Seal off dogs

This week's editorial looks at recent animal encounters on the North Island.

A couple of incidents on the North Island last week served as reminders that we must be careful not to treat wild animals as pets, and that just as much care is needed to ensure pets do not behave as wild animals.

Last Friday’s release of a pair of juvenile harbour seals, rescued as pups and rehabilitated by staff at Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, provided a learning experience for local schoolchildren and residents.

Titan, a male seal released at Jeune Landing near the dryland sort where he was found by local loggers, scooted from his open crate to the waters of Neurotsis Inlet, only to turn around and come back to the shore to get a close look at the crowd of Sea View Elementary students assembled to witness the event.

Asked if the seal had become attached to humans during his three months at the rescue centre, Taryn Robinson of Vancouver Aquarium demurred.

“These are naturally curious animals, even in the wild,” said Robinson. “They tolerated us during their rehabilitation, but they’re definitely wild animals.”

The cane corso Italian mastiff, on the other hand, is a domesticated dog. But the huge breed is descended from Roman war dogs and in more modern times was used as a hunter of large animals, including wild boar.

The thrill of the hunt apparently still drives a pair of local mastiffs, who had already been reported for threatening behaviour before they left their unfenced property in the heart of Port Hardy and crossed the street to attack and injure both a smaller dog and its owner just five days before the seals’ release.

The District of Port Hardy has an animal control bylaw. By itself, the bylaw cannot prevent an attack, but it has provisions to prevent a repeat incident. We sincerely hope the agreement between the District and the owner of the mastiffs accomplishes this, but we’d feel more confident if all of the bylaw’s provisions, rather than “many”, were being applied.

Even elementary school children know it’s wrong to approach animals in the wild, no matter how cute and cuddly they might look. It’s just as wrong for a civic authority to allow its citizens to be terrorized — and injured — by animals living in the community.

 

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