WHITEHORSE — The owner of a Yukon rescue operation says 10 dogs have been euthanized because no other option existed, but a lawyer maintains the animals should have been surrendered in compliance with a court order.
Shelley Cuthbert of Any Domesticated Animal Rescue and Boarding Kennels said the dogs were euthanized on her property and died in her arms last Thursday.
“I was backed into a corner, so I had no choice,” she said, adding the action was taken to comply with a Yukon Supreme Court order.
Cuthbert has been embroiled in a court battle with six neighbours in a rural area in Tagish. They filed a nuisance lawsuit over 50 to 60 dogs at the facility.
Justice Leigh Gower ruled against Cuthbert following a four-day trial last October. He granted an injunction requiring Cuthbert to shut down her operation and reduce the number of dogs on her property to two by Feb. 11.
Cuthbert applied for a stay of the injunction and on Jan. 25, Justice John J.L. Hunter granted a partial stay of Gower’s order.
He ruled Cuthbert must surrender 10 dogs on the 15th of each month to the Yukon government’s Animal Health Unit until her appeal can be heard in May or the number of dogs has been reduced to 10.
On Feb. 12, Cuthbert applied to vary Hunter’s order. She requested she be permitted to place the dogs in specialized foster homes, have them returned to their former owners, and/or set up a temporary shelter at another location.
Graham Lang, a lawyer for Cuthbert’s neighbours, said he doesn’t believe it was necessary for the dogs to be euthanized.
“The order isn’t to euthanize 10 dogs, it’s to surrender them to the Animal Health Unit, who will assess and hopefully place them with the (Yukon) Humane Society,” he said.
Lang said Cuthbert took “drastic action” and that his clients have been “bending over backwards” trying to find a humane way to unwind the rescue operation.
The only way to reduce the number of dogs on the property by this summer is to begin rehoming them now, he said.
“The longer we wait to unwind this place in a humane manner the longer her neighbours are going to have to live with the noise.”
However, Cuthbert said she chose to euthanize the dogs while they were in her care because they don’t meet criteria to be adopted.
They are not good with young children, some have difficulty with other pets and wildlife or are too old, she said.
“Unfortunately, society feels that they’re disposable, and dogs are not disposable.”
Cuthbert said the Animal Health Unit respected her decision to euthanize the dogs.
Mary Vanderkop, chief veterinary officer with the unit, said that for privacy reasons, she could not confirm whether 10 dogs had been euthanized and/or surrendered.
Her neighbours began publicly expressing concerns about the operation when it opened in 2012.
They filed the nuisance suit in November 2016, saying there were no local bylaws against such nuisance.
In court documents filed by Cuthbert, the Carcross Tagish First Nation has indicated she is welcome to apply to lease property to relocate the rescue as soon as it has a lands registry in place.
Lang said that until then, Hunter’s order must stand to avoid ”a catastrophic situation with 50 dogs that have nowhere to go.”