Hatchet Lake puts ‘bounty’ on stray dogs

Feral dogs are considered a menace in Hatchet Lake. They rove around in packs, skulk outside the elementary school and reportedly interbreed with wolves.

Over the next two weeks, band members will try to wipe them out.

“Dog Gone Days” started on Thursday. Until September 28, residents who capture or kill a stray dog will receive what the band is calling a “bounty.”

In past years, the band has hired a small number of people who killed the dogs using shotguns. But this time, said spokesperson Edward Benoanie, they’re trying to get more people involved by promising a small cash payment.

Benoanie said there are probably about four or five “teams” of stray dogs in the community. He said the band wants to take care of the problem “before some kid gets hurt.”

“A lot of them are also born out in the bush, or at the landfill,” Benoanie said. “Once they grow up they start wandering around the community and they can potentially hurt children.”

He wasn’t aware of any dog attacks in recent years, but he said they “want to keep it that way.” He acknowledged that some people will likely keep using shotguns to destroy the animals, but he hopes they consider other options.

“I would encourage them to use cages, dog traps, and then you can say ‘is this your dog?’ on Facebook,” he suggested. “‘You’ve got 24 hours to pick it up, otherwise he’s going to dog heaven.’”

Councillor George Tsannie said that chief and council are contemplating a bylaw to force people to tie up their dogs. But nothing is in effect so far.

“We have a lot of dogs around here nobody seems to care about it,” he said. “When you have a dog you should tie it up.”

During the two weeks of Dog Gone Days, anyone who doesn’t tie up their pet risks having it shot. Tsannie stressed that it’s for the safety of community members.

He acknowledged that the band didn’t reach out to humane societies or dog rescues to explore other solutions. He said they might do so in the future. This year, though, the cull is going ahead.

Benoanie knows that the band’s cull might strike southerners the wrong way. He suggests that they try to understand the way life works in the province’s far north.

“The general public don’t have dogs the way we do up north,” he said. “They were part of our survival in the past. Whenever a dog is not needed or they’re getting ill or old, we destroy them.”

He hopes that one day the culls will no longer be necessary. If the band can attract a travelling vet, he suggested, they might be able to convince people to to have their pets spayed or neutered. He said it’s been years since a proposal like that came up in Hatchet Lake.

“Hopefully that will be happening soon,” he said. “That’s something we’ll have to start thinking about.”

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