WIKWEMIKONG—What started as a Grade 7 class project has grown into a community initiative, supported by the Wikwemikong chief and council and PetSave, to tackle the problem of stray and miscared for dogs on the unceded reserve.
“The class has to do a persuasive writing unit as part of their curriculum,” explained Grade 7 Wasse Abin Pontiac School teacher Tracy Manitowabi. “We brainstormed issues that meant a lot to the students and they decided the topic of stray dogs in the community was something they all felt strongly about. They expressed concern with their safety, sharing stories of dogs biting and chasing them. They also talked about how they were concerned for the wellbeing of some of the dogs in the community that didn’t have collars or weren’t being properly fed.”
Ms. Manitowabi explained that as part of their writing unit, the entire class wrote the Wikwemikong chief and council persuasive letters asking them to take a proactive approach to the stray and miscared for dog problem in the community. The class also developed a plan to fundraise for collars, leashes and dog food care packages for the people in the community that needed assistance with their pets.
“The students successfully completed their letters and I am very proud of their initiative,” Ms. Manitowabi told The Expositor.
Chief and council were also impressed with the class’ initiative and in addition to scheduling a meeting with the class to further discuss their concerns and hear their suggestions, they passed a band resolution welcoming PetSave into the community to begin addressing the situation.
“Wasse Abin Pontiac students brought this issue to council’s attention,” said Wikwemikong Chief Duke Peltier. “They had concerns that the pets in the community needed help.”
Chief Peltier explained that in the past the community had an animal control officer, but that they hadn’t had the funding in recent years to fill the position.
In addition to passing the resolution regarding PetSave, chief and council also made a donation to PetSave to assist with the organization’s work in the community.
“We look forward to PetSave or whoever can assist us with providing proper care and resources for pet owners in the community,” Chief Peltier said, adding that chief and council are open to help with continuing to educate the community on pet care.
PetSave, a Sudbury organization that takes in, fosters and finds homes for stray dogs and cats, visited Wikwemikong on Saturday, January 25, and along with the assistance of volunteers and community members, collected 28 stray dogs, including two pregnant dogs. The dogs were taken back to Sudbury where PetSave provided medical attention to the animals and entered them into their foster program where they will await adoption.
“We did what we call a sweep and collected 28 stray dogs, which, now that one has given birth, totals 33 dogs,” PetSave founder Jill Pessot told The Expositor on Friday. “We worked with chief and council and many volunteers from our organization and the community to round up stray dogs and prior to the visit, sent out a notification that the sweep was occurring. We will be going in again in the near future to do another sweep.”
Ms. Pessot said that she and the PetSave volunteers also did some community education during their visit to Wikwemikong, talking to residents about general pet care, proper care for animals during the winter and providing dog food to people who needed assistance with their animals.
“We are looking for fundamental care in all communities,” said Ms. Pessot. “Sweeps help, but educating about the importance of spaying and neutering pets is important as is correcting pet care misconceptions. It’s great to see that the community wants to work towards change and we will continue to help in any way we can.”
Chief Peltier and council are scheduled to meet with Ms. Manitowabi’s Grade 7 class this week to listen to their concerns and ask questions.
Ms. Manitowabi provided The Expositor with some of the student’s letters to chief and council, expressing their worry over the treatment and behaviour of dogs in the community and providing suggestions.
“I see a lot of skinny dogs and dogs travelling in packs,” wrote Vince Naokwegijig in his letter to chief and council. “There are a lot of hungry dogs coming to my house to eat my dog’s food. I hope something can be done about the dog problem. I want everyone to feel safe and be able to enjoy going out for a daily walk. When we are healthy, our community will be healthy.”
“I would like to address the dog problem here in Wikwemikong and satellite communities,” wrote Peyton Manitowabi. “It is very shameful to see dogs walking around Wiky without their owners, it they are owned at all. It is important that we find nice loving homes for the strays before they start attacking people. I think it would be a great idea if we developed a program with volunteers and people who can help, that are knowledgeable in handling dogs, can give them foods, homes, offer free spaying/neutering and give them the love and affection that they need. Every dog has a good heart, they just need the change and the time to prove they can be wonderful pets.”
“I suggest that all the puppies that come into our community should have proper vaccinations, ID tags and licensing,” wrote Quinton Corbiere. “If we require licensing and vaccinations to all dogs in Wikwemikong maybe owners would think more about having a dog.”
“I would like to see Wikwemikong take this dog problem seriously and we need to all aim at getting these dogs good homes,” Travis Assiniwe-Farmer wrote in his letter. “If we start something now to help out with the stray dogs, our community would see many positive changes. We need to form an animal help group like the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in our own community.”
See next week’s Expositor for an update on this story.