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Dying in their sleep

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Liard (Jan 31/03) - As he uses a syringe to draw clear fluid from a small bottle, Brian Mavin looks more like a medical practitioner than a protective services officer.

Unlike a doctor, Mavin's objective isn't to prolong life, but to end it. With approval from Fort Liard hamlet council, Mavin has enlisted the aid of a tranquillizer gun to sedate loose dogs. Then he shoots them. He'll be the first to tell you that he hates this part of the job.

"You still have a conscience about it. You go home and you think about it," he said.

He figures that by using tranquillizer darts, he will no longer be forced to execute dogs that stare back as he aims his rifle.

"They sit there and they just look at you. If anyone thinks it's easy to shoot a dog, well, it's not," he said solemnly.

Mavin has already discovered one drawback to his new weapon. With temperatures in the -30s C, the tranquillizer fluid has been freezing, making it ineffective. The gun has a range of approximately seven metres and Mavin said he won't fire if there are people nearby. The darts, which are brightly coloured at one end, are easily retrievable, he noted. The problem with loose dogs in Fort Liard has peaked over the past few weeks. The canines are wandering the streets and forming potentially dangerous packs.

He has trapped and shot seven dogs since assuming his duties in September.

Irresponsible owners are the root of the issue, according to Mavin. He said too few people have their dogs spayed or neutered.

He added that some residents take in a cute puppy but then neglect it as it matures.

"They think, 'Let the dog catcher get it.' Then all of a sudden you've got a lot of kids upset with you... 'Oh you went and shot my dog,'-- Well, I had no choice," he said. "A dog is not a toy. It's an animal."