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November 29, 2012

HSI/Canada Calls for Criminal Code Amendments in Wake of Court Ruling of BC Sled Dog Massacre

Humane Society International/Canada

    Cases of neglected sled dogs are regularly reported throughout Canada. Karla Goodson

MONTREAL — Humane Society International/Canada expresses disappointment in the recent British Columbia provincial court ruling regarding the mass killing of 56 sled dogs by Bob Fawcett, former general manager of Howling Dog Tours. Fawcett pleaded guilty on Aug. 30 to causing unnecessary pain and suffering. The lenient sentence of three years probation, which includes a ban from working in the sled dog industry while on probation, and a fine of $1,725, demonstrates the need for stronger laws to deter animal abuse.

"Clearly justice was not served with this lenient sentence, which includes no jail time or a lifetime ban from working in the sled dog industry,” said Ewa Demianowicz, campaigner for HSI/Canada. “This tragedy highlights the urgent need to update the criminal code to help prevent such atrocities from happening in the future and the need to improve industry regulations for working dogs across Canada.”

Howling Dog Tours in Whistler apparently purchased the huskies in anticipation of increased business during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, only to slaughter the dogs when tours dropped off the following season. Due to massive public outcry from around the world, the British Columbia government introduced new industry regulations and laws, including a new sled dog code of practice.

However, the province’s new regulations failed to limit the number of animals a sled dog operation may possess. Tethering as a mean of permanent confinement is still allowed, even though it is not recognized as a humane practice by leading veterinarian associations. Tragically, cases of neglected sled dogs are regularly reported throughout Canada. In certain cases, sled dogs are chained for their entire lives until it is time to pull the sled, at which point they can be run to the point of exhaustion.

Earlier this year, 47 emaciated and neglected huskies were seized in Quebec by a local SPCA after inspectors found the dogs had no access to sufficient food and water. HSI/Canada rescue workers have also witnessed similar horrific situations when two sled dog operations were raided in recent years, including huskies chained to metal poles and rotting plywood structures over barren stretches of frozen mud, with no regular access to food, water or shelter.

Canada's federal animal cruelty laws have remained largely unchanged since 1892. Recent amendments have increased penalties, but the application and scope of the current laws remain ineffective. Consequently, under the Criminal Code it is difficult to prosecute even the worst cases of animal abuse and cruelty.

HSI/Canada is calling for stronger provincial and federal laws to protect these animals throughout the country, and urges the sled dog industry as a whole to establish and help enforce the highest possible standards of animal care, including taking steps to rehome the dogs upon retirement.

Media Contact:

Dean Pogas: 514.261.6007/514.395.2914; dpogas@humanesociety.org    


Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than 11 million members and constituents globally—on the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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