Dogs in 2 Nunavik communities now require registration

Dog owners in Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui will now be required to register their dogs with an animal control officer or risk facing fines.

The new rules are based on bylaws passed by councils of the two communities.

In both places, puppies and spayed and neutered adult dogs will cost $10 to register.

For adult dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered, the cost to register is different depending on which side of the village you’re in.

In Kuujjuaraapik, the unsterilized dog registration cost is $40, while in Whapmagoostui it is $100.

Fredrick Reuther is the animal control officer employed with the band office in Whapmagoostui. For the past three years, he’s been working to control the stray dog population in the area.

Like other communities in Nunavik, Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui have had an overpopulation of stray dogs living as packs around the village and posing a safety risk to residents.

“It was out of hand,” Reuther said.

“People didn’t even let their children go play outside because it was too dangerous.”

Approximately three years ago, there were more than 400 dogs roaming Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui, according to Reuther. The combined human population of the two villages is less than 1,700.

To bring the dog population under control, organizations such as Chiots Nordiques have visited the community to host pop-up spay and neuter clinics, and fly stray dogs south to be adopted.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Reuther said there was an increase in demand for dogs in the south as people wanted companionship while locked down.

“COVID just started and a lot of people wanted dogs to go walk after eight,” Reuther said, citing a curfew Quebec imposed for a period to stop the spread of the virus.

Since taking measures to control the dog population, there are about 92 dogs in the two communities, 79 of which are sterilized.

Reuther has the profiles of all the registered dogs, which includes their health information.

Fines start at $50 for people who don’t register their dogs, or who let their dogs run free through the communities.

“We have to always try to understand and try to explain to the owner that this is for safety reasons, it’s for our kids to be able to play outside, for people to be able to take a walk without getting mauled by dogs,” Reuther said.

“We had bite incidents every week. Now, if we have one bite in two or three months, it’s OK.”

While the communities Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui share a lot of infrastructure, they both have their own leadership and bylaw systems. However, the leaders came together to work on the dog-control issue.

“The dogs don’t know the difference between Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui; they’re going to walk where they want,” Reuther said.

A group of stray dogs are seen here being fed in the streets, ahead of animal control work in Kuujjuaraapik and Whapmagoostui. (Photo courtesy of Frederick Reuther)

“If they do that project on their own side, things won’t work.”

In the two communities, Reuther said his approach to dog control of bringing veterinarians in, flying dogs south for check-ups, and teaching proper dog ownership has shown positive results.

Reuther said he’s thankful for the support he received from the two community councils and southern shelter partners, and wants to educate people on dog care elsewhere in the region if they want his help.

“We’re working on a workshop to go in schools to teach children how to behave with the dogs, respect their boundaries,” Reuther said.

“It starts at school, it starts at home with the parents, and that’s the biggest challenge.”

Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News