One Iqaluit resident, whose husky had his leg caught in a fox trap in December, addressed city council Jan. 9, calling for councillors to deal with what he, and later the mayor, called a matter of public safety.
Thomas Rohner explained he’d been walking his husky Nacho at the Upper Base area near one of the orange sheds Dec. 23 when the incident occurred.
“Luckily I was with a friend. Between the two of us we were able to … I had to hang on to Nacho, who was going berserk, and my friend was able to figure out how to disengage the trap. It was all very overwhelming, including for the dog – who was trying to bite my arm off, trying to bite his own leg off, trying to bite my friend’s arm off,” said Rohner.
He explained the husky’s leg was swollen for a while, but that the veterinarian said he was lucky.
“The trap was concealed. It was not visible even just walking by it. It was about 20 to 30 feet from the public access road. It could have very easily have been me who stepped in the trap. It could very easily have been a child or someone else that stepped into the trap,” said Rohner.
Rohner then proceeded to tell the story of a couple who had been in the same area, closer to the road and the shed, with their one-year old, approximately 40 lb. puppy.
“Their dog died pretty much instantly in what they thought was either a wolf trap or a bear trap,” he said.
Rohner presented letters of support from the Iqaluit Humane Society and Iqaluit veterinarian Leia Cunningham.
“All of us at the Iqaluit Humane Society are shocked and saddened by the injuries reported by pet owners these last few weeks; injuries and pet deaths caused by unmarked leg holds, snares and larger traps set within city limits, close to buildings and in recreational areas,” said society president Janelle Kennedy in a Jan. 9 letter.
“In the last couple months, I have experienced a noticeable increase in the number of dogs presenting to my clinic after getting caught and injured in a fox trap,” Cunningham wrote in a letter.
“As an Inuk woman with a close connection to her heritage, I fully support the hunters of today. What I am hoping for is simply a way to make this practice safer for those that it is not targeted towards: people and their pets.”
Inuit hunting and trapping rights of concern
Rohner said he realizes the issue is divisive – with the perceived pitting of pet ownership against Inuit rights to hunt and trap – especially on social media. But he feels unsafe and, with no bylaws in place, “as far as I know traps can be set anywhere, including the Four Corners.”
Before councillors could ask questions, Mayor Madeline Redfern jumped right in, saying she’d been given the head’s up the matter would come to council. She approached Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) lawyers on whether the Nunavut Agreement addresses such matters, and it does.
“Art Yuan, who is the director of the legal department, confirmed that while Inuit do enjoy hunting, harvesting and trapping rights within the Nunavut settlement area, there are restrictions for such activities within built-up environments, any place within one mile of a structure. And that the general laws of application for the purpose of public safety would also apply.”
Couns. Simon Nattaq noted through a translator that traps are now created to kill instantly because of animal rights activists.
“People come up here just to make money. People put out traps just to make money,” said Nattaq.
“Some traps are very dangerous. We will not forget what you said this evening. We will deal with this.”
Coun. Jason Rochon suggested the city put out a public service announcement.
Coun. Joanasie Akumalik stressed, as did deputy mayor Romeyn Stevenson, that a balance between city pet owners and Inuit rights must be found.
“Inuit also own pets. There have been Inuit who have had their dogs caught in traps within municipal boundaries. There’s also people who go berry-picking up in that area,” said Redfern.
“It is a public safety issue.”
She also noted that the issue had been raised in 2008 and “not much happened.”
Akumalik said he doubts Iqaluit is the only community facing this problem, and he suggested Redfern, who is president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, should also bring the matter there “so the Government of Nunavut can realize that it is a problem.”