British Columbia

Dog slaughter document dispute heads to court

The man who claimed responsibility for the killing of 100 sled dogs in Whistler has made a public statement for the first time since the highly controversial cull was revealed Monday.

Dog slaughter outrage

11 years ago
Duration 2:37
"Serious" online threats have been made following a report that about 100 sled dogs were shot to death by a tour operator near Whistler, B.C. 2:37

The non-profit agency that enforces British Columbia's animal cruelty laws is heading to court Friday to demand documents related to the slaughter of about 100 sled dogs near Whistler, B.C.

The allegations surfaced publicly in leaked workers' compensation board documents in the case of a worker who filed a claim for post-traumatic stress. In them, the unidentified man detailed how he shot the dogs last April as business slowed following the 2010 Winter Olympics, and then dumped the bodies in a mass grave.

The B.C. SPCA has obtained a court order for WorkSafe BC's file on the case, but said Thursday the compensation board has filed an application seeking an exemption from the order.

Marcie Moriarty of the SPCA said WorkSafe BC is arguing it shouldn't be forced to disclose what it considers confidential documents.

"One of the reasons that they give is they fear that if access is granted in this case, people will not give full disclosure for fear of criminal prosecution," Moriarty said in a telephone interview.

Would ask court to clarify

The board's application notes "the records of the board are protected from disclosure by law, and it is unreasonable to require the board to produce the records."

The B.C. SPCA wants WorkSafeBC to hand over documents to do with a Whistler, B.C., sled dog slaughter in April 2010.

Moriarty said if the court doesn't grant a full exemption, WorkSafe BC is asking the court to clarify the scope of the production order and limit what can be disclosed.

The SPCA is a non-profit charity, but the B.C. government has given it the authority to enforce animal cruelty laws and its investigators are considered peace officers. Provincial legislation gives the animal welfare group the power to obtain warrants and production orders from the courts.

The agency is leading the investigation into the Whistler dog cull, with the support of the RCMP.

The dogs were used on tours by Whistler-based Outdoor Adventures, but at the time of the cull the animals were owned and cared for by Fawcett's Howling Dog Tours. Outdoor Adventures had a financial stake in the company, but didn't take control of Howling Dog's operations until May 2010 — the month following the slaughter.

Threats increasing

The RCMP is also conducting a separate investigation into email and internet threats connected to the case, including death threats. The force said Thursday there have been a "growing number" of threats against Outdoor Adventures employees who had nothing to do with the cull.

"The threats have primarily been made face-to-face and by phone, as well as through media. Some threats have been very graphic," Sgt. Peter Thiessen of the RCMP wrote in an news release.

"This has resulted in significant trauma and stress for Outdoor Adventures and all their staff. That's unacceptable. And it needs to stop immediately."

Statement issued

The man at the centre of the investigation released a public statement late Wednesday, his first comment since details of the slaughter became public.

Joint Statement from Robert Fawcett and Outdoor Adventures at Whistler Ltd.

Outdoor Adventures at Whistler Ltd. and former General Manager, Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. [Fawcett] agree to the following:

1. The number of dogs euthanized by Mr. Fawcett. Mr. Fawcett advised Mr. [Joey] Houssian in mid-April 2010 that he was estimating 50 dogs would be euthanized.

2. The condition of the dogs euthanized by Mr. Fawcett. In mid April, 2010 Mr. Fawcett advised Mr. Houssian that the dogs to be euthanized were "too old" or "sick" and "not adoptable". These dogs live to "run" and were not able to do so and would have had to be kept in cages with the result that they would have had very poor or virtually no quality of life.

3. The efforts made to arrange for dogs to be adopted. Considerable efforts were made to arrange for dogs to be adopted, both before and after mid April, 2010. The efforts at adoption were not as successful as hoped.

4. The instructions given to Mr. Fawcett concerning the manner of euthanizing the dogs. There were no instructions given to Mr. Fawcett as to the manner of euthanizing dogs on this occasion, and Mr. Fawcett was known to have very humanely euthanized dogs on previous occasions.

In a joint statement with Whistler-based Outdoor Adventures, Robert Fawcett said he advised the owner of Outdoor Adventures, Joey Houssian, in mid-April 2010 that he estimated that only about 50 dogs needed to be euthanized because they were "too old" or "sick" and couldn't be adopted.

"These dogs live to 'run' and were not able to do so and would have had to be kept in cages, with the result that they would have had very poor or virtually no quality of life," said the statement.

It added that "considerable efforts" were made to adopt the animals, but those efforts "were not as successful as hoped."

And it repeated the company's insistence that it did not tell Fawcett how to euthanize the animals, noting he had "very humanely" euthanized dogs on previous occasions.

Dogsledding suspended

The leaked WorkSafe BC documents don't identify the worker who claims to have shot the animals, but they describe him as the "general manager" of the dog sled company.

The documents suggested Howling Dogs had a total of about 300 animals, and the general manager said he felt pressured to get rid of a third of them after bookings dried up following the Olympics.

Outdoor Adventures has suspended its dogsledding operations until it completes its own investigation into the cull.

The company said it currently has 158 dogs at an open-pen kennel north of Whistler. About 85 per cent of them are held in pens, with three animals per pen, while the remaining are tethered.

"The dogs will remain with the company," Outdoor Adventures said in an email. "The company has maintained all its dogsled staff on payroll and they will exercise the dogs regularly, which is extremely important for the health of the dogs."

Moriarty said the SPCA inspected the company's kennel on Monday, and the agency was satisfied the dogs are safe.

Corrections

  • Robert Fawcett and Outdoor Adventures Whistler issued a joint statement. An earlier CBC story said the statement was issued by the company alone.
    Feb 03, 2011 1:00 AM PT

With files from The Canadian Press

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