Proposed Iqaluit bylaw to toughen rules for dog owners

New rules cover “vicious animals” and sled dogs


A loose dog runs down an Iqaluit street. Iqaluit City Council gave first reading July 10 to a new animal control bylaw. (FILE PHOTO)

A loose dog runs down an Iqaluit street. Iqaluit City Council gave first reading July 10 to a new animal control bylaw. (FILE PHOTO)

Iqaluit took a first step toward tougher rules on ownership of animals and sled dogs July 10, when city council tabled a draft of its “Responsible Pet Owner and Sled Dog Bylaw.”

Once passed, the 38-page bylaw would replace two separate sets of laws covering pet ownership and sled dogs.

Municipal enforcement officers and city administrators said the new bylaw clarifies owners’ responsibilities and will give bylaw officers firm guidelines on how to prosecute negligent owners and deal with animals that are threatening, mistreated, or not uncared for.

“Hopefully this will solve most of the issues we’re having with the owners more, rather than with the dogs,” said Michael Hatch, acting chief of municipal enforcement.

Reports of dog attacks in Iqaluit this year and last have raised the concern of city council.

Most recently, June 19, one resident was hospitalized with bites. The incident involved two strays that threatened a group of people in the city centre. One of the animals was shot by police.

A worst-case scenario occurred in 2012, when a mother was attacked just outside her front door by a pitbull, which inflicted 100 puncture wounds from bites.

The dog’s owner was convicted for directing the animal to attack the woman, as well as two other people in similar incidents just weeks before.

In one of those two earlier incidents, the dog’s owner directed her animal to attack a taxi driver.

Afterwards, municipal enforcement officers did not destroy the animal but returned it to the owner. About 10 days later, the pit bull attacked the single mother.

The new bylaw, which the city’s municipal enforcement department expects to come into force within months, passed first reading before city council at a regular meeting July 10.

The department created the draft in consultation with the city’s public safety committee, the fire department, the Iqaluit Humane Society, and dog sled team owners, Hatch said.

The new bylaw would simplify enforcement officers’ work when dealing with animals and their owners, as it provides “structured guidelines” for them to work by.

“We would not have to take things on a case-to-case basis,” he said. “It would be set in stone as to what the regulations are that the owners must follow at all times, putting a lot more emphasis on the owner and not the dogs.”

The bylaw includes stipulations on dog teams, use of dogs by beneficiaries of the Nunavut land claims agreement for “harvesting purposes,” and defines licensing requirements for all pets.

It also includes sections on dog team areas, “vicious animals,” nuisances, prevention of cruelty to animals, and offences and penalties.

In keeping with concerns about public safety, city council also gave the go-ahead for a neighbourhood watch program proposed by Iqaluit’s public safety committee.

Council passed a motion to approve a $500 start-up budget for the program, tabled by Coun. Terry Dobbin for Coun. Mary Wilman, the committee chair, who is on summer vacation.

The initiative is joint effort between the RCMP, Municipal Enforcement and the public safety committee, Dobbin said.

“Iqaluit is the fastest growing community in Nunavut,” and residents “have become concerned with the increasing level of crime,” he said.

“We want the public of Iqaluit to be aware of how they can reduce their chances of being a victim of crime. We also want to inform people on how they can make their neighbourhoods more safe.”

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