Letter to editor: 'Salmo dogs have their day' - Nelson Star, April 12, 2011
By now most people in B.C. and around the world have heard about the tragic destruction of 100 dogs slaughtered in Whistler. Without question animal rights groups jumped to the forefront of the media to cast a dark cloud over all who own kennels and operate dog sled tours.
It also hit the northern regions of Canada and Alaska where mushers own kennels and train their dogs for many dogsled races and races around the world. The public outrage was evident and the B.C. government immediately struck a task force. Last week the report of the task force was released with recommendations to the government.
In my experience, it is a rare moment when a government implements all recommendations from a task force. I am not an expert on the world of kennels, dog sledding or even a member of an SPCA. In fact, I don’t even currently own a dog nor do I have a dog in this race.
My interest in the sport, derived long ago, through my dad who had an interest in the Iditarod. My passion was further heightened when my son worked for the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse and told me of the Yukon Quest run 1,000 miles between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska.
Coincidently, I too came to live and work in the Yukon for nearly three years, which I now call my second home. Having seen the YQ 2008 and 2009 races in person, my voracious appetite to learn about the world of dog sledding and mushers has led me to learn, become educated on all aspects of this sport and those involved.
This year, it came to my attention that within the West Kootenay itself, there is a kennel owner, Al Magaw from Salmo. Al operates the Spirit of the North Kennels. Mr. Magaw, to my knowledge is the only experienced musher and sled dog owner in the region. From countless sources, I have been told Al has a good reputation in his more than 30 years experience. He also runs sled dog tours from his operation. I have come to know Al via Facebook, and it’s easy to see by his fan base around the world, that he is committed.
Al Magaw, is the reason I am writing this letter. He is a member of the newly created Professional Mushers Association of B.C. who have a clause in their mandate saying “a vet inspection and/or a peer inspection will be done annually or bi-annually.” He did not sit around and just wait for the task force to complete their findings and recommendations. Mr. Magaw already felt he was doing a pretty good job with his, but he decided to set an example for all kennel owners.
He contacted a local veterinarian and voluntarily arranged for an inspection of his kennel. Upon completion of the inspection, Al Magaw received 100 per cent marks for the operation of his kennel and the vet thanked him for the experience of her day there.
When Al announced this in a mushing group I belong to, every member there could feel his humble joy. People around the world in our group were impressed with his actions and have shared this with their local kennel owners. Further, Al has explained that in his lifetime of running a kennel and raising sled dogs, 99.9 per cent of all sled dog kennels would score the same as him.Sadly, animal rights groups dominate the media and cast a false dark shadow over the whole issue.
I have also witnessed many acquaintances jump the gun and without educating themselves on the issue make wrongful assumptions. I took a leap of faith and set out to see if what happened in Whistler was the norm. I chanced to come across an amazing kennel owner right in my backyard of the West Kootenay with whom I personally have no vested interest in, but adamantly feel should be commended. This region should be proud that Al Magaw and Spirit of the North Kennel loves his dogs and truly cares to be a difference maker.
Ev Voykin, Castlegar