Dog lovers are offering to reunite a First Nation’s family with the pet a rescue group wrongly removed from the community in June.
Many have offered to transport Sammy, the brown Labrador Retriever, from her adoptive home in Ontario back to Pimicikamak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba for only the cost of fuel.
But mediation with community officials has failed and Kelley Ward, the founder of Barrie, Ont.-based Lost Boys Hope (LBH), said she can’t get the dog back from its new owner.
“As many are aware my rescue and myself have been under major scrutiny over two owned dogs that were mistakenly taken from our recent rescue mission to Cross Lake Mb.,” Kelley Ward said online.
“We at LBH know the whole truth and know what we have done to assist in this matter,” she added in the post, “and feel any ‘reasoning’ with these vigilantes is ridiculous.”
Ward didn’t explain who the ‘vigilantes’ were but debate about the missing dogs has raged for months with people donating money, offering to pay travel expenses and even wanting to make the +30-hour one-way road trip.
“I am in Ontario and am willing to donate my time to help transporting Sammy,” said Janet Elaine on Facebook. “I live about 2hrs from Barrie, and could pick up and drive the first leg.”
Andrea MacIvor, a teacher in the First Nation about 10 hours north of Winnipeg, said police are investigating why Sammy was put in a foster home and then adopted after being identified as a missing family pet.
Manitoba RCMP confirmed to APTN News they are working with Ontario RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police.
The wait has been hard on Sammy’s family, said her original owner Hilaree Monias.
“Sammy’s family misses her. PLEASE contact us and send her home,” Monias said on Facebook. “We will cover vet bills, repay the adoption fee paid to LBH, and pay for transport.”
Monias posted two videos on Facebook showing her young son with the dog he calls “Dammy.”
LBH told APTN it took two family dogs in error when it helped Manitoba Animal Alliance (MAA) collect more than 100 stray and surrendered dogs from Pimicikamak earlier this summer.
The volunteer-led effort helps the community keep the dog population under control and healthy.
The other family pet – a German shepherd mix named Kujoe – was returned to his 12-year-old owner, Reyna McLeod, in August with the help of mediation.
“Kujoe’s homecoming was really emotional,” said MacIvor, Reyna’s teacher.
“When he got off the plane he sniffed the rest of us, but with Reyna he walked into her arms and started licking the tears off her face. It was heart-wrenching watching her cry.”
MacIvor said dog lovers from across Canada and the U.S. have contributed towards Sammy’s return raising about $1,400.
“While the RCMP are investigating, it would be absolutely amazing if the person who adopted Sammy would contact our local leadership (or me) and make arrangements to send Sammy home,” MacIvor said on her Facebook page.
“To the Adopter: We will reimburse any vetting costs. We will repay you the adoption fee you paid the Lost Boys Hope rescue. We will pay for transportation.”
Ward charges around $600 in adoption fees for what she calls “Manitoba designer dogs.” Her group’s mission is to “help First Nations communities” by rehoming stray and unwanted dogs in Ontario, it stated on its website.
“Most of our dogs are from Northern Manitoba Reserves where vet care and food are scarce,” the website said.
“Dogs are left to breed causing extreme overpopulation in the 100s. Dog culls or shoots are an occurrence in some of these communities, with no other quick solution to keep their communities safe.”
LBH recently picked up more dogs in a different northern Manitoba First Nation but, officials said, is no longer welcome in Cross Lake or working with MAA.
Officials in Cross Lake told APTN they have not had a dog cull in decades preferring to concentrate on educating pet owners about responsible care.