Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik September 21, 2016 - 11:45 am

Study looks at human-dog relationship in Nunavut, Nunavik

“For a lot of people, dogs are here because they’ve always been here"

SARAH ROGERS
Researchers from northern Quebec are trying to get a clearer picture of the human-dog relationship in the North, in order to inform more cultural appropriate management practices. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
Researchers from northern Quebec are trying to get a clearer picture of the human-dog relationship in the North, in order to inform more cultural appropriate management practices. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

KUUJJUAQ—How do dogs fit into the day-to-day life of communities across Nunavut and Nunavik?

If you live in the North, you know there’s more than one answer to that question.

Researchers from northern Quebec are trying to get a clearer picture of the human-dog relationship in the North to improve management practices and make those practices more culturally appropriate.

Quebec anthropologist Francis Lévesque has spent years studying the impacts of the dog slaughters carried out by police and other authorities in Inuit regions through the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, he and another researcher are looking at the modern-day socio-demographic status of dogs in Iqaluit and Kuujjuaq.

“For a lot of people, dogs are here because they’ve always been here,” said Patricia Brunet, a Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue graduate student who is working with Lévesque.

Brunet spent the week in Kuujjuaq earlier this month interviewing residents about their thoughts on dog ownership.

There are a number of different ownership scenarios in the Nunavik community of about 2,400, she noted: some residents keep dogs in their homes; others tie their dogs up outside their homes. Some let their dogs roam free and a number of local mushers keep their dogs outside the community.

“If a dog has a collar, it belongs to someone, but the opposite isn’t always true,” Brunet observed from a number of interviews with Kuujjuamiut.

“But because there’s no practical reason to have them, dogs can create a lot of issues,” she said.

The goal of the study is to inform local decision-making.

“The Inuit were never really consulted, going back to the 1950s and 60s, [so] we want to make sure decisions are made in the public’s best interests,” Brunet said.

Kuujjuaq, Nunavik’s largest community, is fortunate to be well-stocked with vaccinations administered by a dedicated worker, Liam Callaghan, who also registers the local dog population.

The Northern Village has basic by-laws in place to manage its dog population: pets should be registered, tied up or kept on leash and households can have a maximum of two dogs. Dog team owners can own a larger number, but they must be kept outside the community.

The community also has a designated dog catcher but its by-law officer position is vacant meaning there is no one to enforce those by-laws for the time being, Callaghan said.

“We’ll just digest what comes out of this study and see if it’s pertinent,” Callaghan said.

“We hope to be able to use that information to negotiate getting veterinary services up here.”

UQAT researchers and the municipality work closely with the Université de Montréal veterinary program, which offers services in the region and has been for years working to establish a more permanent vet clinic in Nunavik.

The program conducted its own study last year to pinpoint the community’s veterinary needs, finding that just 35 per cent of local dogs were spayed or neutered.

As Brunet gathers interviews for her research, she’s also helping to launch the Qimuksiq Network, a social media-driven effort to connect stakeholders in both Nunavik and Nunavut and a place to share knowledge about dog management practices.

The network should have a Facebook page up soon, she said.

Brunet will continue to gather feedback for the study through 2016, with plans to complete and publish the results in 2017.

If you’re a resident of Kuujjuaq and have input to share, you can write to Brunet at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Email this story to a friend... Print this page... Bookmark and Share

 THIS WEEK’S ADS

 ADVERTISING