said, adding that he tries to reunite dogs with their owners and provide education on making sure their pets don’t get loose.

In the recent past there was little alternative for the dogs whose owners don’t come to collect them – those animals would be shot. The hamlet used to destroy about 150 dogs per year because of this, roughly one every other day.

“It’s the standard practice in a lot of different communities,” said Wyatt. “Stray dogs are generally tied up for a couple days and then if the owners don’t claim them, they’re just shot.”

Since Wyatt took over in 2017, abandoned dogs are now rehomed in the south, at no cost to the hamlet, thanks to connections he’s made and fundraising efforts.

Bylaw works closely with Kangiqliniq Spay, Neuter and Rescue, an organization run by Wyatt and Page Burt. The group raises funds to run spay and neuter clinics and provide some veterinarian services.

The group also gives aid to a rescue group in Baker Lake run by Andrea Robinson, helping get dogs from the community vaccinated and with the occasional rescue that finds itself overnighting in Rankin.

In 2021, 111 Rankin Inlet dogs were sent south. In the first week of 2022, another four were destined for lower parallels. Bylaw is currently raising two puppies until they’re old enough to be sent out - the other nine in the litter had frozen to death.

“They all go south, they all get new homes,” said Wyatt, except for aggressive dogs, which still get destroyed.

Bylaw also provides vaccination for dogs it captures, as well as for dogs owners bring in.

Many communities in the territory have been seeing a rise in foxes lately, including Rankin Inlet. Rabid foxes tend to either be aggressive or super friendly, said Wyatt, but either way deadly to unvaccinated dogs.

“Once a dog gets rabies, it’s a deadly disease,” he said. “You can’t do anything about vaccinating it after the fact. Same thing with people. Once people get rabies, it can be an incredibly deadly disease, so we want to try to make sure none of that happens.”

He said the loose dog situation in town seems to be improving over the years.

“I think it’s getting a lot better,” said Wyatt. “I think people are now more aware that bylaw is here to help them with their dogs, as opposed to just capture them and get rid of them. Our goal is to have responsible dog owners raising their dogs as family pets, if they can, and taking good care of them.”

What’s not appropriate, he said, is dogs living on three-foot leashes without adequate shelter.