No room for strays

Woman told to turn dog loose again after rescuing it from heavy-traffic area

Josh Pennell
Published on September 2, 2014
The friendly neutered male dog Hine Eloukkal found on Columbus Drive had no collar or chip. — Submitted photo

A woman who found a stray dog on Friday says she was dumbfounded to learn there was nowhere she could take the animal.

Hine Eloukkal was picking her husband up at the Nalcor building on Columbus Drive Friday afternoon when she saw a small dog almost get hit by several cars in the rush-hour traffic. She turned around and went back and a couple of vehicles had stopped.

“I called him and opened my door and he jumped into my lap,” she says.

The animal didn’t have a collar on. Fearing it would be killed or be the cause of an accident, if she let it loose again, Eloukkal immediately drove to Humane Services, but it was just after 5 p.m. and the building was closed.

She then went to the SPCA shelter, which was also closed for the day, but seeing some movement inside, she knocked on the door until somebody came out.

She says she explained the situation to the woman who asked where she found the dog. Eloukkal told her and the woman said the shelter was full and in addition, a stray animal in St. John’s is the city’s responsibility.

Eloukkal then asked the woman what she should do with the dog.

“She said ‘The city tells us to tell you to cut them loose.’ ”

As far as Eloukkal was concerned, that wasn’t an option.

“I said I cannot cut him loose. He’s a danger to other motorists and he’s going to kill himself.”

Living in a one-bedroom apartment downtown with four cats and no backyard, taking the dog home was not an option. Again, the woman reiterated that if Humane Services was closed and she couldn’t take the dog in herself, then the city says to turn them loose.

Eloukkal then called 311 but since Humane Services was closed and the dog did not have a tag for which an address could be looked up, there wasn’t anything the woman on the phone could do.

She ended up taking the animal to her vet, who scanned the dog for a microchip, but found none. The vet clinic agreed to keep the animal overnight.


Space limited

Kristy Bailey is the manager of the St. John’s SPCA shelter. She says if it has space available it will on occasion take in stray animals until Humane Services can pick them up, but it can’t offer space for every animal somebody wants to drop off.

“The reality is that I take in over 2,000 animals every year and people come to our door with stray dogs from St. John’s multiple times a week.”

There are plenty of days that it is full to capacity, she says, and on the weekends, Humane Services won’t come get animals from there. So the dog Eloukkal brought was in a hard spot.

“It would have meant that I would have to hold him until Tuesday, basically, and my shelter at the time was actually five dogs over capacity already with a scheduled surrender of a mom and seven puppies coming in,” Bailey says.

As for the cutting loose policy, she says it’s a real thing.

“The city policy is that if it is after hours they will tell them to safely house them themselves until regular hours or they will tell them to let them go.”

A call to 311 confirms this. If it’s after Humane Services hours and the animal has no tag for which an associated number or address can be looked up over the phone, the only option is for the animal to be turned loose unless the person calling can house it themselves.

“I don’t personally support that recommendation, but there’s only so much I can do as one organization,” says Bailey.

“I certainly appreciate that it’s not an ideal situation, but there’s only so many spots for lost and unwanted dogs to go.”

Later on Saturday, Eloukkal was notified that Humane Services was going to get the dog she had dropped off at her vet. Still, she wonders why the city is always warning people not to let animals off its leash when they sometimes tell people to turn found animals loose again.