Humane Society president’s 29 dogs disturbing peace, neighbours say

Residents of the Tagish Estates subdivision are concerned a group of dogs is destroying the area's peace and quiet, and possibly endangering their safety. "Ten years it was all OK - good air, quiet.

Residents of the Tagish Estates subdivision are concerned a group of dogs is destroying the area’s peace and quiet, and possibly endangering their safety.

“Ten years it was all OK – good air, quiet. Now you see, this year, it is all over,” said Leopold Selinger.

Selinger and his wife bought their five-acre property in 2001. Every May, the retired Austrian couple comes to the rural community and stays until October or November.

There was only a small cabin on the property when they bought it, but they’ve made several additions. Now, they’re working on adding another new room – so they can sleep away from the noise of their new neighbour’s dogs.

In April, Shelley Cuthbert moved next door. The president of Humane Society Yukon brought several dogs with her.

Some of them are Cuthbert’s, others are foster dogs and dogs she watches for others, she said.

Many are dogs that can’t be adopted from the Mae Bachur animal shelter because of behavioural problems, she said.

Currently, Cuthbert has 29 dogs on her five-acre property, she confirmed.

A six-foot-tall wire fence encloses the back four acres of the property. It stands less than 20 metres from the Austrian couple’s home, said Selinger. The dogs bark all day and night, he said.

The dogs spend their days outside in the kennel while Cuthbert works, the humane society president said. They stand and walk alongside the fence – which is within her property.

The Selingers said the barking is enough to make them reconsider if they will return to Tagish next year. But because of the noise, they don’t know who would buy their property if they chose to sell, Selinger added.

Stefan Landfried has lived on the property directly behind Cuthbert’s for 15 years. He owns a wilderness tour company. His clients stay in cabins at his property before and after he takes them on guided trips.

Rentals this year have dropped by about half, he said.

“I sell the peacefulness and all that, and then they come here, with the freaking dog noise the whole time,” he said Thursday morning as the dogs barked in the background.

The dogs do not bark through the night, said Cuthbert. All but one sleep inside the house and the windows are kept closed, she said.

But residents are concerned about more than noise escaping.

Some of the dogs have gotten off the property and approached them aggressively, they say. Parents are concerned about the animals coming up to their children.

Landfried has seen dogs running loose, he said. In July, two got onto his property, he said. One growled at him and would not go away, even after he yelled at it. He feels unsafe riding his bicycle around his property, he said.

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Stefan and Ursula Angerer own property next to Cuthbert’s. They operate a small, portable sawmill there. They came from Bavaria over a decade ago because of the nature and freedom, they said. But they don’t feel free anymore.

“I’ve really been afraid to go on our property anymore and work there,” Stefan said. The noise from the mill may prevent him from hearing the dogs if they sneak up on him, he said. He brings bear spray with him when he goes to the mill, he said. He may start bringing more protection, he added.

The RCMP has received calls about excessive noise in the Tagish Estates area, Const. Geoff Peters with the Carcross detachment said on Monday. But it has not received calls about aggressive dogs, he said.

Many of the dogs Cuthbert houses can’t be adopted because of past histories of biting, or claims they’ve bitten people, she confirmed.

In Whitehorse, bylaws allow dogs to be labelled as dangerous. Such dogs need to be kept in a securely fenced yard that’s marked with a warning sign. Off property, dogs must be kept on a leash. If an owner doesn’t meet these conditions, bylaw officers may seize and kill the animal.

But in unincorporated communities, like Tagish, only the Dog Act applies. The act forbids dogs with a “vicious temperament” or those that are “dangerous to the public safety” from running at large. There are no regulations about the number of dogs residents can keep in the territory’s unincorporated communities.

There are also other bylaws for different areas in the Yukon, but there are none for Tagish. The Noise Prevention Act does not mention animals.

Cuthbert also operates a home business called Any Domesticated Animal Rescue/SPCA.

“I run a business. My business is rescue and boarding dogs, which is perfectly legal, and it is a registered business,” Cuthbert said.

People bring her their dogs because they don’t want to get rid of them, she said. They pay her in dog food, she added.

She has no staff and does rehabilitation with the dogs herself in the evenings after work, she said.

It is not affiliated with Humane Society Yukon or the international Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Cuthbert does not know yet if she will formally affiliate with the SPCA, she said.

There is no SPCA in the territory. In provinces like British Columbia or Ontario where there is a central SPCA, individual not-for-profit shelters can write a letter saying they want to affiliate with the provincial organization, said Craig Naherniak, the general manager of education at the B.C. SPCA.

Cuthbert doesn’t know why her neighbours are concerned about her dogs running loose, she said.

It’s “impossible” for her dogs to leave the property, she said.

There is also an electric fence so the dogs don’t claw or dig their way out, she added.

The animal welfare officer visited the property in July and did not find anything wrong with the facilities she has for the animals, she said.

Along with finishing the fence around the front-acre of the property, she plans on building large kennels for dogs that can’t be put with the rest of the pack.

“No Trespassing” and “Beware of Dog” signs are at the entrance to her property.

Parents have no reason to be concerned for their children, she said. She spoke with parents in the area when she moved. The only way a child would come in contact with one of her dogs is if they were on her property, she said.

She has no concrete plans for how many dogs she eventually wants to house. It depends on the size of the dogs, she said.

Operating her own shelter does not conflict with her role as president of Humane Society Yukon, she added.

Controversy has surrounded the society’s board for the past several months. In early September, the territory’s registrar of societies completed an investigation into the society. It was ordered to hold a meeting to elect a new board and to reinstate memberships for people whose applications had been denied. The board, and Cuthbert as the society’s president, are now bringing the issue to the Yukon Supreme Court.

“I don’t plan on being president forever,” Cuthbert said.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

mgillmore@yukon-news.com

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