Nfld. & Labrador

Adoption for some dogs, euthanization for others as Labrador towns start rounding up strays

It's not safe for dogs to be roaming the streets, says North West River town manager Wendy Hillier.

Not safe for dogs to be roaming streets, says North West River town manager

Some wandering dogs have collars, but are not restricted to their owner's property which can often result in breeding, leading to a stray population. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

The Town of North West River, Labrador, has started seizing — and, in some cases, euthanizing — stray dogs in an effort to rid the community of a persistent problem.

Between 15 and 20 stray dogs have been captured. Some are at the SPCA, while some have been humanely put down, town manager Wendy Hillier told CBC News.

"There was a main pack that was going around, and it was intimidating and not healthy for the animals for this time of year, it's cold and, unfortunately, it's better for them not to be out around," said Hillier. 

Three years ago, Sheshatshiu's public works department rounded up and euthanized problem dogs after several people were bitten by strays.

Under new animal health regulations for the town being reviewed by the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs, all dogs will have to be registered with the town. Hillier estimates 80 per cent of dog owners already register their pets. The more who do, the easier it is for the town to identify a stray.

Our first problem are dogs that have never had a home.- Wendy Hillier 

"We don't want anything happening to anybody's dog. If we get the dog, [owners] will have to pay a fee but it's for the health and safety of the dog and and our residents as a whole." 

Both North West River and neighbouring Sheshatshiu are working together to round up stray dogs.

"Our primary concern is the health and safety of residents, and  not only residents, dogs as well," Hillier said. 

"The population of dogs spike in cycles so since last summer it's been rising, and both communities, Sheshatshiu and North West River, we know that this is a problem. It's always been a problem." 

That's the reason for the communities' dog patrol, she said — not just safety for residents, but also for the dogs themselves, especially as freezing winter temperatures start to set in.

"I say 'patrol.' I don't like to use the word 'control' because it's for animal health," she said.

Two packs of at least eight dogs

While some loved the wandering canines, she said, they also cause a lot of concern.

"Our first problem are dogs that have never had a home," she said.  

"We had two packs of at least eight dogs. Now, they're not bad dogs, but no one wants to see eight dogs, big dogs, coming toward them. It's very intimidating. It's not safe." 

The town will focus on educating residents on registering their pets, as well as spaying and neutering, she said.

"We have a wonderful vet in Goose Bay, you know, a service that wasn't always there years ago, so I think spaying and neutering is a big part for any person who owns a pet," she said. 

Many dogs, including those with homes, are left to roam free in North West River and neighbouring Sheshatshiu. (Alyson Samson/CBC)

"The next phase will be educating people to not be feeding strays and trying to find homes for them as soon as possible with support from the SPCA." 

All dogs will be held for at least 48 hours, said Hillier. So far, none of the dogs picked up have been claimed by owners, she said.

"The SPCA has been very supportive. Unfortunately some dogs aren't adoptable, so we've had to euthanize them," she said.

"Sometimes they'll have a bit of a temperament and those dogs are probably two or three years old now and didn't have a home." 

Hillier did not have exact numbers of how many dogs have been caught, or how many were considered unadoptable.

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