In April, Dawson resident Jim Foesier shot 74 dogs.
Officials dispatched to rescue the dogs most at risk found Foesier sitting atop a mound of carcasses he’d piled in the yard.
Domestic animals are deemed personal property, said Dawson Humane Society co-ordinator CJ Russell.
“And as long as they are killed in a humane way, there is nothing we can do.”
Russell had been checking on Foesier’s dogs for a year.
Last spring, the Dawson Humane Society received a complaint about barking dogs. Russell entered the property, within city limits, and found 50 dogs in the yard.
“There were puppies there with embedded chain-link collars digging into their necks,” she said.
The Humane Society confiscated five of the dogs, including the puppies.
Apparently, Foesier had left the territory for a couple of weeks and the person caring for the dogs had broken his leg.
When Foesier returned, city bylaw charged him with cruelty to animals.
He paid the $250 fine, the puppies’ vet bills and the Humane Society fees and took his dogs back.
After this incident, Foesier moved his dogs out of town.
The Humane Society did a follow-up check in September and found that 27 dogs had no water and the rest had ice in their bowls.
There was no bedding or shelter for the majority of the dogs, said Russell.
Many were chained to trees.
And no one lived on the property.
But the Humane Society couldn’t act.
Under the Yukon’s Animal Protection Act, the owner must be given reasonable time to relieve his animals of distress, before an animal can be confiscated, said Russell.
After their first encounter, she told Foesier to change his chain-link collaring system and provide better shelter.
After her second visit, Russell repeated the advice to Foesier.
“We also went up there in October with some mushers to try and educate him,” said Russell.
“This man is not a musher,” said Dawson musher Peter Ledwidge, who met with Foesier.
“But I love dogs and I wanted to try and help.”
In mid-December, the Humane Society returned to check on Foesier’s dogs.
Only two of them had shelter.
“The rest didn’t even have straw,” said Russell.
“And several had gotten loose and killed other dogs.”
There were also several unwanted breedings throughout the winter, but many of the puppies had been killed by loose dogs or had died from exposure.
Again, Foesier was given a warning. Russell also went to the RCMP. The police commissioned a vet check.
But when the owner appeared in court, the charges were dropped. He’d passed the check.
Russell was shocked, she said.
“There was no flow of information.
“The vets went up there a few days after we’d donated five bales of straw, so the owner appeared to have made improvements.”
If the Humane Society hadn’t donated that straw, he probably would have been charged, said Ledwidge.
“But it’s a double-edged sword, they were worried about the dogs so they donated the straw.
“And people who were benign toward the canine world were also feeding those dogs, so they actually didn’t look like they were in such bad shape.
“But if they hadn’t fed them, then (Foesier) probably could have been charged for that too.”
By spring the situation worsened.
“The dogs were hock deep in their own feces,” said Russell.
“They were standing in water and feces and had no high ground to stand on — they couldn’t even lie down.”
Some of the dogs needed immediate vet attention and several were emaciated, she added.
Again, Foesier was told to make improvements.
“There were 15 dogs in distress,” said Russell.
“So, we got the vet out there that evening and the owner was told that these dogs were going to be confiscated.”
The next morning when a vet and Humane Society official went to collect the dogs, they walked into a nightmare.
The owner, after shooting all 64 dogs in the yard, had piled them up and was sitting on the mound of carcasses.
“You made me do it — this is what you guys wanted — if I can’t have them, nobody can,” Foesier told them.
“It’s the most shocking thing I’ve ever had to deal with,” said Russell.
“The hardest part was knowing about the problem for so long, and trying to follow the appropriate line of defence.
“We used up all of our resources trying to find a way to get this person held responsible for his actions.”
Russell blames the Animal Protection Act.
“We did our best trying to find any angle, like going to the Wildlife Act, through the Environment Act, the Pound’s Act, trying to find a way that we could put this person into the court system,” she said.
“We gave him warnings and he’d make these minimal changes so he’d just barely pass.”
The Animal Protection Act is too loose, said Russell.
“It doesn’t even define adequate shelter.”
Foesier said he put out shelter and the dogs didn’t use it, said Russell.
“But a metal barrel turned on its side with no straw — I’m not going to go in that either.
“And when he did put straw in it, it was this moldy old hay.
“That’s not adequate bedding, but it’s better than nothing and that is the bottom line in the Animal Protection Act.”
And he just kept moving the dogs when things got hot, she said.
“I found out, after looking at one yard, that he had dogs in another spot, living in abandoned cars,” said Ledwidge.
Apparently he killed all these dogs too, bringing the total to 74, said Russell.
Russell and Ledwidge are both concerned Foesier will just start collecting dogs again, somewhere else.
He has a history of hoarding animals down south as well, said Russell.
“He told me he had all these dogs in Alberta, and I don’t know what happened to them,” said Ledwidge.
“When he leaves this community, he’s totally capable and, probably, will begin again,” said Russell.
“He’ll collect a couple dogs and all it’ll take is a few litters and he’ll have a dog yard of 30, then 40 and then 50.”