Nunavut’s only animal shelter continues to provide services for all Nunavut communities despite its challenges. The Nunavut Animal Shelter (NAS), also known as Iqaluit Humane Society, has been in operation since 2007. Janelle Grace Kennedy began the volunteer run organization to help rescue and rehabilitate animals.
“We try to help those who cannot help themselves,” said Kennedy referring to all animals in the territory.
To maintain this shelter in Iqaluit and its services has been a challenging ordeal.
“Just keeping the doors open takes up so much our time,” stated Kennedy.
She is referring to the constant need to fundraise since the neither the territorial or municipal governments city provide any funding.
“Not having any core funding means that we never really know what’s going to happen month to month,” she said adding there is feeling of instability.
Funds are also needed to hire staff as the organization becomes larger.
The size of the shelter is yet another challenge for NAS. Although the city provides a bachelor size apartment space, it is too small said Kennedy.
“It’s a very small space. It needs a lot of renovations, it’s not set up for a proper animal care facility.”
With a larger space more and better services could be provided, explained Kennedy referring to the rehabilitation and quarantine of dogs.
NAS is also “absolutely dependent on Canadian North” to transport animals from Northern communities to Iqaluit and then south.
The present contract with the airlines expires next month and Kennedy is uncertain how the negotiation will proceed.
Due to a lack of understanding, the organization’s actions have been viewed negatively by some according to Kennedy.
There are situations where dog owners come looking for their loose dogs only to find out they have been sent away for adoption.
“We have challenges with the public sometimes, too. Sometimes they see us is a negative way. We really are just trying to help,” said Kennedy.
She emphasized that her team puts forth a lot of effort to find dog owners before resorting to adoption. There is limited space and usually three to seven new animals that are brought to the shelter weekly.
“There is only so long we can hold an animal before we have to do something else with it. We try to make sure people understand if we didn’t exist, the alternative is much more grim.”
The alternative is dogs will be shot within 72 hours, according to Kennedy.
Loose dogs is a growing issue in the North and “the need (to help the dogs) is just tremendous,” she stated.
In communities like Cape Dorset, Kimmirut, Hall Beach and Iglulik presently there is a dog “population explosion,” according to Kennedy.
Recently, NAS got a request from Hall Beach to pick up 20 dogs.
If possible NAS will send kennels to the communities in order to transport the animals to Iqaluit. This service is provided for free.
The problem is it may take three to seven days to reach a community depending on weather conditions and airline schedules. Since many communities do not have holding pens, it is difficult for them to take advantage of the services, explained Kennedy.
Despite all these challenges however, NAS has managed provide help to the animals.
In communities like Pangnirtung where neuter clinics have been introduced by NAS, the number of dogs being sent to Iqaluit has “dramatically dropped.”
“We used to get calls every week, now it’s like maybe once a month,” said Kennedy referring to Pangnirtung.
NAS is trying to get more funds to have neuter clinics in more communities.
In 2019, NAS rescued and rehabilitated about 600 dogs from the territory.
“We’ve been able to maintain our no kill animal shelter status,” stated Kennedy.
“I think we have a responsibility as humans to look after our companions (dogs) who look to us for their well being,” she said adding that NAS provides “an essential, often overlooked service, to the territory.”