Good and Terrible News of the Day

Yesterday’s news was a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster for anyone paying attention.

I will start with the good.

The good news is that Fort Collins, Colorado, has added its name to the list of cities considering a ban on retail pet sales.  Citizens in favour of the ban filed their petition last Friday and the issue will be in front of city council in April.  The ban in Fort Collins is one of the more extensive ones, proposing to ban the sale of dogs and cats, as well as birds, reptiles, rabbits, rodents, and other small animals.  This is awesome news, and I tip my proverbial hat to the petitioners in Fort Collins who took action.

Unfortunately, the good news of the day was severely overshadowed by the bad news of yesterday.   And while it completely depresses me to even think about it, I’ve decided I can’t go without mentioning it and ranting a little.

Unless you are living under a rock, you will have heard about the slaughter of 100 sled dogs that took place in Whistler, B.C. last April.

The rage and nausea that comes with this story is overwhelming, and it is so far beyond words that it’s hard to blog about without just reiterating the awful, gruesome details of the event and letting them speak for themselves.

Boycotting Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. should probably go without saying.

A number of whys and what-ifs ran through my head at lightning speed once I gathered the courage to actually read the full story (the headline is really bad enough).

Why did this just become known when the employee responsible for the “euthanasia” filed for compensation due to PTSD caused by this event?

How was shooting/throat slashing by a staff member the acceptable option when the chosen vet refused to participate in the “cull”?

Why didn’t the company try to sell/give away/donate the dogs to another sledding company?  Or a rescue organization? Or try to re-home the dogs as family pets?

The dogs were killed after a post-Olympic decline in business?  Does that suggest that the company obtained extra dogs just for the Olympic boom, with a following decline being obvious, and should have been accounted for?

And why the hell is the senseless killing of 100 perfectly healthy working dogs not somehow illegal?

Is really the only way the company is going to be forced to be held accountable because of some technicality – the “euthanasia” was not humane – and this otherwise would have been a-okay?  Yes, the instances of the dogs’ death is disgusting and horrifying, and anyone can see how PTSD would result, but the deaths themselves are really pretty upsetting.  (Outdoor Adventures has since ensured that all future euthanasias will be “treated at a vet’s office”.  Gee thanks.)

… Something tells me my “city/urban” understanding of dog guardianship results in the disconnect I have to the event, as evidenced by my last couple of questions, but I don’t really care.  “Working dogs” or not, I don’t like it.

So what now?

Well thankfully many other companies in Alberta and B.C. have come out against what Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. did, restoring some faith in the industry, and have even made a public request for mandatory inspections in their field.  While the proportions of the Whistler event may be staggering, these companies advise that it’s not unheard of for other organizations to euthanize healthy dogs when faced with hard times.  When contacted by the media, Canmore companies have spoken out against what happened in Whistler, ensuring that their policies are that euthanasia is only performed by a veterinarian and only in circumstances of severe illness or advanced age.

So what next?  Well, the RCMP are investigating (and will be attempting to locate the mass grave) and the BC SPCA will be seeking any relevant charges.

Update (Feb. 1, 2011): According to their website, Outdoor Adventures at Whistler has voluntarily suspended operations of the sled dog operator, Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. (unrelated to a Canmore company with a similar name).  Outdoor Adventures advises that it was aware of relocation and euthanization of dogs in April 2010, but did not instruct the euthanization of the dogs, and expected any actions to be carried out in a “proper, legal and humane manner”.

Federal animal cruelty laws in Canada fall under the Criminal Code.  And the horrible circumstances the dogs were “culled” under should certainly fall under “wilfully causes or, being the owner, wilfully permits to be caused unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal”.  So really, conviction should not be that difficult.

What about punishment?  And herein lies the problem.  Animal cruelty in Canada is not an indictable offence (unless cattle are involved).

So the maximum punishment? $2,000 and/or 6 months in jail.  That’s $20/dog.  Disgusting.

Since this event happened in B.C., it is also subject to B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which increases the fine to $5,000 ($10,000 for a second offence).

Not. Good. Enough.

Nunavut Tourism: Nunavut Sled Dogs


Update (February 23, 2011):  The Fort Collins pet store ban didn’t get through to city council because the petition fell short over 1,000 legitimate signatures.  So I guess this could really be re-titled to: The Bad and Terrible News of the Day.

About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

5 Responses to Good and Terrible News of the Day

  1. k. says:

    First, way to go Fort Collins!

    Next, to what has been bothering me as well since I read the story last night. I appreciate that you have talked about your urban/city views on pet ownership. I have also been struggling to reconcile my ‘guardianship’ views with the realities of working dogs and trying to understand the decision to kill any healthy dog, let alone a great number of dogs. The lack of foresight in obtaining a great number of living creatures for the sole purpose of generating revenue for a short period of time (the 2010 Olympics) is a horrifying black eye for Vancouver and Canada in the wake of what should have remained a glorious memory for all Canadians.

    Further it has opened my eyes to the industry of using animals for profit in general. I will not rally for a ban on all these activities but do believe it should be regulated and inspected. And just as I would with any company/breeder etc. in the animal industry, I will be sure to research and inspect using my own personal judgment before handing over my money and show of support.

    One article I read stated that in the past all dogs that needed to be put down was done in a humane manner by a qualified vet, which they have committed to going back to doing. The reasons given for putting a dogs down in the past were if they were old, sick, or there were unwanted puppies. UNWANTED PUPPIES? Any responsible pet owner who choses to keep their animals intact is able to prevent pregnancy. Is it really too much to expect a business caring for dogs to do the same?

    I am sorry for the rant, it is just so frustrating.


    • thatjenk says:

      I agree wholly with your rant and your frustration. It’s hard with stories like this to not digress into a humanity-sucks rant, and as hard as I try, it still makes me feel like crap even after venting. My urban-pet-perspective results in lots of dissatisfaction with the way it is – this kind of practice is not an anomaly.

      However, the note you made about personal research and inspection before giving money to companies that use animals is a really good small step we can all be reminded of when instances like this make headlines, so thank you for noting that.

  2. Kristine says:

    Yay for Fort Collins! That is truly excellent news. Good for the people who rallied together to make this in important issue. I can only imagine the work that went into the campaign. I hope the trend spreads further.

    I am still pretty angry about the other situation. Thank you for such an articulate post. Perhaps my city/urban notion of dogs as pets is also getting in the way of my understanding the issue. I am not comfortable with the idea of dogs as money-making commodities. I am not against animal-related business, but I wonder if humans have taken this too far. The whole thing has brought a lot of questions to mind. These dogs were viewed as cattle, essentially. When they weren’t useful any more they had to be gotten rid of. I don’t know how comfortable I am with any living creature being treated this way.

    Thanks for the updates. I agree, it is not good enough. Not in the slightest. How is a fine going to deter another company from doing the same thing? How many times has this happened before?

    A lot of questions.

  3. I have to admit, until your post, I avoided reading the horrific details of this story. It’s awful, heartbreaking and pisses me off.

    You made an excellent point about the timing…right after the Olympics. Sadly, it’s just another reminder of what people will do for money.

    Ughhh…it makes my heart ache.

  4. JR says:

    It’s unbelievable how people can do this to those poor dogs! It really saddens me to read things like this.

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