Yukon musher calls for tough sled dog rules

A Yukon musher wants the three northern territories to enact tough laws around the care of sled dogs.

Frank Turner says North should adopt similar laws to B.C.

A musher competes with his dogs during an international dog sled race in Lenk, Simmen valley, Switzerland, Sunday, Feb. 12. 2012. A Yukon musher wants the three northern territories to adopt similar laws as British Columbia just did over the care and treatment of sled dogs. (Peter Schneider/The Associated Press)

A Yukon musher wants the three northern territories to enact tough laws around the care of sled dogs.

The call comes as British Columbia adopts the toughest regulations around sled dogs in Canada.

Day trips and guided sled dog tours are popular winter tourism activities in many northern locations, but there are few regulations concerning the care of the dogs.

For the past year, the Government of B.C. has been working on legislation to change that. It appointed a task force of veterinarians, government officials and stakeholders like Whitehorse musher Frank Turner to draft up the new regulations.

The legislation came after the slaughter of almost 100 sled dogs owned by an outdoor adventure company near Whistler, B.C. The industry was given a black eye after the incident.

"When Whistler happened we were getting calls from Australia, from Japan, from Europe, from all over the place. It was a global story and people are saying 'what is this?', and even down in British Columbia, senior officials are saying 'is this what happens? Is this what you guys do?'. And I said 'No, this is not what we do'," said Turner.

The new regulations are contained in the province's Prevention of Cruelty Act. They establish legal requirements for things like housing, health, working conditions and euthanasia. People convicted of animal cruelty face a maximum $75,000 fine and up to two years in jail.

Turner said there needs to be similar regulations in the North.

"RCMP will get involved if somebody makes a formal complaint… But at this moment we don't have a serious way of enforcing with serious implications, legal and financial, to ensure that animals, whether dogs or horses, that there is no tolerance of neglect or cruelty," he said.

Turner said he plans to work as an advocate to ensure tough laws to protect sled dogs from neglect or cruelty are passed in the North.