RCMP are investigating "serious" threats made in online posts and via email following a shocking report 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.
The police force and the SPCA are both investigating a former sled dog operator responsible for ordering the animals be killed 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 posted on news websites.
The RCMP said Tuesday they have begun an investigation into the threats, although police are saying 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 in an interview.
"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."
SPCA probes cull
LeClair said some of the threatening postings have been 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 only had 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.
On Monday, the British Columbia SPCA announced it was investigating the mass slaughter and would recommend to Crown prosecutors that charges be laid.
Outdoor Adventures Whistler said the incident is tragic and regrettable, and a new policy has been put in place to ensure all dogs are euthanized at a veterinarian's office.
The company also said it has implemented a neutering program for all male dogs to mitigate unwanted pregnancies in the pack.
A former Whistler dog sled company employee said Tuesday the industry needs tougher regulations to prevent healthy dogs from being slaughtered.
Mark Hennebury, who worked in Whistler's dog sledding community in 2005, said he was shocked and saddened to hear about the huskies cull.
Hennebury said that after one season in the business he had had enough.
More regulation is needed to ensure dog packs don't get too large and too expensive to feed, he said.
B.C.'s mushing community estimates it costs about $500 a year to keep one sled dog.
Hennebury believes the April 2010 cull was a business decision.
"That was part of the problem when there was this many dogs — approximately 300 dogs. That balance wasn't there," Hennebury said.
But he finds it hard to comprehend the culling of the dogs.
"They all have personalities and names. Employees knew them by name. They were like house dogs."
Filed compensation claim
News of the cull came to light as a result of a WorkSafe BC workers' compensation claim from an unidentified man who said he shot and slashed the dogs to death.
The man's lawyer, Corey Steinberg, said his client is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Steinberg also said his client killed the huskies after he was told to "take care" of 100 dogs to preserve the remaining 200 dogs in the pack.
As a result of the SPCA probe, a Whistler tourism organization has stopped taking dog sled reservations on behalf of Outdoor Adventures Whistler.
"We discussed this decision with Outdoor Adventures and we'll also be providing refunds to those who choose to cancel their bookings for dog sled activity with Outdoor Adventures," said Tourism Whistler communications manager Breton Murphy.