Dog shot, killed at Winnipeg airport after breaking free and running near runway

The Winnipeg Airports Authority is looking over its wildlife policy after a rescue dog was shot and killed at the airport Monday when it got loose from its kennel and ran near an active runway.

Winnipeg Airports Authority will review wildlife policy after Greta, 2, shot Monday, spokesperson says

Greta was about two years old and friendly, said Manitoba Mutts director Rebecca Norman. (Submitted by Rebecca Norman/Manitoba Mutts)

The Winnipeg Airports Authority is looking over its wildlife policy after a rescue dog was shot and killed at the airport Monday when it got loose from its kennel and ran near an active runway.

"It was a tough day for everyone," said Tyler MacAfee, the authority's director of corporate communications, on Wednesday.

"It's certainly not the outcome anyone wants to see, and it's a really tough decision for someone to make to use force in that way on an animal … But at the same time it's that balance of aviation safety."

Around 4:30 p.m. Monday, the authority got a call that a dog ran off outside at the Winnipeg airport, MacAfee said.

The dog, named Greta, was en route to a Winnipeg foster home from a northern Manitoba community, flown by Perimeter Aviation and under the care of the Manitoba Mutts. The dog rescue has been transporting dogs to Winnipeg with Perimeter Aviation for about seven years, said Rebecca Norman, one of the rescue directors, but this was the first time one got loose on the tarmac.

Greta was roughly two years old and was known to be friendly with people and animals, Norman said, adding she had a history of chewing through kennels and it's possible that's what happened on the flight.

Carlos Castillo, vice-president of commercial services for Perimeter Aviation, said it appears the dog chewed through a plastic portion of the kennel during transportation and broke loose as staff opened the plane door. Workers tried to contain Greta but the dog broke free, Castillo said.

The airport's wildlife control staff tried to corral the animal into a safe, open area, as is usually done in these cases, MacAfee said, but it evaded attempts and ran across the airfield, near an active runway.

One flight, an inbound plane from Las Vegas, had to abort its landing to avoid the dog, MacAfee said. The wildlife officer managed to get the animal away from the runway but it turned around and returned to the area.

At that time of day, MacAfee said the airport is busy, with flights taking off and landing every couple of minutes.

"The wildlife control officer had to make that difficult decision that it had to use lethal force," he said.

Airports authority, airline did 'everything they could for her': dog rescue

Norman said the airline notified the rescue of Greta's death immediately and the airports authority phoned shortly after.

"Quite clearly, we didn't want her to be hit by a plane. That would have been more painful than the way she passed away," Norman said.

"And we also didn't want … the planes to crash or people to get hurt. So they did everything they could for her and for the planes to land."

MacAfee said policies about transporting animals via air are set by individual airlines, following overarching rules set by Transport Canada. That body has also been notified of the incident, he said.

Perimeter Aviation transports dogs multiple times a week without incident, Castillo said. All animals transported by that airline are required to travel in kennels that have been approved by trained staff. In Greta's case, the kennel she was initially brought to the airline in was rejected because it was "in rough shape," Castillo said.

The community member who brought her in was asked to leave and return with the dog in a different kennel, which was approved by staff and appeared "brand new," Castillo added.

The individual braced the plastic portion of the kennel with duct tape, he said.

Authority will work with rescue on policy

MacAfee said Greta's death is the first time in their records — which date back to 2007 — that lethal force has been used on a pet.

Pets move through the airport on a daily basis, he said. On occasions when they get loose, they typically don't get far — and when they do, the airport's wildlife control team is usually able to work with owners to safely contain animals in an area far from active runways.

After Greta's death, MacAfee said the airports authority has offered to sit down with Manitoba Mutts to discuss its policy for dealing with animals. Its current plan is largely focused on birds, he added, because a fence around the premises prevents other animals from getting into the airfield. Lethal force has been used on squirrels that get through, he said, and as a last resort for birds who can't be scared off by other means.

Castillo said the airline is also willing to work and meet with the authority and the rescue.

"We're going to try to sit down with this group and see if there's an opportunity where we can refine some of the things that we're doing and look at some different techniques and tactics that we can be doing to see if there's a better way in the future," MacAfee said.

Norman said that could include buying stronger kennels or, potentially, tranquilizer guns to contain animals. But she said all the parties involved did the best they could and no one person or group is to blame.

"We hope that the public isn't trying to point fingers, even though it's a heartbreaking situation."

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