How it all began. By Aedes Scheer.
I moved to Dawson during the summer of 1994 and started doing vet work as an Animal Health Technologist in cooperation with vet clinics in Whitehorse. I hadn’t been in Dawson very long when I received an anonymous phone call from someone who told me about a bunch of dogs tied up across the river that appeared to have been abandoned. I walked to the campground and found the dogs. They were skinny and matted and standing in their own feces. There was no shelter for the dogs and no water bowls. I immediately went to the RCMP station. When we got back to the campground there were no dogs. Someone had moved them in the time intervening. No dogs therefore no case.
Later on, I found out that here was no SPCA in the Yukon. There was also no animal protection legislation other than the animal cruelty sections in the Federal Criminal Code. There was the City’s dog pound but there were no animal shelters in the Territory at that time. When I got home I started making phone calls. I began working on the requirements for a non-profit society and sussing out what organizations might already be in operation in the Yukon.
In 1995, I advertised a meeting and crossed my fingers that interested people would attend. That first meeting was a success and the newly formed board of directors decided that it might be best to form a branch of the newly established Humane Society Yukon (HSY), located in Whitehorse. HSY was reluctant as it would be too difficult to manage an organization stretched over such a large distance. This meant that we would need to go it alone. And we did because something needed to be done and there was no sense in waiting for someone else to do it for us.
I approached City Council with a proposal to euthanize stray dogs to help with the loose dog problem, as long as the town hired a dedicated animal control officer. I reasoned that this would remove the bounty system and encourage more responsible pet ownership. The City hired an Animal Control Officer and paid me to euthanize the dogs if impounded for a week or more
The new HSD board worked hard to place suitable dogs in new homes but in that first year I euthanized over 300 animals. The following year there were fewer dogs abandoned, and I euthanized around 100 animals. Each year the number euthanized dropped to the point where at present time, there are barely any cases.
I also made suggestions to reform the Animal Control bylaw; it was a convoluted and conflicted document and therefore difficult to enforce. The City Manager involved the HSD board in writing the new bylaw that much improved the ability to manage animal control in the community.
In 1996 we were still using the City of Dawson’s dog pound as a temporary shelter. Cats would stay in airline kennels in my porch, which also served as an ad hoc vet clinic.
Eventually, the Yukon Government decided to sell off some of their buildings. As president of the Humane Society Dawson, I approached City Council and said that we would like to get a building suitable for a shelter and could they help.
The word from Council was that if we got a building, they would find land for us to put it on. Deal! I put in a bid and a few weeks later we were awarded a building for a dollar. The City made good on their part of the deal and set aside space for the building at one end of newly acquired property in the Callison industrial subdivision.
The building had to be moved and needed a foundation and better insulation in the ceiling. We were in no position to finance a project of this size. Again I approached the City Council. The City graciously assisted us with moving the building, putting it on a new foundation and covering the cost of the insulation.
With a grant from the Community Development Fund, the Yukon Energy Corporation donating much of the work needed to set up our electricity, volunteers coming out of the woodwork to paint and hammer, we were able to hold a “grand opening” in 1998 and dipped hands and paws in paint and put our prints on a wall. Numerous changes have been made to the shelter layout over the years, but our hand/paw prints can still be seen under the sink in the back kennel area.