The Yukon’s chief coroner was in Ross River on Monday to tell an angry and terrified community that it was feral or semi-domesticated dogs that killed a young man last fall.
The body of 22-year-old Shane Glada was found last Oct. 18, prompting coroner Kirsten Macdonald to investigate.
“There were a lot of tears, a lot of anger, a lot of frustration,” Macdonald said in an interview about the meeting.
“Obviously, they’re angry Shane lost his life.”
A forensic pathologist and a veterinarian pathologist in B.C. both examined the body before determining the man was killed by dogs.
The community fears it could happen, next time to a child or an elder.
Stray dogs remain an issue in the community, as people have been attacked since Glada’s death, she said.
“People are carrying pepper spray and hockey sticks in the community,” Macdonald said.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable how they’re living now.”
Macdonald said she went to Ross River to have the community’s input when working on recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
“I wanted to give them the information first, meet with them and say, ‘where do we go?’” she said.
Her own report won’t be published for another couple of weeks.
But in the meantime, she urges Yukon government officials to step in.
“If there are agencies who can do things now, they don’t have to wait for me,” she said.
“This has to be dealt with right now.”
The Department of Environment told the Star today it’s co-operating “in any way we can” with the coroner.
No further details were offered.
From the EMS personnel who responded to the call to her having to examine the body, it was a shocking experience, the coroner said.
“It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve seen.”
A task force with community members has been set up to present recommendations.
Many in the community want dog owners to take responsibility, said Dr. Mary Vanderkop, the territory’s chief veterinarian officer, who also attended the community meeting.
She said she and the animal health unit are ready to provide assistance to the community.
Macodnald noted that there are a lot of dogs running around in the community.
“It seems (that) people know who they belong to,” she said.
Some are clearly not well-fed and not taken care of, she added.
One of the issues that has been raised is the lack of Yukon-wide licensing regulations for dogs.
Under the Dog Act, it is up to municipalities to create bylaws governing such regulations.
But many unincorporated communities, including Ross River, can’t do that as the act stands, says NDP MLA Kevin Barr.
“We need to have a look at the Dog Act, so there can be the ability to address the situation,” he said today.
In Whitehorse, for example, a dog running around will be taken by bylaw officers.
The owner will have to pay a fine to get it back.
The situation is not unique to Ross River, Barr said, noting there have been similar issues in Marsh Lake.
Barr said he has raised the issue since he was first elected in 2011 but that the Yukon government has failed to act.
“It’s falling on deaf ears,” he said.
“It’s very frustrating for people living in the community.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Environment told the Star today the government has put in place a number of measures in the past years.
One was to establish a spay and neuter clinic to sterilize and vaccinate dogs.
Between 2013 and 2015, 40 dogs were sterilized, said Roxanne Stasyszyn.
“The government remained committed to supporting an effective dog control program,” she said.
Stasyszyn said increased community patrols with a contracted dog catcher to remove dogs that were running at large were set up.
Some noted that Stacey Hassard, MLA for Pelly-Nitsulin, which includes Ross River, failed to attend the community meeting.
“The independent investigation by the coroner has not yet concluded and until that has finished, government officials, like minister Hassard, can’t comment or get involved,” said cabinet spokesperson Dan Macdonald.