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Village in Saskatchewan cancels dog cull after social media backlash

Controversial dog cull initiative in northern Sask. cancelled after public backlash
WATCH: A controversial dog cull initiative in the village of La Loche has been cancelled after an outcry from public and animal groups. The cull was initiated in order to deal with an alleged dog overpopulation. As Christa Dao explains, animal groups in Alberta say there needs to be more of a proactive measure.

The village of La Loche, Sask., has cancelled a controversial dog culling initiative amidst mounting public outcry on social media.

“We’re not in the business of hurting animals so… we’re retracting that and we’re cancelling that — the destroying of the dogs,” La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre said Thursday.

St. Pierre made the statement to Global News less than 24 hours after the village posted a letter on its Facebook page, alerting residents to a “Dog Control Initiative” set for July 23.

READ MORE: Laws could reduce stray dog problems on First Nations: conference

The letter went on to advise residents to “tie up their dogs” if they did not want them “accidentally picked up” and destroyed. Residents were informed they would be given a two-hour period during which they could buy back their pet for $40 in the event it had been picked up.

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“The intention wasn’t to cull all dogs; just the problematic animals in the community that caused an increase in dog bites,” St. Pierre said.

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Backlash to the post was swift with the overwhelming majority of comments condemning the proposed plan. Many others suggested alternative ways to address the community’s free-roaming dog problem.

READ MORE: Reserve dogs and cats saved from cull in northern Saskatchewan 

Letter posted on the Facebook page of Northern Village of La Loche on July 17, 2019.
Letter posted on the Facebook page of Northern Village of La Loche on July 17, 2019. Credit: Facebook/northern village of La Loche

In its own Facebook post, Saving Grace Animal Society responded, saying it would be “writing a letter in hopes to change their minds.” The group, based in Alix, Alta., said it has taken over 250 dogs out of the community in the last two years and just over 100 in the last five weeks but that it didn’t currently have the “money or space to go in and assist.”

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St. Pierre cited an increase in dog bites as motivation for the village to consider taking the drastic measures. When asked, he said he didn’t know how many people had been bitten but said: “dog bites have increased in the last little while.”

“We had somebody come… and say he could take care of the problems by doing this service and we thought: ‘Okay, let’s add another component to the re-homing,’ but at the same time, we got feedback.”

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Some of the comments on the village’s post suggested the dogs would be shot but St. Pierre could not confirm how the “service” was going to be delivered.

Free-roaming dogs have been an issue in the village, located about six hours north of Saskatoon.

READ MORE: 136 dogs and cats rescued from freezing temperatures in remote northern Saskatchewan community

In March of last year, a public notice was issued warning residents that distemper was spreading quickly in the community, particularly among its stray dog population.

In 2017, a woman was attacked by a pack of free-roaming dogs, but in that case, it is believed the dogs belonged to a local resident.

It’s not known how many dogs are roaming free in the community.

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“I really don’t even want to speculate because I really don’t know,” St. Pierre said.

READ MORE: 24-year-old woman killed by pack of stray dogs, Manitoba RCMP investigating 

Most recently, the village held a spay-neuter clinic in May.

“It’s been working but it’s ongoing,” said St. Pierre of the clinics’ success.

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“The ones that we’re getting are from the responsible homeowners or dog owners, right? But there are those that are loose, or free-roaming dogs, that are problematic and those are the ones we were trying to target.”

At the time of the interview, St. Pierre said he was working on returning calls to those who put in offers to re-home the dogs.

“We’re correcting what we were initially going to do [to] provide a safe community,” he said. “That’s all we want.”

READ MORE: Alberta community held hostage in their homes after wild dogs attack 

On Thursday afternoon, the village posted an updated statement on its Facebook page, saying, in part, that “we too do not like the plan, but feel conflicted about the safety of our citizens.

“We do not want someone injured or even killed by dogs (this has happened in other northern communities).”

A message posted on the Facebook page of Northern Village of La Loche on July 18, 2019.
A message posted on the Facebook page of Northern Village of La Loche on July 18, 2019. Credit: Facebook/northern village of La Loche