Ross River looking toward solutions for feral dog crisis

Yukon's chief veterinarian says a team in Ross River is planning to go door-to-door to build a registry of dogs in the community and to ask people if they have excess dogs they want to surrender.

Yukon’s chief veterinarian says a team in Ross River is planning to go door-to-door to build a registry of dogs in the community and to ask people if they have excess dogs they want to surrender.

The Yukon government may also help the community pay for a veterinarian to host a spay-and-neuter clinic in Ross River before the summer, Mary Vanderkop said.

She added that the community is interested in building a dog pound for strays, and the Yukon government may help with funding applications for the facility.

The plans come three weeks after chief coroner Kirsten Macdonald visited Ross River to tell residents that feral dogs had killed and partially eaten 22-year-old Shane Glada last October.

At the time, the Ross River chief and council agreed to form a task team to make eight to 10 recommendations for dealing with feral dogs in the community.

Vanderkop said she visited Ross River again last Tuesday. At the time, the task team had not finalized its recommendations, but had a number of ideas about how to address the situation.

“They were actually very interested in having a veterinarian come up to do a community clinic,” she said. “We would provide some funding to offset the cost to the community.”

Veterinarians have previously hosted clinics in Ross River. But the last time that was attempted, about six months ago, the community was unable to find a veterinarian who was able to make the trip.

“I think a lot of it had to do with timing,” Vanderkop said. “The veterinarians that they approached had other commitments.”

The Yukon government funded a spay-and-neuter voucher program that ended on March 31, and plans to roll out a new program. An evaluation of the initial program found that communication about the vouchers was inconsistent, and that transportation was a barrier for some residents wanting to spay or neuter their pets.

Vanderkop also said residents who want to surrender dogs have the option of requesting that they be euthanized by lethal injection.

She said that at the community meeting, several people said dog owners are reluctant to shoot their own dogs, even if the dogs are aggressive or aren’t being cared for. She also referred to a large number of comments made after the story about Shane Glada’s death became public, suggesting that residents simply shoot their dogs.

“Rather than having people feel that they need to shoot those dogs, we will provide a humane mechanism to have them put down,” she said.

Typically, surrendered dogs are put up for adoption at the Whitehorse Humane Society. But Vanderkop said people can request that their dogs be euthanized if they feel they’re dangerous.

Vanderkop said the Yukon government may also offer to help fund veterinary clinics in other communities struggling with stray dogs. She said she’s heard from a few other communities since the problems in Ross River made headlines.

But she said the solution may not be the same in every community, and the government doesn’t want to tell residents what to do.

“We’ll really take this on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “We don’t have unlimited funds.”

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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