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Post-Olympic slaughter of 100 sled dogs prompts rage, embarrassment

By jim Published: February 1, 2011

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- An organization that fights animal abuse is calling the slaughter of up to 100 sled dogs by an outdoor adventure company in British Columbia a bloodbath and police are investigating.

A report filed by WorkSafeBC on a claim for compensation for post-traumatic distress disorder sets out the details of the killings in graphic detail.

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Read The Globe and Mail story.

Below is the Associated Press story.

100 dogs in Canada killed after business slows

WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — About 100 sled dogs, some badly maimed and writhing in pain, were killed and dumped in a mass grave after bookings dropped sharply for a tour operator following the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The gruesome event was described in documents awarding compensation to a worker who claimed post-traumatic stress disorder after having to shoot the dogs.

Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the incident left her sickened and called it an "absolutely criminal code offense."

Both the B.C. SPCA and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating the slaughter.

Moriarty said some of the dogs were shot in the head, but others clearly suffered and did not die instantly.

"There aren't words to really describe some of the ways these dogs died," said Moriarty. "I think what gets to me, too, is that every other dog watched. And just the sheer number of dogs."

"We don't put cows down like that. Slaughterhouses have very strict rules for how supposed culling takes place. This violated every one of them," she said.

An employee of Outdoor Adventures Whistler was awarded compensation in a ruling by WorkSafe BC, the provincial body that manages workers' compensation claims. Outdoor Adventures did not contest the man's compensation claims.

The WorkSafe documents are confidential, but Moriarty has read them as part of the society's investigation.

The WorkSafe documents were obtained by radio station CKNW. The station reported the man was attacked at least twice by nearby dogs as the shootings occurred. He was forced to slit the throat of one animal who jumped on top of him.

The name of the man who killed the dogs has not been released, but his lawyer, Cory Steinberg, told CKNW that it was "the worst experience (the man) could ever have imagined."

The documents reveal bookings for dog sled tours collapsed after the Olympics and when the company could not find homes for its animals, it ordered the cull. The dogs, which were part of a pack of 300, were shot over two days last April.

"He was essentially told to figure out a way to make (the business) more cost-effective. They just had to have less dogs. So he did everything he could finding homes for them, having them adopted, every which way that he could," Steinberg said Monday.

Graham Aldcroft, a spokesman for the company, said Outdoor Adventures had a financial stake in a company called Howling Dogs in Whistler for four years, but operational control of Howling Dogs was with the worker referred to in the WorkSafe B.C. documents.

"While we were aware of the relocation and euthanization of dogs at Howling Dog Tours, we were completely unaware of the details of the incident until reading the. . . document Sunday," Aldcroft said in the statement.

Outdoor Adventures took over control of Howling Dogs in May, Aldcroft said. He said it is now company policy that animals needing to be euthanized are treated at a veterinarian's office.

Rich Bittner, the operator of Howling Dogs in Canmore, Alberta, said he sold his 50 per cent interest in the Whistler operation in 2004 to a man named Bob Fawcett. He said the Whistler tour operator was supposed to change the name because Howling Dogs was no longer involved.

Dog-sled tour operators in the tight-knit mushing community in British Columbia expresed outrage over the killings. Several operators said they routinely adopt dogs from other companies, but were not asked to take any from Whistler in early 2010.

Tim Tedford, who runs dog sled tours in the Big White area, near Kelowna, said, "That behavior doesn't sound like a real musher."

"Most mushers love their dogs. That sounds more like an accountant to me. Most mushers would starve themselves before they'd ever neglect their dogs," he said.

An online site offering support to people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder includes several postings made under the name of Bob Fawcett. It could not be immediately determined if these postings were made by the man who bought the dog-sled tour company in 2004.

"I've had a pretty horrible ordeal," said one of the postings. "I live in Whistler, B.C. I was forced to kill and it has pretty much destroyed my soul." The post does not elaborate.

Another posting was accompanied by a photo taken from "a dog sled race last year" that shows a man on an apparent winter camp-out with two dogs.

Following revelatons of the slaughter, the Vancouver Humane Society on Monday called for a ban on the sled-dog tour business.

Craig Daniell, executive officer of the SPCA, said he's angry that WorkSafe BC kept the information about the dog slaughter under wraps for months.

"It's absolutely apparent from the facts that are in the WorkSafe document that these are horrendous cases of animal cruelty," he said.

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