Increased penalties, but plenty of animal cruelty remains in N.W.T.
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Two dogs recently sent to Yellowknife for treatment show Northwest Territories animal protection laws are doing little to curb cruelty to animals in the territory.
In a deliberate attack a week and a half ago, someone in Colville Lake reportedly fired a shotgun at two dogs tied up on a neighbour's property. One died. The other is recovering from a broken leg. The one that survived had been shot before. X-rays revealed a pellet lodged in its pelvis.
On Sunday, the NWT SPCA brought a dog rescued from Resolute Bay, Nunavut to the Great Slave Animal Hospital in Yellowknife. The owner had tied it up with thick rope that had tightened around its neck over time. The rope was embedded in the dog's flesh.
"We took about 10 pounds of matted fur off him, he'd been really neglected," said veterinarian Tom Pisz.
"He'd apparently been lying down in human feces, because he'd been tied up by some sort of outhouse or something. He was so smelly, it was just terrible. He's a really good dog. He's recovered pretty good. I mean, this is probably the best time of his life."
Despite the abuse, both dogs were calm and friendly in their cages at the animal hospital.
Six years ago, the territorial government increased fines for animal abuse. But rarely is anyone prosecuted and even more rarely is anyone convicted.
"It's not being enforced," said Pisz.
Difficult job for RCMP
"[With the changes to the Dog Act] you can get jail time, but in my time up here that's pretty much never happened," said NWT SPCA president Nicole Spencer.
"The problem is proving intent to harm ... it's a big problem with animal abuse cases."
Spencer says the SPCA spoke to RCMP about the dog shooting in Colville Lake and was told that, without a witness, it would be difficult to lay a charge.
The owner, a single mother, was away at the time her dogs were shot. Colville Lake does not have an RCMP detachment.
The last time anyone was believed to have been convicted of animal cruelty was six years ago, in the case of a Whati man who left his pregnant dog outside to give birth in bitterly cold winter temperatures.
Both the mother and three of her four puppies froze to death. The fourth was saved by an RCMP officer.
Anthony Bishop, the owner of the dog, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal and was sentenced to three years probation.
Pisz says he sees several cases a year of ingrown collars similar to what happened with the dog from Resolute.
"It's usually puppies," Pisz said. "People put a collar on, and then stop paying attention. The puppy grows and the collar doesn't.
"Last year there was one that was so bad, it actually ruptured the dog's trachea. He was breathing through the hole."
Pisz says he wants cases of animal cruelty to get attention.
"This is a terrible thing," he says, looking down at the dog from Resolute, its neck heavily bandaged. "I would love to not see this anymore."