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Sparing a few bullets

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (June 25/04) - The village's dog catchers won't shoot every loose canine in Fort Simpson thanks to Tracy Kovalench.

Kovalench and a few other concerned dog owners showed up at Tuesday's village council meeting to object to the municipality's emergency dog control program.

A notice posted around town by the village stated that all dogs at large between June 28-Aug. 31 would be destroyed immediately.

Kovalench pleaded with council to give licenced dog owners a chance to reclaim their pets, even if it meant increasing the fine.

She gathered close to 50 signatures from other anxious dog owners on a petition in a 24-hour period and presented it at the meeting. While reading aloud a letter she wrote, she was so overcome with emotion that her friend Deb Stipdonk had to deliver the final few sentences.

Mayor Raymond Michaud gave his word that the owners of captured licenced dogs bearing identification tags will be contacted.

"That's the best I can offer," he told Kovalench. "We're trying to eliminate those dogs that nobody cares about... a stray dog can be a danger to society, to people at large."

Bernice Swanson, the village's senior administrative officer, said four Fort Simpson children have been bitten by dogs over the past month. Each of the children required stitches, she said. Only one offending dog was identified, Swanson noted.

Stipdonk expressed concern about the possibility of a beloved family pet becoming a target if it temporarily wanders off while in the custody of a child.

Dangerous precedent

"It's a very dangerous precedent and it would be horrifying for a child to see their dog shot," Stipdonk said.

Michaud replied that the dog catchers won't be firing indiscriminately or while a child is watching. Nevertheless, he defended the possibility of having to shoot dogs because some are extremely hard to catch.

He said he knows of elders with broken hips due to falls from encounters with stray dogs. Some carry sticks to fend off the animals.

Coun. Norm Prevost noted that the village has attempted to use live traps in the past. However, people have been known to release dogs from the cages and have even cut open the fencing to free them from the village compound.