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.