North

Inuit sled dogs need protection, say Iqaluit mushers

Dog owners want the city to build a pen in the West 40 to isolate sled dogs from loose mutts and help address concerns about them getting loose.

Want city to build pen to prevent interbreeding with loose mutts

Some sled dog owners in Nunavut are concerned about the future of the breed, and are asking for more protection. Neville Crabbe reports 2:17

A group of dog team owners in Iqaluit are worried about the future of Inuit sled dogs and want some help from the city.

Dog owners want the city to build a pen in the West 40, large enough for 10 to 15 teams, to isolate them from the city’s stray dogs and help address concerns about them getting loose.

Dog team owner Matty McNair says Iqaluit is one of the few places in Canada with a healthy number of pure Inuit sled dogs. (CBC)

"It would mean that loose dogs of foxes or wolves don't come in to the pack," said dog team owner Matty McNair. "It would mean that stray dogs don't breed with the purebred dogs. It would keep children who come out to play with the dogs away from them, so they don't get hurt or injured."

Isolation has made Inuit sled dogs the last indigenous breed in North America, and McNair says Iqaluit is one of the few places in Canada with a healthy number of pure dogs

She's had a team since 1988 and said years ago, on a trip around Baffin Island she witnessed the true strength of the Inuit sled dog.

"The dogs ran, some of them, for up to eight days with no food, doing about 100 kilometres a day."

But with so many other breeds in Nunavut now, often on the loose, McNair is worried.

"Interbreeding is starting to happen, and they're dying out," she said.

The proposal asks the city to build the fenced-in area. Municipal trucks would also have to provide water for part of the year.   Dog owners say the West 40 is a good location, away from houses and right beside Sylvia Grinnell Park. 

Iqaluit resident Joshua Kango said he likes the idea of isolating the sled dog teams in a pen.

"Although we are not practising the tradition as much as we used to, for obvious reasons, it is still important Inuit culture," he said. "It's beautiful, it's magical; it’s part of our lives."

Dog team owners made a pitch at council prior to the recent municipal election. They plan to approach the new council soon.