Council to revisit dog-team ruling

Should sled dogs be allowed in residential areas?

After four years, council is still debating which areas in town that dog-team owners can keep their animals.


Iqaluit’s four-year struggle to decide whether dog-team owners should be allowed to keep their animals in and around the city is long from over.

City council seemed to have ended the issue three weeks ago when it introduced a list of areas to be set aside for dog teams.

The debate has been ongoing since six-year-old Leah Tikivik was mauled to death in March 1998 after she walked by a pack of dogs staked to the sea ice.

Now, criticisms from dog owners and city councillors about the newly designated areas for dog teams is forcing council to take another stab at the issue.

At the next city council meeting, scheduled for Nov. 26, Councillor Stu Kennedy plans to put forth a motion calling on council to rethink the areas it has said dog teams are no longer permitted.

According to the list council approved on Oct. 22, dog teams can be tied up in the following places: the area near the airport, known as Upper Dog Creek; the West 40 area past the Department of National Defence barracks; the spot near the access road to Upper Base; near the road to the FOL site; on the sea ice in the winter months from the Coast Guard station to the cemetery; and near the causeway in the spring months.

Council dropped one spot from the list: the creek near the south end of the runway. It means at least four dog-team owners will have to remove their animals from the area.

As well, sled dogs will no longer be allowed in Tundra Valley or next to House 104, where city councillor Keith Irving lives.

At this week’s council meeting, Irving, who has owned sled dogs for several years, pleaded with council not to force dogs out of the city.

"I must caution city council that as a dog-team owner for some 13 years, I strongly believe that this is the wrong approach. Removing dog teams from our community will increase the chances of serious incidents," Irving said at the meeting.

Most run-ins with sled dogs happen when the dogs are tied up away from people and the watchful eye of adults, he said.

"Dog team areas a long distance from owners’ eyes make it more difficult to control breeding, protect our dogs from abuse and increase public safety and public education."

Dog teams pose less of a threat than many other things permitted by council, Irving added.

"The Canadian Inuit dog, the official mammal of Nunavut, appears to be no longer welcome by some in Nunavut’s capital, while we tolerate many modern dangers such as vehicles, snowmobiles, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol."

Irving pointed out that in Sisimut, Greenland, sled dogs are valued as part of the Inuit culture. Nearly 2,000 dogs live in the community of 5,000 people.

He said Iqaluit’s attempt to remove sled dogs from the city is "another example of how the modern Nunavut has less room for our cultural heritage."

"I am delighted to report for the first time in a decade we have a young Inuk who is starting a team, who loves to run dogs. As our elderly Inuit dog-team owners, Giusa and Goola retire, it is important that we as a community encourage and support our young people to keep the skills and traditions of Inuit sled dogging alive," Irving said.

Limiting the places where dog teams can be kept makes things difficult for new dog-team owners, he said.

Following Irving’s statement, councillors decided they will take another look at the areas they designated for dog teams and which areas they banned.

The discussion will take place at the Nov. 26 council meeting.