Shamattawa First Nation and animal rescue organizations are working to prevent more stray dog attacks in the community, after a 7-year-old girl from the northern Manitoba First Nation had to be airlifted to Winnipeg with “extensive injuries” last Thursday.
The young girl playing outside her home would have died it if weren’t for the local carpenter stepping in to fight off the dogs and save her life, Shamattawa First Nation Chief Eric Redhead told Global News on Tuesday.
She’s now in a Winnipeg hospital awaiting more surgeries, he said.
Girl attacked by pack of dogs on Manitoba First Nation
“This child is known to be a dog lover, very kind gentle soul, very happy to be around dogs,” Redhead said.
The community’s been trying to control the stray population for years by attempting to get them into care, he said, but that’s come with challenges as an isolated community.
In light of the attack, they had to make the difficult decision of putting down over 100 dogs, he said.
“We tried to address this without having to resort to what we had to do,” Redhead said. “That’s something that we don’t take lightly.
“We couldn’t move fast enough for a number of reasons. The pandemic slowed a lot of things down. Shelters are full, foster homes, and the cost of just getting these dogs out into safe homes.”
Outside help coming
The chief of the northern Manitoba First Nation more than 700 km northeast of Winnipeg is welcoming outside support.
Two dog rescue groups, K9 Advocates and Save a Dog Network, are teaming up to arrange for a chartered plane to find homes for other roaming dogs in the community as soon as possible.
Animal advocates like president and founder of Save a Dog Network, Katie Powell, say the overpopulation stems from a lack of education and resources, like vets who can run mobile spay and neuter clinics in remote places.
The organization’s been working with Shamattawa over four years, removing between 500 and 750 strays, Powell said, but the problem reaches all corners of the province.
“This is an absolute crisis in Manitoba, and this is what happens. A family is now devastated. A child is now in critical condition, and you know, we’re reacting as opposed to being proactive,” Powell said.
Overpopulation can quickly balloon out of control, with some dogs producing litters of five to 10 puppies, two to three times a year, who can then add to the number in a few months’ time, she said.
“They rip into garbage. They spread diseases. They urinate and defecate on … children’s toys and … vehicles,” Powell said. “It’s a(n) absolute nuisance.”
“These animals live in harsh winter conditions, where food is very very scarce.”
Attacks like the one involving the seven-year-old occur because dogs without owners pack up and learn to survive on their own, Dr. Jonas Watson with Grant Park Animal Hospital told 680 CJOB, potentially becoming fearful or suspicious of people.
“We need basic veterinary care and population control, dog population control in remote, isolated communities,” Watson said.
“A lot of the work that’s being done to address these problems is being done in a grassroots way,” he said. “That can make a difference, and if you go with some regularity, you can really make a difference.”
Watson’s visited St. Teresa Point First Nation multiple times volunteering with Save a Dog Network. On his last visit, he said they reached a point where they couldn’t find any dogs to spay or neuter.
“It does require vigilance,” Watson said. “It does require repeated visits.”
Population boom exacerbated by pandemic: rescue volunteer
People often give these communities a hard time about dog overpopulation, Manitoba Underdogs Rescue volunteer Lindsay Gillanders said in an interview with 680 CJOB.
“It’s a different environment altogether,” she said. “There’s no community vets. You know, so to get a dog or animal spayed or neutered takes a huge investment.”
“You’ve got to drive to an urban centre, stay there for a couple days with the animal (and) find a vet if there’s any problems with the procedure afterwards.”
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Manitoba Underdogs Rescue hasn’t been able to access some of its communities during the pandemic, Gillanders said, an almost two-year period during which they’ve noticed a huge change in the population.
“We know that these spay and neuter clinics work,” she said. “The members of the communities are always so excited to see us and to give their dogs that opportunity to live puppy-free lives and to live safe lives.”
“We just need the funds and the access to be able to do it,” Gillanders said.
Groups like Manitoba Underdogs Rescue and Save a Dog Network don’t receive government funding, Gillanders and Powell say, something Watson said he thinks should change.
“We cannot count on grassroots efforts alone to solve this problem,” he said. “There really does have to be some effort by the communities themselves and governments to subsidize this work.”
“If we don’t take some serious efforts toward this, these kinds of incidents will continue to happen, and it’s tragic.”
Dog rescue groups, which are donation-driven and volunteer-run, are left to fill the gap, Powell said, because these strays aren’t domestic animals or wildlife, therefore not falling into clear categories under provincial jurisdiction.
“It’s not (the communities’) fault,” she said. “It is (a) systematic, problematic multi-tiered issue that needs to be addressed from chief and councils to the government to every community member to every person in Manitoba.”
Girl attacked by pack of dogs on Manitoba First Nation
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