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Old June 29th, 2006, 09:19 AM
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more from the Whitehorse Daily Star

Action called for after 56 dogs shot

By STEPHANIE WADDELL

After 56 dogs were found shot to death in April near Dawson City, the past president of the humane society in Dawson is calling on both the public and the government to make changes designed to help ensure other animals don’t suffer the same fate.
In an interview early this afternoon, Aedes Scheer said the dogs were found shot after nearly a year of complaints continued to come into the humane society about the care the dogs were getting.
“There needs to be changes to the Animal Protection Act,” she said.
The act needs to be tightened up in aspects where animals are cared for and there need to be regulations against the hoarding of dogs. There also needs to be an special officer in the territory, and not necessarily Whitehorse, she said, whose sole duty is the enforcement of the Animal Protection Act.
“We had complaints going back to last April 2005,” she said.
The humane society called the town’s bylaw officer about it and six of the dogs were seized at that time.
Scheer said in some cases the chains around the dogs’ necks had to be cut off carefully because skin had grown around them.
However, after the owner had paid fines the dogs were given back to him.
“The fellow (then) moved the dogs outside city limits,” said Scheer.
Because they were outside municipal boundaries, the humane society was forced to go to the RCMP, who laid charges under territorial legislation.
When Scheer and others from the humane society went to court, they learned the charges had been dropped.
However, complaints continued to come in.
“It just kind of continued like that,” she said.
As spring came to Dawson, and a follow-up was done on the case, many of the 56 dogs in the yard were found up to their bellies in melted snow and feces, with “guck” in their food bowls, said Scheer.
It was then determined 15 of the dogs could be seized, and the RCMP issued a warrant warning the owner of the seizure and requirement to see a vet, said Scheer.
They would later go out to find a pile of 56 dogs’ bodies.
“We found the dogs shot,” said Scheer.
Both RCMP and Scheer say that with the current legislation there’s not a lot that can be done to take action against the owner.
It’s not a crime to shoot a dog, as long as it’s done humanely, said Scheer.
It’s been more than two months since the dogs were found dead in a pile, but Scheer said the matter wasn’t publicly known until now because the humane society had been hoping to meet with RCMP to discuss how to proceed and to look at the current policies.
“It was a very delicate situation,” she said.
She wants to make sure the public is aware of the situation. It may lead to a push for tighter legislation on the Animal Protection Act or help in moving the territorial government ahead in designating some sort of officer where his or her sole duty is the Animal Protection Act.
Sgt. Dan Gaudet of the Dawson City RCMP says that under the current dog act there is little that can be done.
Gaudet was unwilling to confirm the name of the man who killed the dogs because no charges had been laid, but did say that the police had investigated the situation as early as the fall of 2005.
Working in partnership with the humane society, a local veterinarian and the dogs’ owner, the sergeant said the police tried to reach a compromise on the issue that would ensure proper care for the animals.
After the owner made improvements to the dogs’ living conditions, the RCMP withdrew their involvement but there was “no formal conclusion,” said Gaudet.
Under territorial, criminal and federal legislation there is no specific law which prevents owners from killing their animals, said Gaudet, who was reluctant to comment on regulatory issues.
“If the issue is with legislation, it’s not really up to me to make the changes,” he said, noting that politicians would have to address any shortcoming of current laws.
When asked if the man would be watched more closely in the future if he appeared to be repeating his past behaviour, Gaudet said, “It all depends on what new situation develops if he does.”
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