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Women claim rescue dogs 'stolen' from northern Manitoba reserve

'They came in and ended up taking dogs that are owned while we were in the middle of a pandemic lockdown,' says woman; Group denies allegations

Concerns are being raised that at least two dogs transported from a northern Manitoba community to a Simcoe County animal rescue had homes and were not strays at all.

Allegations made by a local woman and another living at the Cross Lake Indian Reserve say Lost Boys Hope (LBH) is refusing to return two dogs who were “accidentally” brought to Ontario from the reserve in early June following a round-up of strays by Lost Boys and the Manitoba Animal Alliance.

“They came in and ended up taking dogs that are owned while we were in the middle of a pandemic lockdown,” says Andrea MacIvor, who works as a teacher in Cross Lake, Man.

She says two dogs, referred to as Sammy and Kujoe, have been traced back to Simcoe County.

According to MacIvor, an 11-year-old girl got on her bike the day of the round-up to search the community looking for her dog 'Kujoe', but couldn’t find him anywhere.

As well, she notes the girl went to the community arena where the stray dogs were being held prior to being transported to Ontario; the girl was denied entrance and told there were no dogs matching the description of her dog.

“They did all the things that concerned owners do,” she says, noting she teaches the girl at the local school.

Many people living in Cross Lake are upset about what has occurred, MacIvor says.

“Our whole community is behind this," she says.

Area resident Colleen Howe, who was fostering a dog for Lost Boys, says the organization founded by Kelley Ward knows the location of the two dogs.

“I straight up asked the foster co-ordinator what’s going on, because it’s really spiralling out of control here,” says Howe, who works as a registered nurse.

“Two dogs were taken by accident that didn’t have surrender papers,” she says, noting the Manitoba group wants the dogs returned.

Howe says she was initially hesitant to speak out because she worried for the health of the a Manitoba dog she was fostering that had a litter of puppies.

“Mellow’s been here for four months,” she says, noting that once the agency heard about her concerns, it immediately called police to seize Mellow from Howe’s care. “This has been really overwhelming. She needs to return these dogs.”

According to Howe, the two dogs have since been adopted, but declined to divulge the location, only that they’re in Simcoe County.

But Lost Boys Hope founder Kelley Ward strongly refutes the allegations against her and the organization, adding that they were invited to the reserve because of their previous work there.

“There's a lot going on behind the scenes that these people who are interfering don't know about,” says Ward, who refuted Howe's claims regarding Mellow, pointing out the dog was scheduled to be moved that day to a different foster, but Howe refused to give her to the volunteers who organized the pickup.

As for the Manitoba dogs in question, Ward says she's waiting for the band chief and council to determine how to proceed.

As well, Ward says the family claiming to own 'Kujoe' has consistently failed to identify the canine through photos and that her organization had nothing to do with turning the girl away at the arena.

“In regards to the one dog, the owners have actually misidentified the dog three times,” she says. “The potential owners of the one dog sent us pictures that were several months old (and) didn't particularly match the dog. So I mean that the identity of the dog is in question.

“I tried to deal with the families; the families called me and they weren't willing to even hear what I had to say to them. They called me a racist. Then they had the little girl message me."

But Ward says she doesn’t think a young girl should be involved in a situation like this.

“I politely told the little girl I wouldn't have an adult conversation with her and then I got accused of blocking the little girl and being insensitive, but I mean, you don't have conversations like this with an 11-year-old.”

As well, she says Lost Boys always works hard to ensure it’s not leaving with an “owned” dog as volunteers work diligently while taking a number of steps, including knocking on doors throughout the community to see if people recognize any of the animals.

“Andrea MacIvor’s side of the story is very conveniently weaved,” Ward said. “And there's a lot of things that were going on behind the scenes that Andrea hasn't mentioned.

"There was at no point any locals in the staging area (arena) to 'identify' any dogs nor have I ever seen a local come around giving certification and signing surrenders for 'strays.'"

Ward says this marked the second time Lost Boys has been involved in a rescue operation.

"(The) first time we pulled close to 90 and had no surrender or protocols done for them. This time, 42 were pulled and I have five surrenders from owners because I personally got them knocking on doors asking community members whose dog it is and if they wanted to surrender."

Ward says that since Lost Boys is a non-profit organization, it would also need to be compensated for veterinary care that includes spaying or neutering and vaccinations.

“One dog, in particular, has some health concerns that we're still actually dealing with," Ward says.

As well, Ward says she’s even been getting mixed messages from the band chief.

“Two weeks after the fact, the chief sent a message and said ‘do not send these dogs back,’” Ward says, adding she received a message last week reversing that earlier communication.

Inquiries to the band's office weren't returned in time for publication.

“We've been trying to work with them for weeks now,” Ward explains. "My question was, well, who is going to pay for the vet bills that we now have incurred on these dogs? Somebody needs pay for this because obviously we're a non-profit, and this money, we just don't give this money away.”

MacIvor says LBH and the Manitoba group held a successful veterinary clinic in Cross Lake last fall.

“We’ve never had any kind of issues before,” she says, noting the nearest veterinarian lives three hours away. “Most people in dog rescue are very kind people who just want to help.”

As well, MacIvor says there’s a protocol in place when dog rescues come into town.

“The local radio announces to keep owned dogs inside because a rescue is taking strays,” she said, noting the location of the rescue is announced so if a dog goes missing people can find their dog.

“Photos of the stray dogs pulled by the rescue are posted on a local Facebook page. Finally, a surrender document is signed.  If the dog is owned, the owner signs it. In the case of a stray, a local who can verify the dog as a stray will sign the surrender form.”

In this case, MacIvor says the surrender forms had not been signed and the owners have asked for their dogs back.

“Two of these owners have persisted in trying to regain their animals,” she says. “Kelley refuses to give the dogs back and has not — to the best of my knowledge — provided any of the vetting forms for the dogs, as she said at one point if the vetting was covered she'd return them. Our chief has even asked for the dogs back twice.”

But Ward also questions the women’s motives, saying they seem more interested in "drama."

“Andrea and her friends are playing this out online like we're just avoiding them, which isn't the case," she says. "We just choose not to display the circus online...because it's just impossible to get them to make any sense of the conversation.

“So we've chosen to sort of stay silent and deal with the people that we are supposed to be dealing with. Right now, I'm sort of in a standstill waiting to hear back from (band) leadership as to know what to do. I'm dealing with the leadership because that's who seems to be the person to deal with."


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Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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