Photo cred - Pet Luck

You may remember reading about the poor dog stranded on a hunk of ice on the St. Lawrence River that was left to fend for itself, as local authorities reportedly deemed the animal not their responsibility.

Or did they?

On January 31st, France Allaire was aboard a ferry on the St. Lawrence River near the municipality of Saint-Ignace-de-Loyola, when she spotted what appeared to be a dog floating on a small piece of ice. After making a call to 911, Allaire claims to have been told that nothing would be done to rescue the dog because it was a domestic -- not wild, animal -- not human.

“I called 911, but they transferred me to the Coast Guard,” Allaire told Radio Canada. “The Coast Guard could not take care of it because it was not a human. Then they transferred me to the Department of Wildlife, but they too could not deal with it because it was not a wild animal." [translated via google translate]

After the now-famous photo of the dog was posted to social media, and sent to TVA news, it reached concerned animal lovers across Quebec and beyond. Over the following days, officials from the nearby city of Sorel-Tracy were inundated with calls and emails demanding something be done. This prompted the city to issue a February 3rd statement claiming that the Coast Guard and local ships were on the lookout during their routine activities, but that beyond the initial sighting the dog was not spotted again.

Allaire also noted, “It was in front of our eyes for four or five minutes before losing sight, because the current was very strong.”

After enough online uproar, Urgences Animales, a private animal rescue team that had recently gone under due to lack of funding, reassembled to search for the dog. By then however, it had been nearly four days since the first and only sighting, and was obviously too late.

Within weeks following the incident on the St. Lawrence, numerous other accounts of dogs being saved from icy waterways made the rounds on news sites and social media. Coast Guards donning ice rescue gear pulled a dog from Betsie Bay in Frankfort, Mich on February 4th. On February 7th, a dog was rescued by the fire department after falling through the ice into a reservoir in Williamton Del., the same day a dog was also rescued in Rochester MN after falling through ice at a quarry.

These stories left many of us asking, ‘What the hell?!’ So we decided to ask local authorities just that.

In contrast to previous reports, Sgt. Ronald McInnis of the Sûreté du Québec says police actually will rescue animals. In fact, they just rescued a different dog from the St. Lawrence River on February 5th, though that story failed to go viral. “We don’t risk our life for a dog,” he says, “but if there’s no danger, we’re going to do it.”

So why didn’t they rescue the dog spotted on Super Bowl Sunday? Simple lack of communication, it seems. “It happened on the Sunday, but we didn’t receive a call until the Monday,” McInnis says. Police did go looking at that time, but could not see the dog.

And what about the Coast Guard, the officials who were initially notified that fateful Sunday? Pascale Fortin from Fisheries and Oceans tells us the Coast Guard doesn’t actually have any policies against rescuing animals, but will only do so if they happen to be in the area. “Our first mandate is to support the search of persons, ships, and other crafts which are, or are feared to be in imminent distress”, she says. “In this case, we weren’t in the sector where the dog was supposedly located”. Alas, they were busy breaking ice somewhere else.

Some of the mystery dog’s newest Facebook friends, who have assembled in various groups including Plus Jamais Seul, Mon Chum (You will never be alone again, my friend), have begun to speculate that perhaps the dog floated to safety on its own, or that maybe it wasn’t a dog at all, but a deer. Overall though, the tone continues to be one of anger with authorities.

Though we may never know what became of the animal on the ice, one thing can be said for sure, that for a place recently named "the best province to be an animal abuser", Quebecers sure do care a lot about animal welfare; well, at least the ones armed with social media, perhaps less so the ones armed with rescue ships.

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