The veterinarian who had to euthanize 34 neglected sled dogs in Behchoko, N.W.T., late last week said he hopes something positive can come out of such a sad case.
Yellowknife veterinarian Tom Pisz was called in by Behchoko's community government on Friday to assess and ultimately put down the sled dogs, all of which belonged to well-known Dene artist Archie Beaulieu.
"I didn't see any better option in this point; like, we couldn't do anything better than that," Pisz told CBC News on Monday, adding that he assessed and euthanized a total of 34 dogs.
"The most dramatic [part] for them was the handling part, because we had to catch them and hold them. But it was pretty, pretty sad. It was about the saddest day of my life."
Pisz called on governments to take on a more active role in regulating sled dog kennels.
"It's a great sport, but it has to be done properly," he said of sled dog racing.
"You can't really just have dogs and treat them like they're not living creatures. They're living creatures; they've got feelings."
Beaulieu was not available for comment Monday.
Beaulieu has had his paintings sell for $5,000 or more. His works have also been presented to Queen Elizabeth and Pope John Paul.
A spokesman for the agency that handles Beaulieu's artwork told the Canadian Press that they have been trying to reach Beaulieu for weeks without success.
Resident raised concerns at community meeting
A Behchoko resident first raised concerns about Beaulieu's kennel two weeks ago at a community government meeting in Behchoko, about 95 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife. The resident said she was very upset with the neglect the dogs were suffering.
Community government officials ordered the dogs to be euthanized after consulting with veterinarians and the N.W.T. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
SPCA officials said they do not have shelter space in Yellowknife for anywhere near the number of dogs Beaulieu had.
President Sarah Hunt said she hopes the incident will make people think twice about turning a blind eye to animal suffering "and not just to let it go and let it escalate to this point."
"Try and deal with it as soon as you see it, and as soon as you're aware of it, and bring it to the proper authorities," she said.
Pisz said the dogs, which included puppies just days old, had clearly been neglected. There was no food and water in Beaulieu's kennels, and the vet had found the skulls of dead dogs in the mud and feces that the other dogs had to stand in.
"I wouldn't say they were starved to death, or close to it, but they were very thin and malnourished," he said.