A Henderson Corner man whose son was twice attacked by feral dogs in the community says the government isn’t doing enough to deal with the problem.
Don McGlaughlin said he was in his yard on April 27 with his four-year-old son when three dogs lunged at the boy, one grabbing him by the hood of his jacket and trying to drag him away.
“It was an outright vicious attack by a pack of feral dogs. The dog went for my kid’s throat. He fell down immediately into the fetal position. The dog bit his hand, almost needing stitches,” McGlaughlin said.
“This dog was hunting my son. I was 10 feet away,” he said.
When he charged, screaming, at the dog, it turned and appeared ready to attack McGlaughlin as well.
“This is ridiculous. We live in fear every day. I cannot allow my children outside on a beautiful day because of fear of dogs. We’re left on our own and hoping something gets done,” he said.
McGlaughlin said it’s the second time in a year that his son has been attacked, and though he has raised the issue with everyone from Dawson City’s bylaw officer to the premier’s office, nothing is being done and dangerous dogs still roam free.
“I’ve been left to hunt these dogs myself. If I do find these dogs and shoot them, I’ll be charged. These dogs are feral. They need to be destroyed,” he said.
The problem arises because Henderson Corner isn’t a municipality, so it doesn’t have a bylaw officer of its own. Dawson City is the closest municipality, but the authority of its bylaw officer stops at the edge of town.
That leaves only the Yukon’s lone animal control officer – Jay Lester, who is based in Whitehorse – to cover dangerous animals in all the unincorporated Yukon communities.
McGlaughlin said it’s irresponsible how few resources are dedicated to dealing with stray dogs, especially given how seriously the territory takes wild animal attacks.
“My son would have been better off being attacked by a wolf or a bear. Had it been a bear, I’d have 30 Canadian Rangers at my disposal,” he said.
“Because my son wasn’t killed, it seems like nobody wants to deal with it. If I hadn’t been there, my son would probably be dead right now.”
McGlaughlin suspects that the three dogs that came after his son are the same three that are responsible for dragging a tourist off her bicycle last year near Bonanza Creek.
He’s spoken to the Department of Community Services’ director of operations, Dwane Muckosky, who visited Henderson Corner to discuss the problem, but McGlaughlin said he hasn’t heard anything since.
Muckosky told the News that his department has been working with local RCMP to track down the dog.
“They’ve been doing two-a-day patrols through the area since the attack. It’s a matter of locating the dog, and we just haven’t seen it since the attack,” Muckosky said.
If the dog is found, there is a possibility it would be shot.
“We would follow the direction that’s provided in the act. First and foremost is to be certain that we have the right animal,” he said.
This is not the first time that feral dogs have been an issue in the Yukon communities.
Stray dogs in Ross River have at times become such a problem that the community has set aside one day each year when all off-leash dogs can be summarily shot.
A January 2011 report called the number of dangerous dogs roaming Yukon communities a “bomb waiting to go off.”
Dog attacks have been reported in Ross River, Lake Laberge and other Yukon communities.
The report highlighted the lack of resources that exist to deal with dangerous dogs, which often leaves an unprepared Mountie to deal with the animals, even though their officers have no training for it.
One of the biggest causes identified in the report was poor animal ownership. Kids are given puppies, but the animals are set loose or neglected when they grow up. There are also cultural conflicts because many Yukoners simply don’t want to tie their dogs up.
The report called for setting up a regional holding facility staffed with animal control officers who could also do outreach work to educate people about responsible dog ownership.
McGlaughlin also thinks animal ownership plays a big role. He owns five dogs himself, and has trained many more for work as police dogs and in prisons.
“When it comes to dogs, I’m not a dummy,” he said, adding that a much more simple option could work, at least in the short term.
“In Henderson Corner, we’re outnumbered about three-to-one, dogs to humans. I’ve made the suggestion for the territorial government to give Dawson City’s bylaw officer the authority to come out here.
“Her jurisdiction ends at the city limits. She can’t even do anything about the loose dogs running around in her yard,” he said.
Muckosky said that possibility is currently being explored with the City of Dawson. In terms of dealing with the larger problem of stray dogs in rural Yukon communities, the department is focusing on education and prevention while working with the various communities to develop local solutions.
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