Last winter I stayed for three months in Waskaganish and I found that stray dogs are a problem there. I did a small door-to-door survey (of 132 people) to find out more about the problem. Possibly it is a problem in other communities too.

Dogs used to be useful and respected workingani-mals. Because people were dependent on their dogs, they took good care of them. Now a dog is not needed any more. Since the snowmobile is preferred to dog-sleds, there are dogs in Waskaganish that nobody wants. Only some Elders use their dogs the whole year round for hunting.

In May 1996, the Waskaganish band decided that all dogs should be vaccinated and registered by their owners and should be chained or under control. A dog which is not wearing a tag is considered stray and is supposed to be captured and killed by a dog-catcher (a dog catcher was not yet hired in the winter of ’96-97).

My guess is about 10 per cent of the dogs were actually registered last winter. The by-law was not enforced and 53 per cent in the survey didn’t know about it. Most people (76 per cent) thought there was a problem with some dogs in Waskaganish.

One in three people said they have a dog just to feed it leftovers and hardly pay any attention at all to the dog. If this dog is chained, it gets bored and can get behavioural problems. If the dog is loose, it gets into fights with other dogsand it mates. Lots of puppies are born this way.

The Crees are famous for their respect toward animals. A respectful solution is needed to the problems with dogs about. In the survey, 50 per cent of dog owners said their would have their dog neutered if it was possible, even if it cost $100. If dogs were sterilized, there would be less fighting and less puppies born. It would save the band time and money because less strays would have to be killed.

A lot of people wondered what the use is of keeping a dog if it isn’t useful any more.New uses for dogs can be found. I’m sure many people could be inspired to take bettercare of their dogs and start doing things again with their dogs, with respect.

Man’s best friend?

Per cent of people who like dogs: 55%
Per cent of dog owners who don’t like dogs: 33%
Per cent of people who have one or more dogs: 43%
Ratio of male dogs to female: 3:2
Biggest problem with dogs: can be dangerous
2nd biggest problem: there are too many dogs
Per cent of dogs loose at least part of the time: 62%
Per cent dog owners who give their dog a lot of attention: 40%
Per cent who spend hardly any time with their dog: 33%

Marike Vijver, Social psychologist Gronincen, The Netherlands