The B.C. SPCA is upset a Whistler dog sledding company is shutting its operations and using an animal shelter to care for and find new homes for 71 huskies.

The not-for-profit Whistler Sled Dog Company was created in December 2011 when Outdoor Adventures decided to shut down its sled dog operation and give all its dogs, kennels and equipment to the new company.

Some of the animals were originally sold to Outdoor Adventures by Robert Fawcett, the owner of Howling Dogs, who slaughtered 43 of his sled dogs when business slowed down after the 2010 Olympics. He was convicted in 2012 of animal cruelty in the death of nine of the dogs.

The mandate for the new Whistler Sled Dog Company was to find a way to run an ethical dog sledding operation that put the welfare of the animals first.

But after running the operation for two seasons, the board decided that the short four-month season in Whistler was not enough to financially support the proper care of the dogs during the other eight months of the year, according to Sue Eckersley, a volunteer board member with the company.

"It's a combination of it not really being economically feasible and not being able to meet all the goals we wanted to in terms of providing a stellar life for these dogs," said Eckersley.

B.C. SPCA raises concerns

Most of the dogs are now in the care of Whistler Animals Galore and the B.C. SPCA and awaiting adoption. 

The chief enforcement officer with the B.C. SPCA, Marcie Moriarty, says the company ignored its responsibility to provide long-term care for the animals.


Sled dogs rest at a kennel operated by Outdoor Adventures near Whistler, B.C., on Feb. 5, 2011. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"I was exceptionally disappointed," said Moriarty.

The SPCA says the new code of practice created for the industry after the 2010 sled dog slaughter calls for complete life cycle care for sled dogs, without the need to rely on shelters.

"Right in that code of practice is states that, as a best practice, part of your life cycle planning for these working dogs is not to dump them on an animal welfare organization."

Moriarty says the dogs would only make good pets for owners willing to invest the time to socialize them for city life, and that's easier said than done.

"It's not like you can decide I live in Yaletown, I work 15 hours a day, but I want one of those Whistler sled dogs," she said.

Eckersley says the company is paying to help socialize the animals for life in a family home.

"We've actually hired some animal care experts out there to help prepare the dogs," said Eckersley