Sled-dog ban not on the horizon in B.C.

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      The provincial task force formed in the wake of the slaughter of about 100 sled dogs in Whistler last year will recommend measures to “increase the quality of life” of sleigh-pulling canines, according to panel chair Terry Lake.

      However, Lake, a veterinarian and B.C. Liberal MLA for Kamloops–North Thompson, acknowledges that nothing can legally prevent dogsled operators from putting down their animals.

      “Animals under current law in Canada are considered property, and you, as the owner of the animal, are entitled to do things to that animal as long as you are not mistreating it,” Lake told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “We have a very good Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. But if I decide, as owner of the animal, to essentially kill the animal, if it’s done humanely, that is not illegal to do.”

      According to Lake—who was appointed minister of environment by new B.C. premier Christy Clark on March 14—this happens in many circumstances, in locations like farms and animal shelters. “As unpleasant as it is for us, this is the way the law is written at the moment,” he said.

      In addition to provincial legislation prohibiting the mistreatment of animals, the Criminal Code of Canada contains a provision making it an offence to “willfully” cause “unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird”.

      Lake was set to go to Sun Peaks, a year-round resort area in the B.C. Interior that offers dogsledding, when he explained what is expected from the task force’s report, which is due on March 25.

      A ban on dogsledding, which has been proposed by animal-rights advocate Peter Hamilton and others, is not one of the expected recommendations.

      “Most people are asking us to ensure that the sled-dog industry is run in a socially responsible manner, but the majority of people are not calling for a ban on this activity,” Lake said. “A lot of the veterinarians, operators, and the animal-welfare people that we have spoken to recognize that a well-run sled-dog operation provides a very good environment and quality of life for the animals that are involved.”

      According to him, there are 10 registered dogsledding operators in the province.

      “The sled-dog industry is, essentially, a self-regulating industry,” Lake said. “Do we need to put in regulations to ensure that the animals involved are looked after to the standard that the public expects? That’s the question the task force is facing, and I think we can come up with some very good recommendations that will increase the quality of life for these animals.”

      The task-force head was uncertain how the matter of culling will be addressed by the panel.

      “I’m not sure that we’ll come up with words that say ”˜ban culling’,” Lake said. “I can see one possibility may be to have a working group come together to develop a code of standards that will ensure that these animals are looked after in a socially responsible manner from the time they are obtained to the time they are retired.”

      According to Lake, many dogsledding operators don’t put their animals to sleep when they are no longer capable of working.

      Jaime Hargreaves, a 30-year-old musher, said that she has 10 retired dogs in her kennel. “We’re family,” Hargreaves told the Straight by phone about her Alaskan huskies. “That’s the way it is.”

      Hargreaves, who is a contractor with Whistler-based Canadian Snowmobile and All Terrain Adventures, said she recently sent one of her dogs to live in a private home.

      The task force’s report will not contain specific findings regarding last year’s mass killing of dogs owned by the tour company Outdoor Adventures Whistler.

      The B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is the principal body investigating the incident. Lorie Chortyk, manager of community relations, said the B.C. SPCA will release the results of the probe sometime after the Lake-led panel submits its report to the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.




      Mar 17, 2011 at 6:58am

      Okay I see too much wrong with this article, the 'humanely' identified. Shooting an animal is not humane. Starving an animal is not humane.

      Legislative proof for all of the 10 registered sled dog companies, should provide proof of care, quality of life, should a decision of retirement happen for the employees (dogs) of the company, steps taken to donate dog(s) to SPCA for new homes. If you cant donate all the dogs all at once, then take the necessary steps to place ads in ALL local newspapers and or drop one dog off at a time to the SPCA. No dog should be killed. It is not that difficult. Everyone is lazy and thinks of the money involved way too much. How would you (human) like to be treated at retirement?

      Trudy Handel

      Mar 17, 2011 at 7:02am

      Earlier this week, a team of 14 sled dogs was "put down" in Saskatchewan after one of them that got loose mauled a toddler. What was the crime of the other 13? People have to be held accountable for their actions.

