North

Sled dog owner files $20K claim against Iqaluit Humane Society over missing dogs

Meeka Mike believes her puppies were taken by newcomers to Iqaluit who are used to seeing dogs as pets rather than working dogs.

Meeka Mike believes dogs were taken by the humane society and shipped south

Meeka Mike has been raising traditional dog teams for 25 years. She says recently eight dogs have gone missing. She believes the Iqaluit Humane Society sent some to southern shelters. (Sara Frizzell/CBC)

A dog team owner is suing the Iqaluit Humane Society for $20,000 after eight of her dogs recently went missing.

Meeka Mike has been raising traditional dog teams for 25 years and says this winter eight of her dogs have gone missing. She believes members of the public took the dogs to the humane society and the animals were shipped south.

"There has to be something done about it," she said.

Puppies Uyautti and his sibling Pualu disappeared on Feb. 13 when they were four and half months old, Mike said.

She said she called bylaw and the humane society, but heard nothing back.

In her statement of claim filed in court, Mike says after posting a photo of Uyautti on Facebook on Feb. 16, a First Air cargo agent commented that the dog was shipped south that day.

The Iqaluit Humane Society has agreements with shelters in the south to take in dogs that it cannot house. Mike says she wants to confirm whether or not it was her dog shipped away.

Mike was trained to raise an entire team of puppies together, so she estimates losing these dogs will set her back between three to eight years.

She says it costs more than $21,000 a year to maintain a dog team in Iqaluit.

Mike says keeping her dogs inside like pets would be 'inhumane,' as it’s too hot for Arctic dogs that are fed a diet of rich seal fat. (David Gunn/CBC)

'Hindering traditional way of life'

Mike believes her puppies were taken by people who are new to the community and aren't used to seeing working dogs.

"When they're not part of the dog team community, they think the dogs shouldn't be working, they cry if they see a dog working and those are the people who are hindering a traditional way of life," Mike said.

"These people who are just taking pups thinking they're saving them have no clue how much they're hurting the puppies."

Mike has two kennels for her dogs, one near her home and one further out of town.

She says keeping them inside like pets would be "inhumane," as it's too hot for Arctic dogs that are fed a diet of rich seal fat.

All of her adult dogs are chained up, but she lets puppies loose because they will not stray far from their mothers. She doesn't collar the puppies because she said they grow too fast.

"When those two puppies were missing, I had to move the female outside my house because she was yelping and crying for her puppies for a straight week," Mike said.

Humane society's response

The Iqaluit Humane Society (IHS) has not yet filed a response to Mike's claim in court.

In a statement, the society said if people are trespassing and taking Mike's animals it's a matter for the authorities.

"The IHS does not pick up stray animals or detain them. We will do our due diligence and report such cases, or if need be, we will secure an animal to safety until municipal enforcement can apprehend it," the statement said.

Mike has two kennels for her dogs, one near her home and one further out of town. (David Gunn/CBC)

It adds that loose dogs are an issue in the community because they can injure themselves or other people or animals, spread diseases, or damage property.

"For some, animal control creates the fear of losing their dogs. The main issue is that their wandering dog may get picked up by a private citizen or by municipal enforcement," it said.

"Yet for a citizen or enforcement, if the animal is lost, has wandered and does not have the required tags, concern naturally arises as to where they belong and making sure they are going to be OK."

1 dog back

After two and a half months, Mike worked with Kevin Sloboda, the chief municipal enforcement officer in Iqaluit, to get one of her eight dogs back

"The officers have dealt with these dogs a lot, they'll know whether it's a sled dog or not and we'll get ahold of the owners, because most dog teams are very different," Sloboda said.

He says he wants to see more education for newcomers to the city.

"Some people's beliefs are it's way too cold for a dog ... and they base it on their life experience with pets, and we have a little bit of a difference up here in Iqaluit," he said.

Mike says the returned dog is having trouble keeping up with the rest of the team now.

"He looks very healthy, but when you touch his bones, he didn't have much muscle mass," she said.

His hind legs are stiff, which she says is a result of being fed dry dog food.

She says she can tell he was bathed because he's already losing his winter coat — too early in her opinion.

With files from Michael Salomonie