They managed to help pull a few dogs from Little Grand Rapids, but the efforts of Westman’s Strays That Can’t Pay animal rescue proved tragically to have been a drop in the bucket.
Donnelly Rose Eaglestick, 24, was found dead next to a pack of stray dogs in the northern First Nation community early Saturday morning.
Strays That Can’t Pay helped remove a few animals from the community during the winter by networking some out to Alberta and a couple others to rescues in Winnipeg, executive director Alicia Hoemsen said.
One senior adult dog they removed from the community was "just riddled with bullets," Hoemsen said, adding that another dog was removed alongside her fresh litter of puppies.
This week’s news that Little Grand Rapids would undertake a dog cull was pretty much a given following Eaglestick’s death, though Hoemsen cautions that this is a "short-term solution to a long-term problem" unless it’s followed up on with bylaw enforcement.
Otherwise, she said, the cycle of violence would continue.
"Give it a year," Hoemsen said, adding that with dogs reproducing every six months with multiple-puppy litters, it’s only a matter of time before this problem would re-emerge unless more is done.
Brandon Humane Society manager Tracy Munn shared a similar sentiment, calling current efforts — her organization’s included — "putting Band-Aids on broken bones."
"We take so many puppies off (northern communities) because they have no vets, no animal control, and more puppies get born and born and born," she said, adding: "You can have a cull, whatever. I don’t know what the answer is for wild dogs, but you’ve got to prevent that problem."
While Strays That Can’t Pay works with communities and rescue organizations throughout a wide swath of the country, their primary focus is with four Westman First Nations, including Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, Waywayseecappo First Nation and Birdtail Sioux First Nation.
Hoemsen said that she hasn’t heard of any incidents of dogs killing people in Westman during her organization’s five years, but that she has heard of dogs biting people "quite regularly."
Last year, they managed to spay or neuter 105 animals from these four communities, but Hoemsen said that this effort has been far from matching the need.
With few on-reserve households having fenced-in yards, there are many dogs on the loose, she said, adding that others are left outside on chains, which can lead to other dogs ganging up on them and causing injury.
The solution, she said, is part education, part bylaw enforcement.
Hoemsen said that they’d continue to do what they can to help keep pet populations down in a humane manner, but that their actions are limited by funding shortfalls.
This year’s budget is $129,000, though she said that they’d have a difficult time meeting this financial hurdle.
The Brandon Humane Society plans on sending a mobile spay/neuter clinic throughout the province this summer, beginning with a few test rounds at First Nations communities around Virden where they’ll be close to veterinarian offices in the event something unforeseen comes up.
From there, they’ll branch out to the more remote northern First Nations, where Munn said that she hopes to see as many as 40 dogs spayed or neutered within three-day stints, depending on how many veterinarians they’re able to line up.
Munn hopes to see the mobile clinic make at least three trips to northern Manitoba this summer, beginning with Sandy Bay some time next month.
These communities have their own funding challenges to deal with, Munn said, adding: "This isn’t about blame, this is about people working and helping together … We want to fix this problem."
Leadership from the four First Nations that Strays That Can’t Pay spends the bulk of their time working with were unavailable for comment by press time on Wednesday.
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