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Ticket people running dogs alongside cars at sandpits, says Yellowknife woman

A Yellowknife women is asking City Hall to start ticketing pet owners who run their dogs alongside their vehicles in the sandpits, after her dog was run over.

Trudy Hause's Yorkie-Schnauzer was run over in the popular off-leash dog area

Trudy Hause holds her dog, Elwood, who suffered a broken pelvis as a result of being run over by a truck in the sandpits area of Yellowknife. The driver of the truck was running their own dog alongside their vehicle. (Mark Rendell/CBC)

A Yellowknife woman is asking City Hall to start ticketing pet owners who run their dogs alongside their vehicles in the sandpits.

That's after Trudy Hause's nine-year-old yorkie schnauzer, Elwood, was run over in the popular off-leash dog area by someone running her own dog alongside her truck.

"The second my little dog Elwood saw her dog running —  of course he's a social butterfly —  so he just ran off and wanted to visit. And she didn't see him coming," says Hause.

Elwood's pelvis was broken and Hause spent the next day driving 17 hours to Edmonton to bring him to a specialist veterinarian.  

She now wants City Hall to do more to prevent people from exercising their dogs in this way.

Elwood, a yorkie-schnauzer cross, had to be driven 17 hours to Edmonton to see a specialist veterinarian after being struck by a vehicle at the sandpits. (Mark Rendell/CBC)

"I'd like to see the ticket, because when you hit the person's pocketbook, that's when it's going to hurt... But signs [as well], so people are aware that that shouldn't happen out here."

It certainly isn't the first time a dog has been hit at the sandpits and Hause says people are actively avoiding the area, one of only a handful of designated off-leash zones in Yellowknife.

"I just checked in this morning with a few people, and they haven't been out here for three years walking their dogs because… they're scared that their dogs are going to get hit."

Several dogs a year injured or killed this way, says vet

Yellowknife veterinarian Dr. Tom Pisz agrees that more needs to be done. He says he sees several dogs killed or badly injured this way every year, sometimes on the ice roads, but most frequently at the sandpits.  

"Even if you do it 100 times, 101 the dog's going to change direction. It's going to see something, either a fox or another dog, they're going to swing under your truck, and you want to be able to stop," says Dr. Pisz.

"If they get hit in the head, they could die instantly. If they're lucky they'll get some broken bones and then it's fixable, but it costs lots of money."

Pisz says he frequently has to avoid cars zipping around the sandpits when he's riding his horses, kept at nearby North Country Stable.

"I don't know if city council is going to go for it, because this is a recreational area," he said.

"But people shouldn't drive their trucks there at high speeds anyway. It's not only about the dogs, it's about people walking and children playing."

No bylaw that applies

The city's Municipal Enforcement Division does enforce some bylaws out at the sandpits.

And there is a dog bylaw that states, "no person shall allow a dog to be outside of the passenger cab of a motor vehicle on a highway…  regardless of whether the motor vehicle is moving or parked."

But the sandpits — like the ice roads — aren't highways.

"There's no specific section that would deal with this situation out there," says Doug Gillard, the city's Municipal Enforcement Division manager.

Could the bylaw be changed?

"It's possible," he says.

But that's a decision for city councillors to make, and "even if there was a bylaw in place we can't be out there all the time," he added.

However, Gillard is in complete agreement with both Hause and Pisz that running a dog alongside a vehicle is a bad idea.

"Vehicles and dogs don't mix," he says.

"You're taking a big risk at possibly injuring your dog or somebody else's. So get out of the vehicle, walk with your dog. I mean it's good exercise for us, too."

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