A man who was found dead in Ross River last October was killed by feral dogs in the community, according to autopsy results.
Shane Glada’s body was found on Oct. 17, after he’d been missing for several days.
“The autopsy report found that Mr. Glada had multiple injuries due to probably a dog attack,” said Yukon’s chief coroner, Kirsten Macdonald, who attended a community meeting in Ross River on Monday to explain the results of the post-mortem.
Macdonald told the News that a forensic pathologist and a veterinary pathologist examined the remains during the autopsy in Vancouver.
“They measured all the bite marks that they could find, and they found that there were jaw marks of differing widths,” she said. That suggests that Glada was attacked by a pack of dogs, not a bear, as the community initially feared.
Macdonald said this is the first fatal dog mauling she’s heard of in the Yukon. Across Canada, she said, these attacks tend to happen when dogs aren’t being properly fed or cared for.
“It happens primarily in rural, remote and unfortunately First Nations communities,” she said.
Macdonald said she went to Ross River so that people could ask her questions, and so she could urge the community to fix the problem.
“The community is ready for change, and they are really, really frustrated,” she said. “And they are absolutely devastated.”
Macdonald said some residents claim there are upwards of 30 feral dogs in the community, though officials estimate that there are only about a dozen.
She said the dogs have attacked other people since Glada’s death in October. In one instance, she said, an RCMP officer had to shoot a dog that charged him from behind.
“This community is terrified,” she said. “They’re carrying pepper spray and sticks.”
Macdonald said Ross River Dena Council Chief Jack Caesar has agreed to form a working group to make recommendations for dealing with the issue. She said some of the ideas floating around include live-trapping dogs, creating a spay-and-neuter program and teaching responsible dog ownership.
She said that captured or surrendered dogs could be assessed medically and behaviourally, in the hope that they could be re-homed and rehabilitated.
“This isn’t just about randomly culling dogs,” she said. “There is a want to balance the issue.”
Macdonald said the working group will meet on Tuesday next week, and she plans to urge the members to come up with recommendations as soon as possible. She hopes to complete her coroner’s report, including the community’s recommendations, by June.
NDP MLA Kevin Barr raised the issue of stray dogs in the legislative assembly on Tuesday. He said the territory’s Dog Act, which governs the treatment of dogs, needs to be updated.
“Will this government commit to meeting with municipal governments, community stakeholders and First Nation governments to begin the process of modernizing the Dog Act?” he asked.
Community Services Minister Currie Dixon made no commitment to review the Dog Act, though he did point to a recent pilot project that gave vouchers to pet owners to offset half the cost of spaying or neutering their pets.
“With regard to the specific act, no piece of legislation will solve all these problems,” he said.
The Dog Act also includes a regulation specific to Ross River, which states that dogs shall not be permitted to run at large within a mile of a centre point in the community.
Meanwhile, Macdonald insists that Ross River residents cannot wait until another person is attacked.
“They’re worried that nothing will be done. They’re frustrated and they want action, like, yesterday. This is not a new issue, this is a long-standing issue,” she said.
“Quite frankly, Shane didn’t have to die.”
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