By Leigh Armstrong
A transient in town with 10 dogs living in his truck was given a ferry ticket to Haines by Skagway police on June 29.
The man, whom police would not identify, arrived in town the week of June 24 and was staying in Dyea, camping out in his vehicle with the dogs. He had driven in from Canada, hoping to find work and a place to stay but wasn’t successful, Police Chief Ray Leggett said.
The man was driving a Dodge 4×4, with eight of the dogs in the back and two in the front. The truck had a hard-shell cover. The man declined an interview with the Skagway News.
“(Getting a ticket out of town) has benefited many people,” Leggett said. “They get stuck here in town with no money. Where can they stay?”
Funds for the tickets typically come from donations, Leggett said.
The police department had received numerous calls about the man from people worrying about his dogs in the hot weather. On June 27, when the man was in downtown Skagway with the dogs, temperatures reached a high of 89 degrees. At that temperature, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates the interior in a vehicle would climb to 104-109 degrees after 10 minutes, rising to 130-135 degrees within the hour.
Skagway police didn’t take any action because the man wasn’t violating any laws, Leggett said. The man got through the border, which requires dogs to be in safe and healthy conditions and have shots and health paperwork up to date, the chief said.
Under Skagway municipal code, it is unlawful for anyone to “have an animal within, on or attached to a motor vehicle under conditions that may endanger the health, safety or welfare of the animal, including but not limited to insufficient control or extreme temperature.”
Paws and Claws Animal Shelter offered its support to the dogs while the man was in town, supplying dog food and other support for the animals.
“Please contact Paws and Claws if you are living in your vehicle and have nowhere else to keep your dog during the day. They may be able to help you. It is too hot for dogs in vehicles right now,” Paws and Claws employee Katherine Selmer Moseley wrote in a public Facebook post on June 27.
Leggett said he wants the police to help support people in town while keeping the peace, and arrests and tickets are a last resort. Officers have arranged for ferry tickets in the past for people who need more help than Skagway can provide, like mental health care or community housing, the chief said.
There are shelters available in Juneau. At times, Leggett has called ahead to help arrange a place for the person to stay and treatment if they were suffering from a mental illness.
“We helped him get unstuck,” he said. “We’re not just kicking people out of town. We’re trying to help them.”
The man requested a ticket to Haines. Leggett said he has heard the man now has a job there.