      Julia Trops

      Mar 17, 2011 at 7:13am

      Terry Lake says: "In addition to provincial legislation prohibiting the mistreatment of animals, the Criminal Code of Canada contains a provision making it an offence to “willfully” cause “unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal or a bird”.

      Have you even seen those provisions MLA Terry Lake? What Provincial Legislation lol!! You seem completely oblivious, simply because you made that statement. And it appears you are a-ok with what we have in place, not even a mention of the need to re-look at it or suggest that it be changed!

      Good luck trying to get charges on anyone who causes unnecessary pain and suffering, there are so many loopholes that prevents criminal charges from being carried through to conviction -

      And that is one of the changes of the proposed Bill C-229 - from the notes provided by MP Mark Holland which compares S-203 passed by the Conservatives in 2008, to what is presented before Parliament today:

      Bill S-203 leaves in place the dysfunctional term “willful neglect” requiring the court to prove motive for neglecting animals. For example, a farmer who starved his sheep despite repeated warnings was found not guilty because the court couldn’t prove he intended to starve them. Bill C-229 instead uses the term “negligent” which is defined as “departing markedly from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use.”

      Bill S-203 leaves in place wording that allows people to kill animals brutally and viciously if the animal dies immediately. For example, someone who ties an animal to a train track can get off by arguing that the animal died quickly and didn’t suffer. Bill C-229 makes it an offence to kill an animal with brutal and/or vicious intent, whether or not the animal dies immediately.

      *“I can see one possibility may be to have a working group come together to develop a code of standards that will ensure that these animals are looked after in a socially responsible manner from the time they are obtained to the time they are retired.”*

      What I am interpreting this to mean is that ... to the time they are retired, retired means death.

      Thanks for your hard work, sled dogs or other working animals... and in return, I'll slit your throat. Because it's okay for me to do that, as long as you die immediately.

      For anyone else, who is sane, and cares about animals and how they are treated, please look at
      Join the Vigils that are going on around the world:, or write your MP. I can tell you that I have written all of them. The NDPs and Liberals are supporting, but the Conservatives think their work is done with the passing of S-203 in 2008. They don't think there is anything wrong with Canada's Animal Cruelty Legislation. I find it sad for them to have such a low standard of achievement, don't you?

      Marion Ambler

      Mar 17, 2011 at 9:42am

      When the Task Force was originally created Gordon Campbell said "“Like everyone else, I was sickened by what I heard. No creature should ever have to suffer in the manner that has been reported,” said Campbell.

      “We want to get the facts and act and make sure it doesn’t ever happen again."

      "The task force will be headed by Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake, who is also a veterinarian. It will also examine why WorkSafeBC did not provide information on the killings of the dogs to appropriate authorities when it first learned of the mass cull, believed to have been the largest in Canada." WorkSafe BC seems to have been forgotten and killing dogs at whim is also still OK. This Sled Dog Task Force has been a misleading farce since it was created. In fact the other day we had Terry Lake calling Outdoor Adventures in Whistler an 'industry leader'.

      Lifeforce Foundation

      Mar 17, 2011 at 11:31am

      Lifeforce, a Vancouver-based ecology and animal rights organization, was invited to participate in the BC Sled Dog Industry Task Force review. Our Draft report entitled, “The Case Against Sled Dog Industries” is at

      The history of the sled dog industries reveals that the reported inhumane slaughter of dogs in Whistler, BC was not an aberration. It is inherent in the sled dog racing and tourism industries. The Task Force heard that there have been many, many cruelty investigations and charges laid.

      There are thousands of dogs bred for this industry and you can’t find humane retirement homes for all the victims. Most of the “retired” dogs are kept for breeding. There is no Canadian culture to preserve with sled dog breeders mixing huskies with greyhounds and other breeds in attempts to create faster breeds to win the lucrative prizes.

      A compassionate society should not condone any cruelty . As stated in our report any regulations will not eliminate the abuses in the racing and tourism industries. In addition, any enforcement is not possible in many cases.

      Contrary to the claims by Task Force Head, Terry Lake, there is public support for a ban. The Whistler Question newspaper poll found that 42.1% supported a ban and 18.6% wanted more regulations (not self-policing).

