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The dog debate

Tethering teams in town could be outlawed

Dawn Ostrem
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Jan 29/01) - Dog teams may be synonymous with life in the North, but they may soon be unwelcome in Nunavut's capital.

A bylaw being proposed by municipal council could ban teams from being tethered within town limits.

At a public meeting Jan. 23, council heard concerns from some that the bylaw would hurt tradition while others said the move was necessary due to safety concerns.

The issue arose after a young girl was killed by a tethered dog-team in 1998.

Last week's public hearing was intended to end the dog debate. Instead, it generated more talk.

The town wants the bylaw to clearly state where dogs can be kept in town.

"The overlying concern is safety," said Mayor John Matthews.

"It will be a difficult task to select areas deemed appropriate but it certainly can be done and it will be done."

Dog team owners say they have a place in the community.

"Where are we going in this community?" asked NorthWinds Arctic Adventures co-owner Paul Landry. "Do we want (a community) to include dog teams and snowmobiles? Do we want to retain this community's flavour?"

Landry and other outfitters stressed the importance of dog teams and the Canadian Inuit breed to the culture of the Inuit people.

"The bylaw you are proposing is going to completely stop ... Inuit culture, the way it is done," said outfitter Meeka Mike.

She said the dogs are likely to be less aggressive if raised in an environment where they have human contact.

Safety still number one

The chair of Iqaluit's District Education Authority (DEA) challenged concerns that Inuit tradition would suffer because of the bylaw.

"I'm still very skeptical that distancing dogs would mean the end of dog-teams and the end of the breed," said Kathy Smith. "I do trust the safety of children will be our utmost concern and next to that, preserving the unique features of the community, such as dog-teams."

Most of council seemed to agree.

Deputy Mayor Simon Nattaq, who used to own a dog team himself, said if tethering of teams is going to be restricted to certain areas, council needs to make sure it's accessible to team owners.

"If we are going to designate a location, we need to have a trail to it for snowmobiles or vehicles."

The proposed bylaw will be discussed further by representatives from council, the local DEA and dog-team owners.

Chief administrative officer Rick Butler said it is hoped there will be resolution by the next council meeting.