(photo by Make Believe Photgraphy)
Shelley Cuthbert has achieved a certain measure of fame in the Yukon bit of Canada, but not in the way she would have preferred!
Shelley runs a rescue for dogs which require behavioral management. The goal of the rescue is to develop management plans for difficult dogs and adopt them out to people who have the experience and ability to manage such dogs. The rescue also boards other dogs long term, and handles dog control for the First Nations. Which makes the rescue a kind of revolving door for problem and unwanted dogs. Problem is she's been involved in a dispute over the last many months involving a few neighbours who seem to find living next to half a hundred dogs objectionable.
Understandable though that might be, the consequences of their annoyance have been piling up to a ridiculous level, actually to the point of driving Shelley and company from her personally owned home in the unincorporated settlement of Tagish, Yukon.
How this odd situation came about is a long story but to hit the key points: First of all its important to state that Shelley is a fully qualified mental health nurse who through a series of career choices ended up running a dog rescue in the Yukon. Obviously Shelley cares about the well-being of her animals. The evidence for that is everywhere you care to look. Feeding 50 dogs requires a thousand dollars a month for one example.
But nowhere is it more evident than in the fact that Shelley has actually chosen to adopt a homeless lifestyle rather than to take the obvious step of destroying her dogs, as her neighbours and a certain Yukon Judge clearly would have preferred her to do.
The striking thing about the situation is that a hundred years ago anyone owning 50 dogs would have been esteemed rather than despised as a "crazy dog lady" due to the fact that a large number of dogs back then represented success and prosperity. At the time of writing Shelley's whereabouts is unknown. Apparently, nobody but her and her 45 remaining dogs know just where she is, but it does beg the question: just how does one go about hiding 45 dogs?? There would be even more to hide but the courts have ordered at least some of them "euthanized" or "killed", in the local vernacular.
Now picture a woman cradling a 13 yr old dog that saved her daughter's life from CO2 poisoning, in her arms, as it slowly dies due to the lethal cocktail injected into its circulatory system by a veterinarian. Picture her being forced through fines and liens against her personally owned property to watch 4 of the dogs in her care destroyed this way until both the vet and herself were in tears and simply couldn't continue.
Thankfully the owners of the other 6 dogs came forward and spared her the ordeal of watching them die too. Unbelievably, Shelley has been held in contempt of court for Not following the courts order to have all the dogs in her care destroyed! Contempt of court! Are we North Korea? Yes it is annoying to be woken at 5 AM by the neighbours barking dogs, but using the court to force a woman to destroy her own family, for that is what a pet is to a single person, surely is a bit of overkill? And how is it even legally possible for the territorial court to force anyone to do anything regarding personal property in an unincorporated village? This has got to be one of the most ridiculous cases of coerced Gov't overreach ever attained in the once free Yukon.
As for Shelley, she's keeping up an amazingly positive attitude where many would simply despair, while she looks for a new situation for herself and her rather large and motley "dogteam" A place more isolated from neighbours, with any kind of rude shelter would be more than attractive to her at this point. And she can pay some rent. Any takers?
This head-scratcher makes you wonder though: was no other solution possible? What if the territory had made an offer of swapping her property for something less developed and more remote for instance? And what's with neighbours who choose to involve authorities in annoyance issues rather than taking a six-pack over and sitting down face to face to discuss the situation? Might that have prevented this sad scenario?
Follows a brief statement from Shelley Cuthbert herself: (slightly edited) "The dogs remaining at the time if the court case were my personal, other people's, and dogs whom do not meet the criteria set out by the Yukon government to be adopted. I choose to be homeless to prevent healthy dogs from losing their lives. (I agree the neighbours were adamant my dogs be handed over when the courts and everyone else were informed they would be killed) The vet was very empathic to the situation and supportive. There were 6 other dogs that previous owners requested they have the opportunity to euthanize (even though they had been surrendered to the rescue). These dogs were like my personal and had been with me for many yrs. In total 10 dogs lost their lives due to a court order demanding I surrender dogs to the government even though they did not meet their criteria to be safely adopted out due to liability issues. This effectively condemned them to death. It also needs to be said the neighbours are only seasonal and one neighbours lit is empty as he lives elsewhere. The one seasonal couple comes over on tourist visa every year. The neighbour who testified lives in Whitehorse and appears in Tagish periodically. The other two neighbours are also seasonal."
Come on Yukoners, in the spirit of this great region, lets find a better solution for Shelley and her animals than this!