A Yellowknife dog owner has expressed her distress on discovering an NWT renewable resource officer disposed of her deceased pet in a dumpster, without notifying her.
Kaja Kotulak’s nine-year-old Siberian husky, Greenie, went missing on a hike in April. For weeks, Kotulak put up posters and shared details online as she searched for her dog.
An officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) was called to the Yellowknife River day-use area on Saturday, June 15, by a member of the public who had seen a dog’s body in the water.
Only two days later did Kotulak discover, through a message from one of the officer’s friends, that the officer had discovered Greenie – and put the dead dog in a dumpster at the day-use area.
The department confirmed the officer’s actions to Cabin Radio. A spokesperson said the officer had been trying to dispose of the dog “as discreetly as possible” as there were children in the vicinity.
However, Kotulak – who, on hearing of her dog’s fate, travelled to the dumpster with a friend to retrieve the body – said Greenie’s tag, including her owner’s contact information, was clearly visible.
“We found the bag with her in it. There’s just a little bit of a hole on top, and her tag was right there,” Kotulak told Cabin Radio. “You can clearly see the number.
“I just broke apart,” she said. “Greenie was the biggest sweetheart. She would never hurt a fly – she was a truly, truly sweet dog.
“Obviously, she didn’t deserve that. No dog deserves that.”
Kotulak subsequently found the officer at an ENR building in Yellowknife.
“I drive down there, go in the office, and I want answers,” Kotulak said. “She [the officer] right away said, ‘Yep, that was me.’ She thought she did the right thing. I had no words.
“She said, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t do it to your standards.’
“I don’t like confrontation and dragging people through the dirt. All I want is that this is never, ever going to happen again.”
Who had responsibility?
In a statement, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources defended its officer’s actions.
“The officer did not notice a collar or tag, and was therefore unable to contact the owner to notify them that their dog had been located at the time of the incident response,” the department stated.
“Had a collar or tag been noticed, the officer would certainly have followed up with the owner to notify them that their dog had been found deceased.”
Kotulak said the officer admitted having seen posters about the missing Greenie immediately after disposing of the dog.
“If the dog doesn’t have a tag on, call the vet clinic,” Kotulak, speaking later to Cabin Radio, urged anyone in a similar position. “They can check if it is microchipped or they might know the dog.
“Call bylaw if it’s not way out there. It’s not safe to dump a dog in a dumpster.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the officer had tried to call municipal enforcement to the scene – as officers are instructed to “avoid dealing with cases of domestic animals” – but, according to ENR, the officer “was told by bylaw officers that the location was outside of their jurisdiction.”
Cabin Radio understands the City of Yellowknife’s municipal enforcement division disputes this account of what took place.
However, the City – approached for comment on Wednesday – was not able to provide a response by Sunday.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, asked whether this was lawful disposal of a dog, did not directly answer the question but stated: “Municipalities may have specific bylaws related to the disposal of domestic animals. Please follow up with the appropriate municipal enforcement division for more information. Should someone find a deceased domestic animal, we would advise they contact their local municipal office/bylaw.”
The City of Yellowknife, also approached about those matters on Wednesday, did not provide comment regarding which authority has jurisdiction over removal of dead animals from the Yellowknife River day-use area, and did not state whether any of the City’s bylaws expressly deal with disposal of deceased domestic animals.
Anger ‘won’t bring her back’
Nicole Spencer, president of the NWT SPCA animal shelter based in Yellowknife, expressed surprise that more steps had not been taken to reunite Greenie with her owner.
“In this instance, if that person had found the dog, they could have messaged us or contacted us and we could have posted it,” Spencer told Cabin Radio. “I knew exactly who the dog was, I would have called Kaja.
“If somebody finds a dog … it could be horribly decomposed. But [ENR officers] are used to dealing with deceased wildlife. I’m sure they could have come up with something else. There have to be protocols in place for that.
“It’s distressing to find an animal [but] if you can get it to a dumpster, there must be other means. It’s just wrong, to me.”
Kotulak, who had owned Greenie for the past two years, stressed she simply wished for no other dog owner to experience anything similar.
“I don’t have any bad feelings against ENR,” said Kotulak. “I can’t even feel angry, it’s not going to bring her back again.
“I just feel really sad. I just don’t want this to happen again.”