Dog-Related Public Health Crises
Full Public Health pdf Document
Aboriginal communities have expressed serious public health concerns1 regarding out-of-control
dog populations. Dog overpopulation negatively impacts community public health through
dog bites, pack aggression, mauling deaths, zoonotic disease transmission2, and animal
suffering. Neglecting dog populations and their derivative problems has a negative
psychological impact on children and is linked to subsequent violent offences within
a community3. Aboriginal communities should not be held hostage by dogs and children
should not have to suffer bite wounds or mauling deaths from dogs at rates over 100
times above the rest of Canada. These dog-related public health crises are a direct
result of the lack of veterinary infrastructure services to our communities.
1. Bites, Pack Aggression, and Mauling Deaths:
Dog bites and mauling deaths, either by a single dog or through a dog pack, will
be addressed together for general discussion purposes. It is easy to understand how
uncontrolled dog populations and dog overpopulation will result in increased opportunities
for bites and mauling deaths. Increased levels of these problems, above Canadian
national averages, should trigger a public health crisis. Unfortunately, Health Canada
officials, First Nation and Inuit Health Branch,
- Only record a small fraction of the dog bites occurring in nation communities;
- Do not adjust these “reported” dog bite values to better reflect the extent of the
- Do not make First Nation dog bite data available for public scrutiny; and,
- Will not fund public health solutions related to dog management because they do not
have an established program through which to flow funding. Unfortunately, Health
Canada will also not fund pilot projects to develop fundable programs for dog-related
public health solutions.
It is therefore “conveniently” impossible for to measure and publish the significance
of dog bite problems for appropriate resource allocation; and, it is impossible to
obtain funding to develop or implement programs to decrease the number of dog bite
and mauling deaths in Aboriginal communities. Fortunately, newspapers cover horrific
incidents, including dog child mauling deaths. While child mauling deaths represent
only the most extreme dog bite scenario, they give a clear picture of the dog attack
public health crises magnitude in Canada’s Aboriginal communities.
A search of the CBC archives yielded 11 dog mauling deaths January 1998 and April
20074 in Canada. This rate is in general agreement with published Canadian dog mauling
death rates5. All of these deaths were in children under eight-years-old and seven
occurred in Inuit or First Nation communities. When adjusted for on-reserve Nation
populations6, children living on-reserve were 180 times more likely to be killed
by a dog then children living off-reserve. While it can not assume dog biting incidents
are equally disproportionate in their representation within Nation communities, it
can be assumed that they are very high and of significant public health concern.
Unconfirmed reports place on-reserve dog bite incidents 20-100 times above those
in the rest of Canada. This is a public health crisis in progress!
2. Zoonotic Disease:
There is a long list of zoonotic diseases that may be expected to transmit from dogs
to citizens in Aboriginal communities7. The most notable is rabies. Rabies is a virus
disease spread predominantly through saliva during biting. However, it can also be
spread through the air in bat colonies, by ingestion or contact with infected tissues,
transplacental, and rarely through the environment8. Rabies started as a northern
disease in arctic fox and then spread through the Americas adapting to other animal
species. The incubation period can vary from three weeks to five months. Rabies is
a fatal disease with no cure. If exposed, the disease can be prevented from progressing
with post-exposure vaccinations given within 10 days of exposure. After that time,
rabies invariably progresses to death. Any one can be exposed to rabies through saliva
and bites but trappers, hunters, and citizens can also be exposed through the processing
and eating of wildlife. Rabies is always present, endemic, in Canada.
Dogs are still the primary source of rabies infection in Aboriginal communities.
Each community’s dog population forms a barrier between its citizens and rabies infected
wildlife. If 70% or more of a community’s dogs are vaccinated against rabies, the
community will be protected from a rabies outbreak. Aboriginal communities currently
do not meet the 70% dog vaccination target for community protection but non-native
communities do. This is because:
- “Federal” Aboriginal communities are not serviced by “provincial” veterinary services;
- Aboriginal communities are not permitted to own or operate veterinary facilities;
- Health Canada policies will not allow federal veterinary authorities (Canadian Food
Inspection Agency - CFIA) to aid Aboriginal communities with dog rabies vaccinations
until after a rabies outbreak begins and is verified;
- Dog rabies vaccinations are not mandatory in any given region unless an area is declared
rabies endemic (always present) by provincial health authorities (even though provincial
health authorities have no jurisdiction over federal Aboriginal communities);
- Provincial health authorities will not declare Northern regions (populated by remote
Aboriginal communities) rabies endemic citing that CFIA rabies monitoring evidence
from wild and domestic animals indicates rabies is not in the north. This despite
the fact rabies started as, and still is, an arctic fox disease and therefore endemic
in all of northern Canada;
- The CFIA will not monitor for rabies in wild and domestic animals in the north citing
provincial health authorities have not declared these areas rabies endemic, and,
the North is therefore not eligible for the CFIA rabies monitoring program; and,
- If the North is not declared rabies endemic, not either the provincial or federal
governments need to provide access to veterinary services in remote Aboriginal communities
for mandatory rabies vaccination programs (programs which can’t be developed because
Health Canada will not fund pilot program development).
