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Too many dogs at shelter

Jessica Gray
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 05/06) - Great Slave Animal Hospital will begin killing off stray dogs unless people step forward willing to adopt them.

The shelter is one dog short of being at capacity, say workers there.

Adoption specialist Ashlee Shermed holds Sumatra, a two-year-old husky-cross that has been at the Great Slave Animal Hospital since November, 2005. She will be the first dog put down if the overcrowding problem at the hospital isn't taken care of soon. - Jessica Gray/NNSL photo

That means dogs who have been impounded the longest will be put down first in an effort to free up space for other needy animals.

"This week, we found two dogs abandoned in a ditch, starving and frozen and had nine dropped off," said Ashlee Shermed, receptionist and adoption specialist at the animal hospital.

Workers say they hate the thought of euthanizing any animal, but a lack of space to house them leaves them no choice.

The first to go if not adopted is two-year old Sumatra, a husky-cross. Next, will be two rottweiler-crosses, who were on death row in Hay River.

The animal hospital has 12 cages for unwanted dogs and 12 for people to board their dogs while out of town.

With more than 20 unwanted dogs, all cages save one are now full. Many of the cages house two dogs to save space.

Three dogs are set to be adopted, but that won't be enough to solve all the animal hospital's problems.

"We have to tell people who want to drop their animals off that we're full," said Shermed.

Animal hospital employees said Yellowknife is overpopulated with dogs - many from "backyard breeders" who are not licensed dog breeders, but sell puppies without proof of pedigree.

NWT SPCA president Janet Pacey said another reason so many dogs are abandoned or given up is because people don't want the responsibility of owning larger pets.

"Bigger dogs are great pets," said Pacey. "But a dog can live for 10-20 years, and you have to pay for food and the vet."

Most of the workers at the animal hospital have adopted pound dogs themselves.

"Beau's such a great dog, but there wasn't much chance for him to get adopted, so I adopted him," said worker Billy Hewitt.

In an attempt to get people interested in larger dogs, Maria Eklund, a veterinary technician, has been training some of the dogs in skijoring - a sport where dogs pull skiers.

"Northern dogs were born to run," she said.

The animal hospital is imploring Yellowknife citizen's to come visit and consider adopting an animal in hopes they will avoid having to euthanize any dog.