Most people aren’t aware that trapping season started on October 1. Unfortunately, one Kinuso farm dog found this out the hard way.
George Fillion lives on farmland outside of Kinuso.
His dog, like his neighbours, runs loose, he says. When his dog didn’t come home, he became worried and put up posters in town and posted on social media. People read the posters and shared. Eventually, he connected with a Slave Lake Peace Officer social media post with a picture of his dog.
Town of Slave Lake (TOSL) acting CAO Garry Roth is familiar with the file.
On Thursday, December 12, an injured dog was dropped off at a Slave Lake organization, says Roth. The dog had serious injuries from getting caught in a trap. A vet saw to the dog. On Friday, Dec. 13, the dog was turned over to Slave Lake Animal Control.
The town took control of the dog under the Alberta Animal Protection Act, Roth says. There was further follow-up by a vet. Under the act, the owner has three business days to claim the dog, says Roth. December 13 is a Friday, so the dog was there over the weekend.
Fillion was away at work, but his girlfriend spoke with the officer. She even went to Slave Lake to meet with him. Fillion says the officer didn’t have time to take her to see the dog.
Fillion was unable to speak with the officer. The messages Fillion received were that the town wanted him to pay $1,000 to $3,000 for vet bills. It was his understanding that the town also planned to charge him with neglecting his animal.
“How can they say my dog was neglected, when he was caught in a trap?” says Fillion.
At this time, the owner isn’t being charged with anything, says Roth. TOSL has no intention of investigating the circumstances which led to the dog getting trapped as it isn’t its jurisdiction. The peace officer has been in contact with the other jurisdiction where Kinuso is. That jurisdiction is Big Lakes County to the west of Slave Lake and the MD of Lesser Slave River.
As of Thursday, December 19, Mary Brust, animal control officer for Big Lakes County, hadn’t received any information.
The dog in question was brought straight to Slave Lake, Brust says. Big Lakes County had nothing to do with the dog and the subsequent decision. The Big Lake County bylaws do state that dogs need to be on a leash. However, the issue with the dog was taken out of their hands.
On Wednesday, December 18 at 10 p.m., Fillion finally spoke with the peace officer in person.
Earlier that day, the sixth day that the dog was under TOSL care, the decision was made to adopt it out, says Roth. The dog required a lot of care, which the limited town staff wasn’t able to continue to give. There were numerous conversations with the owner. The owner hadn’t said if he wanted the dog back or would pay the vet bill, so the dog was adopted out.
The dog was badly hurt, so the new owners will likely have ongoing vet expenses, says Roth. The adoptive owners weren’t required to pay the bills from the six days the dog was cared for by the town, and the other vet bills. The costs to TOSL are still outstanding.
“I don’t think it’s right at all,” says Fillion. “There’s no registered traplines in the area.”
Investigation into whether or not there are registered traplines in the area has hit a wall. Both Big Lakes County and TOSL, do not deal with that part of the investigation. The legitimacy of the trap is investigated by Fish and Wildlife. Fish and Wildlife haven’t responded to calls.
Wolf and coyote seasons started Oct. 1 across Alberta, says the 2019-20 Alberta Guide to Trapping in Alberta. Coyote season runs until February 28 and wolf runs until March 31 in this area.
An October 18, 2019 press release by the Alberta Trappers Association reminds people that traps can pose a risk to dogs that run loose on other people’s land.
“Trappers operate on both crown land designations and on private land with the permission of the land owner,” says the release.
Trapping helps reduce pests and protects livestock from wolves and coyotes, says the release. It is the best way to stop the spread of a deadly disease carried by 30 to 60 per cent of foxes and coyotes in Alberta.
While Big Lakes County has a bylaw that dogs are supposed to be on a leash, many farm dogs still run free.
The situation is quite unusual, Roth says. For the most part, dogs impounded by the peace officers are caught running loose and returned within the same day to the owners. It is very uncommon for a dog to be held for any length of time.