Translating the above government rhetoric, Aboriginal communities are left exposed
to recurrent rabies outbreaks simply because provincial and federal Canadian governments
do not want to provide funds for remote First Nation community access to veterinary
services. When will there be consistent vaccination programs to prevent rabies-related
public health crises for Aboriginal people? Rabies is a preventable catastrophe waiting
to happen ...... again.
3. Animal Suffering:
The relation between dog suffering and public health is still not general knowledge.
Causing or ignoring animal suffering is defined as cruelty to animals. Cruelty to
animals has a devastating psychological impact on young children witnessing the act.
The willful act of causing or ignoring animal suffering is also linked to subsequent
violent offences against people. This is especially true in domestic violence9. Questionnaires
administered to battered women in Canadian shelters indicated that 75 per cent of
battered women who had pets reported that their aggressor had also injured or killed
one or more of their pets. The act of children throwing stones at or hitting unwanted
dogs with sticks, even in self-defense, can lead to escalating violent behaviors
in these children. Children that see dogs they play with shot, trapped, or poisoned
will be psychologically impacted, even if these dogs were killed to control the dog
population. The reason for this is that people bond to a dog in the same way they
bond to family members. People bond well with dogs because dogs also have a similar
need for a family unit. In essence, dogs bond to people the same way people bond
to dogs. This bonding is called the human animal bond. A dog can be a powerful source
of unconditional love through this bond. Abuse of this human animal bond is part
of the cycle of abuse seen in domestic violence. Our judges, health professionals
and law enforcement officers have linked animal abuse to the bigger problem of violence
in society3. The evidence for this “link” is that virtually every serial killer and
almost every habitual violent offender began by torturing or killing animals.
Out-of control dog populations in Aboriginal communities will result in unnecessary
dog suffering and increased willful and neglectful acts of cruelty. The willful act
of causing or ignoring cruelty to animals has a negative impact on a community’s
mental, social, and physical health. It is also part of an escalating level of domestic
violence. Current statistics indicate that on-reserve communities have an 8 times
higher violent crime rate then the rest of Canada10. Preventing animal cruelty is
part of breaking the cycle of violence plaguing Aboriginal communities. Animal cruelty
is a major public health concern and is at crisis levels in many Aboriginal communities!
1. Environmental Contaminants & Traditional Foods Workshop Final Report. March 15,
2004. Page 28. Environmental Research Division, First Nation and Inuit Health Branch,
Health Canada. Thunder Bay, Ontario, February 10-11, 2004.
2. Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be spread from wild or domestic animals
3. Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer. March 29, 2004. Senate speech on Bill C22, to amend
the criminal code (cruelty to animals).
4. 1998, Stouffville, ON; 1998, Cross Lake, MB; 1999, Garden River, AB; 1999, Lutsel’ke,
NWT; 2002, Barrie, ON; 2003, Kingston Peninsula, NB; 2003, Nelson House, MB; 2004,
Vancouver, BC; 2006, Tadoule Lake, MB; 2006, Hollow Water, MB; 2006, North Tallcree,
AB. CBC News Archives.
5. Jasline Florea, Janet Brown, Susan G. Mackenzie, & Pierre Maurice. Innovative
CHIRPP project focuses on dog bites. Canadian Hospital Injury Reporting and Prevention
Program. CHIRPP NEWS, issue 11, July 1997. Health Canada, Population.
6. 2001 Census, Standard Data Products, Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, Statistics
7. Examples: Rabies, tuberculosis, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, scabies, cryptococcosis,
psittacosis, campylobacteriosis, yersiniosis, leptospirosis, brucellosis, echinococcosis,
visceral larval migrans, strongyloidiasis, giardiasis, trichinosis, blastomycosis,
tularaemia, and etc.
8. Greene, C. E. & Dreesen, D.W. Rabies. In C.E.Greene’s (Ed) Infectious Disease
of the Dog and Cat. Philadelphia, W.B. Saunders Company, 1990, pp 365-383.
9. Ascione, Frank R., Battered Women's Reports of Their Partners' and Their Children's
Cruelty to Animals, Journal of Emotional Abuse, Vol. 1(1) 1998.
10. Juristat, Victimization and offending among the Aboriginal population in Canada.
Statistics Canada - Catalogue No. 85-002-XIE, Vol 26, No.3, 2006.
© Christian Aboriginal Infrastructure Developments
Last Updated September 15, 2015