(LAURENCE BRISSON DUBREUIL THE EASTERN DOOR)
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Community members are again calling on more robust action from local authorities responsible for handling situations where dogs are on the loose.
Kahnawa’kehró:non residing near Kateri School said the demand comes after incidents where groups of reportedly aggressive dogs have growled at people in the neighbourhood and, in one case, killed the housecat of a resident.
The loose dog situation has long been a source of frustration and concern for many residents who say they are not receiving any help from the Animal Protection Unit and the Peacekeepers.
This is the case for 33-year-old Jessica Jacobs, who said local authorities have not been of any assistance, leaving it up to her to scare away groups of dogs she called “very aggressive.”
Jacobs described an incident where her six-year-old son came face-to-face with multiple dogs while he was jumping on the trampoline in their yard.
“My son came running in the house, and told me there were dogs outside and they were growling at him,” said the concerned mother, about the event that took place this past summer. “When I went outside, they were aggressive towards me so I took a stick and chased them off.”
Jacobs no longer feels safe having her kids playing in their own yard; a space where her son used to explore and enjoy, daily. He has been afraid to go out there ever since the altercation.
A neighbour of hers, Darren McComber, worries about the safety of his neighbours and those of neighbourhood pets. McComber said he doesn’t want anyone to experience the grief he went through when his cat was killed by dogs left untied and unattended.
Like Jacobs, he expressed feelings of disbelief and discouragement over the inaction of authorities in response to the presence of the loose dogs permeating the community.
“I’ve made countless calls to them (Animal Protection) and to the Peacekeepers, and so have the neighbours,” said McComber. “The dogs are loose 24/7.”
Peacekeeper assistant chief Jody Diabo explained that Kahnawa’kehró:non pleading for officers to intervene in situations involving nuisance dogs will have their call redirected to the Animal Protection Unit.
“We (Peacekeepers) have a job to do and we will do it. But every day calls about a dog, it’s Animal Protection’s realm,” said Diabo.
She adds that she has been hearing about the issues surrounding the topic of loose dogs since she has been in office; in other words, for the past 16 years.
Community member Timmy Norton has been pushing for changes to the situation for 15 years now, and he said he can’t believe the community is still dealing with this issue.
“Even with all the advancements to our Animal Protection Unit, we still have to deal with loose dogs,” said Norton. “Yes, of course, it is up to the individual dog owner to keep their dog humanely contained, however, the existing loose dog law is weak and outdated.”
Enacted in 1964 by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK), the Animal Control Law, still in place today, establishes a set of rules for the control and regulation of animals in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake.
Among the list there is a regulation that stipulates animal holders must confine their animals by either having them properly tied or, by containing them in any other sufficient way. For example, keeping them in a yard that is adequately fenced in to prevent any chance of escape.
Although the law is in place, community members have long voiced their concern over the lack of its enforcement.
For instance, results from the last Animal Protection consultation showed respondents’ frequent bad experiences with loose, aggressive and destructive dogs that were not properly contained or controlled by Animal Protection officers, due to the “absence of an enforceable animal control law.”
General manager of Public Safety Operations and head of the Animal Protection Unit Robyn Montour, said that these results will be taken into consideration as MCK works to enact a new law.
“In 2019, we began a complete re-drafting of the Animal Protection Law because the old law is severely outdated,” said Montour. She further explained that the council will ensure that the new regulations cover and protect the community as well as the animals.
Beyond the enactment of a new law, Mohawk Council chief Clinton Phillips explained that compliance from local dog owners will be vital in solving this matter. “This has been a long-standing issue where people are not complying with rules and laws,” he said. “Community members are certainly upset.”
Norton recalls promises being made by MCK many years ago after a young man was attacked by two loose dogs. “Here we are several years later and loose dogs are still here,” he said.
“We don’t always hear about the attacks, people have said they don’t want to call Animal Protection or the Peacekeepers because nothing gets done.”
Montour said as much as the unit tries to enforce laws, tightening up parts of the legislation will help ensure that it can be more enforceable. She said that this will include heftier fines.
“The fee doesn’t really match what the penalty should be,” said Montour. “The starting fine is $50. If somebody’s animal is running loose, $50 is not a big incentive to have to keep your animal tied up.”
Meanwhile, Phillips drew attention to the rampant neglect and disobedience of dog owners in the community.
“Some people seem to think they have a right on a reserve to have animals and have them roam free,” said chief Phillips. “When it comes to dogs, vicious dogs especially, we run into problems.”
McComber said he has regularly encountered such dogs and that in groups, they turn into “a pack of wolves.”
“These dogs have gone after the children at the school (Kateri), and they haven’t injured one yet, but they have scared them,” he added.
Jacobs also stated her worries over the presence of loose dogs near the school, saying that all the kids go outside during recess. “They have a big yard and it doesn’t have a locked gate,” she explained. “Dogs can just go in there if they want to.”
The process to enact a new animal control law was put on hold at the start of the pandemic. Although Phillips said a timeframe is impossible to set, he reassured that the work is still ongoing.
“There is something that’s broken and it very much needs to be fixed,” he said.
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil is a multimedia journalist based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, Canada. She holds a BA in journalism, with a minor in law and society from Montreal's Concordia University.
Laurence began reporting with The Eastern Door in the fall of 2020, after completing a fellowship with the Institute for Investigative Journalism, a national investigative organization.
Among many things, Laurence is passionate about investigative reporting, human rights, and environmental issues.