Growing dog populations a problem in some remote Ontario communities, shelters under pressure

Phoebe Sutherland rushed last week to capture a stray dog ​​that bit an elder in her Moose Cree First Nation community.

It was the latest example of problems stemming from a growing dog population on the island at the southern tip of James Bay after veterinary services who used to neuter and neuter dogs halted visits during the pandemic.

Although these visits have gradually resumed, there are still many dogs, such as huskies, Labradors, German shepherds and wolf-dog hybrids, to be reached, Sutherland said.

“We had a surprised, scared, barked and bitten senior. She was pretty shaken up,” said Sutherland, an animal control officer in the community. « I captured him, but there are still a lot of dogs that are on the loose. »

Sutherland, the owner of an animal shelter in another Ontario First Nation and two animal shelters that take in dogs from northern regions, says stray dogs are a significant problem in some remote communities — a situation that adds to pressure on animal shelters, which are seeing demand for adoptions drop at the same time.

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Tammy Dickson, owner of Wunnumin Animal Rescue in her fly-in community 500 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, Ont., said she regularly visits nearby First Nations to help manage dogs on the loose and has noticed that their population was increasing after vet visits were paused during the pandemic.

“You see dogs everywhere. There’s constant barking,” said Dickson, 41. “Now it’s mating season, so it’s gotten a lot more dangerous.

She said children in the First Nations where she works are afraid of being chased or bitten by stray dogs on walks to school.

An animal rescue organization in Sudbury, Ontario, recently took in a half-trailer of dogs brought in by a network of volunteers from remote communities.

“We are still shooting since delivery because we were already overcapacity. We’ve taken in so many litters already,” said Jill Pessot, who has run the Petsave organization for 23 years.

« I had to convert cat rooms into dog rooms because we no longer had a kennel. »

Animal shelters like hers are under immense pressure, she said, especially as applications for pet adoption have plummeted as more people return to the office or return working full-time after the peak of the pandemic and lack the capacity to fully care for their animals.

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“We have this massive overpopulation crisis,” she said.

“During the pandemic, we could post a puppy and there were 10 requests (for adoptions) in two days. Now we are posting a puppy and we are lucky if we get four applications in two weeks.

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Some people also give up dogs with behavioral issues that end up staying in shelters for a long time, Pessot added.

« People have gone back to the office and haven’t put in the time or commitment they should have put into training, so there are a lot of antisocial dogs out there, » she said.

Lindsay Gillanders, spokesperson for Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, a dog placement program, said her organization is getting more and more calls from some First Nations people on the prairies about problems with dogs.

« People call us saying, ‘We found this dog that got hit by a car,’ ‘We found these puppies that were starving,' » she said.

“We had to partner with other organizations because we just didn’t have the capacity to host foster homes. We are really struggling.

As temperatures drop, animal rescues are also receiving calls for dogs found frozen, she said.

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Gillanders said her organization used to travel to remote communities with veterinarians to spay and neuter dogs, but was unable to do so when the pandemic hit. Although that work has gradually resumed, there are still many dogs to be cared for, she said.

« It’s just going to get worse if we can’t get the problem under control, » she said.

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