The Canadian Press
Tue Feb 1 2011
RCMP investigating threats following reports of sled dog slaughter in B.C.
WHISTLER, B.C. — RCMP are investigating “serious” threats following shocking allegations that about 100 sled dogs were shot to death and dumped in a mass grave by a tour operator near the former Olympic host village of Whistler, B.C.
Both the police force and the SPCA are investigating the allegations that surfaced this week that a former sled dog operator culled the animals last April, after bookings apparently dried up following the 2010 Winter Games.
The reports prompted immediate outrage on social media sites and in the comments on news websites.
The Mounties said Tuesday they have opened a second investigation into threats that were sent over email and posted online, although police are saying very little about the nature of the threats or who they were directed at.
“Threatening is a criminal act, the person who received the threat is considered a victim of crime,” Whistler RCMP Staff-Sgt. Steve LeClair said.
“Those threats were received by email. As well, there have been some postings on social networking websites, and my understanding is those postings were sort of a call for vigilantism. . . . The threats are serious.”
LeClair said the threatening postings were removed.
Several Facebook groups quickly sprouted up condemning the slaughter and the Whistler-based tour operator connected to the animals.
The dogs were under the control of Howling Dog Tours, which cared for and managed the dogs for tour operator Outdoor Adventures. Outdoor Adventures has said it had only a financial stake in Howling Dog until it took complete control of the company in May 2010, but has insisted it had nothing to do with the decision to cull the animals.
Still, thousands of users have joined Facebook groups calling for boycotts of Outdoor Adventures, with others decrying what they describe as the “murder” of the dogs.
Several postings that were still visible Tuesday openly called for retribution, with one user writing: “(What) he did to those dogs should be done to him. An eye for an eye.”
Another called the cull “just plain evil.”
The SPCA said its investigators have located the mass grave where the dogs were buried, but the ground is frozen so the animals’ remains can’t be unearthed just yet. The SPCA is leading the animal cruelty investigation with the support of RCMP.
The agency is also inspecting the current operations of Outdoor Adventures.
Marcie Moriarty, manager of cruelty investigations for the B.C. SPCA, said the agency had visited the Howling Dog operation in 2009 following a complaint.
At the time, investigators raised several concerns about the company’s operations, said Moriarty.
“We have in the past had dealing with Howling Dog,” she said.
“When they were out on the tethers, we had some environmental concerns, it was muddy on a slope on a hill. There were some health concerns. And we had concerns about how much exercise those dogs were getting.”
Moriarty said inspectors ordered the company to make several improvements. Follow-up inspections indicated those orders were followed, she said.
Outdoor Adventures took full control of Howling Dog in May 2010, and the company has said a veterinary inspection this past December noted “substantive improvements” in the dogs’ care.
After Outdoor Adventures took over Howling Dog, the company called an animal shelter in Whistler looking for homes for 40 or 50 dogs, said the executive director for Whistler Animals Galore, or WAG.
Paula Del Bosco said her small shelter took two of the animals, and offered to take on more when they had the space.
But by the time the shelter had room for more, Outdoor Adventures said they had found homes for the animals at other dogsledding operations, said Del Bosco.
“Unfortunately, we knew nothing about this (the slaughter), and I wish we had, because even though we’re a small shelter, we certainly would have put out as much outreach as we could to help them re-home these animals,” she said.
AAS comment; Neither the SPCA nor WAG put the word out to the rescue network, something that could have prevented the deaths of all the dogs. BC Pet Rescue has a site that most rescuers read and many post on. And there is Craig's List where rescuers also post. Those life-saving resources were not used by the SPCA and WAG.
“To hear that, prior to us working with them, whoever owned it before had done this was so disheartening. It’s one of those things where you think, ‘Goodness, why didn’t they call?’”
The man who said he shot the dogs was awarded compensation in a ruling by WorkSafe BC, the province’s workers’ compensation board, after claiming post-traumatic stress disorder. His name hasn’t been released, and his lawyer declined comment Tuesday.
Documents from WorkSafe BC described a gruesome scene over two days last April.
The man described wrestling some of the dogs to the ground and stepping on them with one foot to hold them in place to shoot them.
He told the provincial worker safety organization that some of the dogs became agitated and attacked, prompting him to slit the throat of one animal who jumped on top of him. Another, named Nora, was crawling around the mass grave after she was wounded, forcing the man to crawl into the pile of dead animals to put her out of her misery.