Burwash Landing residents are taking more responsibility for their dogs, following an attack on a community member and others fearing for their safety late last year.
Stray dogs have been an issue in the small community for years, according to Kluane First Nation Chief Mathieya Alatini, but a public consultation in December seems to have turned things around.
“We’re not the only community to face this challenge,” she said.
“Having this discussion has allowed for the issue to be dealt with.”
More and more residents are taking advantage of the spay and neuter program at the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter in Whitehorse, Alatini said.
Humane Society Yukon received $30,000 from the Yukon government in 2013 and 2014 to deliver a spay and neuter voucher pilot project.
The project, according to Environment Yukon, made vouchers available to pet owners to offset half the cost of spaying or neutering their pets.
Some municipal and First Nation governments covered the other half of surgery costs, making the surgery free in some communities.
A total of 247 surgeries were performed over the two years, more than 200 of which were on dogs, according to the Environment Yukon evaluation report. The pilot program is expected to continue.
Alatini said every voucher in her community was used.
The issue resurfaced back in November and December when there were a series of incidents in Burwash Landing involving dog fights and attacks on residents.
The loose dogs were hungry and going into heat, which made dogs around them more aggressive, Alatini said.
One resident was bitten and required medical care, while some elders complained about not being able to walk around the community safely.
The First Nation also received complaints from the daycare staff, who said they couldn’t take the children outside because of the aggressive dogs.
A public consultation meeting was held on Dec. 8 to seek the community’s opinions and recommendations.
“We wanted to have that conversation so that people were aware of their responsibilities as pet owners,” Alatini said.
“Everyone thinks they’re so cute. ‘Why don’t I just buy my kid a puppy for Christmas,’ they think.
“But it’s very important to instill that sense of responsibility.”
The aggressive dogs have been taken care of, she said. One has been brought to the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter, while the other two are being tied up and fed more regularly.
Changes to the First Nation’s Animal Control Bylaw are currently being reviewed. As of Feb. 1, dogs without owners in Burwash Landing are taken to the shelter in Whitehorse.
Residents in Ross River and Upper Liard also complained about stray dogs in their communities last year.
Contact Myles Dolphin at