Pet owners on the hook for getting Iqaluit’s loose dogs under control, city says
"That’s where the problem lies"
Careless pet-owners are the root cause of Iqaluit’s growing complaints about loose dogs, according to the city’s municipal enforcement department.
And until a new pet-owner bylaw and added enforcement can deal with this problem, city council agreed its only option is to start educating residents on how to keep their dogs from running rampant in the streets.
“We do put a lot of time and resources into animal complaints,” Kevin Sloboda, the city’s chief municipal officer, told council Sept. 24.
“It’s not that Iqaluit has a stray dog problem. The problem is that a lot of these owners will let them out their doors and let them do whatever. And we’re just seeing a lot more of that. We catch the dogs, and we put them back.”
Municipal enforcement, which manages the city’s dog pound, ends up shipping a lot of animals south, he said. Officers often retrieve dogs that have been hit by cars, and follow up on investigations related to such incidents, he added, but then, “people go out and get more dogs, and the cycle just starts all over again.”
“Responsibility’s got to start with the pet-owners,” he said. “I think that’s where the problem lies.”
Sloboda confirmed to council that complaints and reports of loose dogs are on the rise in Iqaluit. As the city’s population grows, so does the dog-owner population, he said.
“It’s a vicious cycle.”
This past year the council has heard about a worst-case scenario of dog-control failure at a regular meeting, when Annabella Piugattuk came forward to give her story of a 2012 dog attack for the city to consider as it sizes up a draft of its “Responsible Pet Owner and Sled Dog Bylaw,” tabled in July.
In July, the city enforcement officers also dealt with an early-morning dog attack outside the Northmart where a small group of people said two dogs attacked them, biting a man.
Council called on the chief enforcement officer to answer questions on the issue after city councillor Kenny Bell raised the topic at the regular council meeting.
Bell said city administration has not yet hired a municipal officer to run the dog pound this year, even though the city’s 2013 budget called for it.
“Without the job being posted, we are putting the public at risk,” he said.
The 2013 budget also called for the city to hire a municipal enforcement sergeant, an officer in a supervisory role, who the city also has yet to hire.
In response to Bell’s question about the pound-keeper position, John Hussey, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the city was still “trying to come up with enough duties” in the job description “to justify a full-time position.”
Part of the challenge, he said, lies in distinguishing two key responsibilities at the dog pound: the role of an officer charged with catching the dogs and the role of pound-keeper.
“The position that we’re looking for is the pound-keeper,” who would be charged with maintenance of the pound facility and taking care of the dogs, Hussey said.
Administration must provide a complete job description and salary for the position before putting it to council for final approval, he said.
“We’re working through our process and we’re going to keep moving on it,” Hussey said.
Hussey added that the city’s proposed Responsible Pet Owner and Sled Dog Bylaw, tabled in July, would include a schedule of fines and fees that would help municipal enforcement combat loose dogs more effectively. The bylaw awaits council’s final approval.
Asked by councillors if his department was short on resources to combat the problem loose dogs, Sloboda agreed his department is understaffed, but said careless pet-owners are the root of the problem.
Coun. Bell then tabled a motion to have the city’s public safety committee set up an “education campaign” for residents.
Bell followed up on the loose-dogs issue with another item related to municipal enforcement: complaints about speeding vehicles on city streets.
Questions about short-staffing in municipal enforcement resurfaced. This time, councillors questioned why the sergeant’s job, also described in the budget, was still not filled.
“It’s just like the other one,” said Sloboda, referring to the unfilled pound-keeper position. “We’ve got the job description, it’s been through a number of drafts already. And it’s just a matter of fine-tuning.”
Hussey added that the city’s human resources department is short-staffed, which has added to delays.