Man's best friend
Attacks uncommon when dogs are well cared for

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 02/99) - In the wake of the mauling and subsequent death of two-year-old Morris Lockhart of Lutsel K'e, many Northerners are thinking about the danger of dog attacks.

The reality is that severe dog attacks do not happen that often.

Hay River bylaw officer Art Loupret said the Lutsel K'e incident is an almost predictable result when toddlers go too close to dogs that are tied up.

"The dog could be running back and forth barking and the toddler would just go in for a closer look," Loupret said.

"A toddler's height is just about the height of where the dog's head and throat are. The dog might not know whether there is any danger."

Loupret has been bylaw officer in Hay River since 1998, after many years as a peace office around the North, working in Deline and Fort Rae as well as training people in Fort Smith.

He stresses he has never met bad dogs, only bad owners.

"If you're going to have a dog, be prepared to be interactive," he said.

"If a dog is going to be a member of the family, then owners should take care of them. The animal will then give you nothing but affection."

In 1998, Hay River had six incidents of dogs biting people -- all of them minor.

So far in 1999, there has only been one incident.

In Iqaluit, animal control officer, Chris Groves, said the community averages about one dog bite a month, though it can range and go up to about 24 dog bites per year.

If there is a dog bite where the skin is pierced, he said it is up to the dog owner to quarantine the dog for a period of 10 days.

Then health officers check the dog to see if it is acting strangely. If it is, they give the dog a lethal injection and then send its head to the south for a rabies test.

If it is acting normally, it is allowed to live. Any dog who has bitten people twice is put to sleep.

Loupret said Hay River has a similar procedure. After the 10-day quarantine, they either destroy or "euthenize" dogs if the attack was unprovoked.

Three of the six dogs were euthenized in Hay River's dog biting incidents last year, and the dog involved in the attack this year is still in the quarantine period and is not set to be put to sleep.

In most hamlets, dogs must be leashed, licensed and have had their shots.

"All dogs are to be under the control of the owner," Loupret said.

Taloyoak bylaw officer James Aiyout agrees.

"We keep telling people dogs should be tied up, or at least that's how we do it in this community," he said.

Aiyout said no one in the community has been seriously hurt by dogs in the two years he has been the bylaw officer.

"There was one boy who was just nicked on the hand about one month ago."

Loupret said licences are one way he helps identify dogs if they do get loose so the Town of Hay River offers free licences to all dogs that are neutered or spayed. Otherwise, the cost is $25.

Though owners are usually given one warning if their dogs get loose, the fines are $50 for a first offence and $100 for a second offence.

"If females are in heat, animals can smell that from quite a distance," Loupret said of one situation where good dogs could leave an owner's control.

"All dogs can get loose at some point."

In contrast to vicious dogs that are chained up with food thrown at them and otherwise treated badly by owners, other dogs are well cared for and well trained.

"Sometimes you'll see dogs on walking trails and they will carry their leash in their mouth," said Loupret.

Loupret's own dog is a Siberian Husky that is timid enough that it will let people take its food away while it is eating.

Apparently, it's all in the training.