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Mary Vanderkop

Dog bite was ‘isolated incident,’ RCMP say

Ross River RCMP are assuring the public there is not a dangerous dog problem in the community.

By Emily Blake on January 29, 2018

Ross River RCMP are assuring the public there is not a dangerous dog problem in the community.

Concerns over the public safety issue had resurfaced last week after it was reported that a local man had been attacked by a dog on Jan. 18.

The man, who is in his 50s and is not being publicly identified, had to be taken to the Whitehorse General Hospital for stitches to his calf.

Cpl. Pat Russell, the Ross River RCMP detachment commander, told the Star it was “an isolated incident that could happen to anyone, anywhere, in any community.”

He said the man is “back in the community and doing fine.”

Russell explained the man had been picking up bottles when a domesticated dog tied up on the property broke free from its collar or leash and bit him.

The owner of the dog has since voluntarily decided to surrender the animal and have it euthanized.

Longstanding issues with dogs in Ross River gained attention in September 2016.

The Yukon’s chief coroner had ruled that Shane Glada-Dick, 22, had been killed in October 2015 by dogs running at large.

But Russell said changes have been made since then, and he feels there is no longer a problem.

He noted over the past year he has been in Ross River, he hasn’t encountered any dangerous loose dogs.

Russell added that he feels safe taking his two dogs out for a walk every night.

“Everybody has a fear of Ross River having a feral dog problem,” he said. “Ever since that clean-up, we haven’t had a dog problem.”

According to Mary Vanderkop, chief veterinary officer with the Animal Health Unit, the animal protection officer visits communities upon request to collect surrendered dogs.

Since the summer of 2016, she said, the unit has collected about 30 dogs from Ross River alone.

Vanderkop said they visit the community about four to five times a year. She noted the number of dogs surrendered each season fluctuates, depending on when puppies are born.

But Vanderkop noted that the animal protection officer does not catch stray dogs.

She explained the unit experimented with a dog catching service in the past but it was unsuccessful. It has to be up to each community, she said, to decide how it wants to enforce the containment of dogs.

“We can’t go in and say, “here’s what you have to do” because it really depends on those things being embraced,” Vanderkop said.

She added that the unit works with the needs of each community, including offering workshops. And they have looked at live trapping with community support, she said, where dogs can be returned to their owners.

Vanderkop also said feral or stray dogs generally aren’t the problem in communities.

Often, people end up with dogs they didn’t ask for, and are anxious to find better homes for them, she explained.

“In the vast majority of cases, people care a great deal about them,” she said.

Vanderkop said most of the dogs surrendered go to the humane societies in Whitehorse and Dawson City, and are adopted into homes.

While country dogs may take a little longer to adjust to indoor life, she noted, they don’t spend much more time in a shelter than dogs surrendered from other places.

“People in the communities have treated them well for the most part,” she said.

“They’re in great shape and they have fantastic personalities.”

The unit will also euthanize dogs at no cost in cases where they pose a clear risk to public safety or at the request of owners.

Vanderkop said this provides a humane option and prevents people from having to shoot dogs. She said there have been very few cases so far where dogs have had to be euthanized.

In August 2016, the Yukon government also launched the Community Dog Spay Project to reduce the number of unwanted puppies and aggressive fighting and packing behaviour among male dogs.

The project provides a $250 subsidy to offset the costs of spay surgery for one female dog per owner in rural communities.

Vanderkop said there has been an uptake in the program, with usage rising every year.

“We’ve tried to make it a very straightforward thing to do,” she said.

She noted they have yet to reach the annual limit of 115 dogs, but expects they will hit that number next year.

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