When actor Ian Somerhalder, star of the TV series The Vampire Diaries, learned of the brutal culling of 100 sled dogs in British Columbia, he was outraged. "As a people, we can't accept this type of senseless killing ... These animals were brutally murdered and the individuals responsible should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Period."
But this case can't simply be closed through prosecution. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act has too many loopholes and ambiguities to effectively stop this sort of killing from happening again. "The laws must be changed to accommodate the fact that individuals who even consider this type of behavior understand that it's an attack against life itself and shall not be tolerated," Somerhalder said.
The Ian Somerhalder Foundation created a petition on Change.org to do just that. In just over a day, over 4,500 people have already joined the call for British Columbia to reform its animal cruelty laws.
The aftermath of the sled dog killings has made it abundantly clear that British Columbia needs to not only rethink its anti-cruelty laws as a whole, but also how sled dogs are treated. The BC SPCA has taken the stance that sled dogs aren't adoptable, but that's been proven wrong by several other rescue and humane organizations. With rehabilitation and the right home, former sled dogs have been successfully adopted.
Among the petition's demands is a new requirement that the BC SPCA and other shelters evaluate each animal rather than summarily condemning them based on where they come from. (Canada's struggle to give sled dogs a fair shot is the same debate we've been seeing in the U.S. over dogs rescued from fight busts.)
Somerhalder hopes that the campaign to reform BC's laws will set a global example for governments and organizations to fund and create programs that give rescued animals a second chance. "There is always another way to let these animals live, while helping humans in some fashion, for example, there are organizations that help wheelchair bound people obtain assistive support through rescued sled dogs — they help pull their wheel chairs! Basically, I want these animals to lead long, happy and productive lives."
Somerhalder's passion for animals is clear through his personal actions and his foundation. "We are no better than any one species; we just have opposable thumbs, a written language and a large brain."
And we have the power of the internet. If we put all of that together, we can make the world a better place for animals ... starting with British Columbia.
In a statement, Premier Gordon Campbell said, “The tragic and disturbing details that have emerged around how these dogs were inhumanely treated are not acceptable to British Columbians or to their government."
A task force was convened to review the sled dog industry and make recommendations to the Minister of Agriculture. The task force is due to present their findings on March 25, 2011.
Take action to hold British Columbia accountable for meaningful reforms to protect animals from another tragedy like the sled dog massacre.
Photo Credit: IS Foundation
Stephanie Feldstein is a Change.org Editor who has been part of the animal welfare and rescue community for over a decade, and most recently worked for an environmental organization.