North

Dogs killed Ross River man found dead last fall, coroner tells community

Yukon's chief coroner has confirmed that a Ross River, Yukon, man who died last October was killed by 'feral or semi-domesticated' dogs in the community.

Warning: This story contains disturbing details

Yukon's chief coroner Kirsten MacDonald met with about 100 residents of Ross River Monday night to talk about the death of Shane Glada, who was killed by dogs in the community last fall. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Yukon's chief coroner has confirmed that a Ross River man who died last October was killed by dogs in the community.

Shane Glada's body was found on Oct. 17, after he had been missing for several days. His partially-consumed remains were discovered in a gully, just metres away from houses in the remote Kaska community of 350 people.

Coroner Kirsten Macdonald met with residents Monday night to tell them of the cause of death, and talk about ways to avoid a similar tragedy.

She told the 110 people who sat in a circle in the school gym that an expert from UBC examined Glada's body, and determined the multiple injuries he sustained were from dogs, and that Glada had been alive when they attacked.

"The dogs were feral or semi-domesticated," Macdonald said.

Yukon chief coroner Kirsten Macdonald told Ross River residents an expert from UBC had determined Shane Glada had been attacked by dogs. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

"Dogs that don't understand their place. I don't want to have the same discussion with another family."

Many at the meeting were angry, frustrated and fearful that aggressive dogs remain a public safety issue in Ross River.

"It's been seven months since Shane died," said Gord Peter, Glada's uncle. 

"Nothing is happening. We don't know what we're waiting for."

He offered an unsparing solution for people who don't take public safety seriously and continue to let their neglected dogs run loose.

"I will show those people the pictures of Shane's mauled body," he said.

"Maybe then they will do something about their dogs. Maybe then they will understand."

Three RCMP officers from the Ross River and Faro detachments were at the meeting, offering few comments. They were unable to confirm whether the dogs that killed Glada had been destroyed, leading many to worry that the dogs have become habituated to eating human flesh.

Yukon's chief veterinarian Mary Vanderkop was also at the meeting and said the Department of the Environment could help by offering live traps to the community.

Fran Etzel, the school principal, said she and her grandson were attacked by a vicious dog in mid-November, just weeks after Glada's body was found. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Many people talked about the need for personal responsibility that comes with dog ownership, with some advocating for tying dogs up, while others said leaving a dog chained without exercise leads to anti-social behaviour.

Many at the meeting called for shooting stray dogs. 

Tammy Bellefeuille said she is afraid to leave her front deck at times, because her neighbours' dogs are in her yard and are aggressive. She said she's fearful to walk down her street, and warned she'll take "matters into my own hands, and deal with the consequences later."

Others said the dogs are literally starving.

Fran Etzel, the school principal, said she and her grandson were attacked by a vicious dog in mid-November, just weeks after Glada's body was found. Etzel fought the dog off with bear spray, then called the RCMP once they were safely inside.

She said the officer who arrived was forced to pull his sidearm and shoot the dog in the street because it attacked him also and he was unable to restrain it.

Etzel said she recently saw a dog pulling the body of another dead dog down the street.

"I thought it had gotten into garbage," she said.

"Then I saw it was a dead dog. We watched and saw the dog drag the carcass into its yard, then it went into its doghouse and started eating it.

"I worry about people's safety all the time. I can't sleep because I worry someone outside might need help."

Etzel said on some weekends she drives the five hours into Whitehorse, just so she can be away from the situation and get a restful sleep.

Working group

Ross River Dena Council Chief Jack Caesar has offered to lead a working group, which will include Macdonald. It will meet within two weeks to form eight to 10 recommendations on how to resolve the issue.

Some ideas include limiting the number of dogs per household to two, initiating a dog registration process, hiring a dogcatcher to apprehend feral dogs, and fining owners.

Ross River does not have a municipal level of government. As an unincorporated community, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Yukon Department of Community Services. There was no department representative at Monday's meeting. 

A spokesperson for Community Services told CBC in an email that animal protection services fall under the Department of Environment.

Many people remarked on the absence of the community's MLA, Stacey Hassard.

It's not known when the last dog fatality occurred in the Yukon.

About the Author

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.