      People can choose to race themselves under grueling circumstances and stop the exploitation of dogs. Tourism businesses must put on their skis, and hike. Racers can ride snowmobiles or all terrain vehicles. People can enjoy Super Natural BC without animal exploitation. The plight of these dogs must end! There must be animal rights laws, proper enforcement, boycotts and bans.

      Former Premier Campbell called for the Task Forces to make sure it never happens again. It is beginning to sound like he meant no more harm to BC Tourism NOT the dog victims.

      Carmina Gooch

      Mar 17, 2011 at 4:12pm

      The big problem is that animals are considered property and are used as a means to an end of benefiting the human cause, whether it’s through entertainment, recreation, food, clothing, experimentation, or any other reason we want to drum up. Human self-interest and economics always trumps animal welfare (let alone any discussion of rights). Therefore, it wasn’t even in the realm of possibility that this task force would consider banning the industry. Yes, there’ll be regulations, but what about enforcement? I think it’s safe to say the SPCA is somewhat culpable in this matter and that the current system of animal protection has in many instances proven to be ineffective and inadequate.

      Animal Advocates Society of BC

      Mar 17, 2011 at 4:14pm

      As soon as the sled dog massacre came to light AAS was asked to support a ban on dog-sledding. As we always do, we told supporters the truth, that government can't ban a legal industry, but because the government was forced by voter outrage to appear to care it would probably write some regulations. We were right.

      What a tangled web: the SPCA ignores reports of the dogs' suffering, possibly because it knows that government wouldn't want it splashed around the world that Olympic Whistler sled dogs were seized for cruelty; then it refuses to rehome any; then it doesn't even tell other groups that the dogs need homes; then it says if it had taken the dogs it would have killed them; then it madly makes things worse by claiming that sled dogs aren't rehomable (even though in the past it has boasted that it rehomed sled dogs); and then it denies saying what it has clearly said. Thanks to the SPCA almost unbelievably immature handling of its job the government has to throw sand in the eyes of outraged BC citizens and try to cover the SPCA's sorry ass. It does that by creating a task force of nonentities and industry players headed by a vet who is an MLA (what amazing luck for the government and the SPCA!) who admits to killing hundreds of animals and who agrees with the SPCA that sled dogs aren't rehomable, clearly an attempt to legitimize the SPCA's incredibly stupid statement to that effect. He only earns more outrage and is widely discredited. There doesn't appear to be anyone capable of organizing a rock fight when it comes to simple animal welfare. It boggles the imagination how enraged the government must have been with the SPCA for creating a "viral" p.r. tourism disaster.

      This is truly contorted: the enforcement arm of the SPCA is plainly a government agency, but by denying that, the government doesn't have to pay for PCA Act enforcement and doesn't get covered in SPCA dog-do when the SPCA blows it, as it did spectacularly over the sled dog disaster. And it suits the SPCA's purpose of maintaining secrecy to also deny that it is a government agency (Quelle horreur! That would make it accessible to FOI searches!) but that denial makes it difficult for the SPCA to argue that the government ought to pay millions of dollars a year to the SPCA for it to enforce the PCA Act. What a dilemma. But the death of the dogs, because the SPCA didn't do its job, just may do the trick of forcing the government to give the SPCA the millions it wants afterall.

      It was never a possibility that government could ban a whole industry. Government can't even ban the tobacco industry. The average animal lover, not understanding that, has howled for a ban, so promoting a ban is where the money is even though it's almost beyond the realm of possibility that organizations comprised of experienced adults believe that a ban is possible, as several, playing to the gallery, have said they do. Even the SPCA hadn't the gall to pretend that a ban is possible, not this time, not when it was already in such hot water with the government for making so many outrageously dishonest statements, though it did back a call to ban pet store sales of puppies when animal lovers howled for that too.

      Animal Advocates Society of BC

      Mar 17, 2011 at 4:16pm

      The SPCA can't think that one part of a legal business can be put out of business (putting pet stores out of business while leaving far worse backyard breeders, the internet, and puppymillers in business), but it bought the gratitude of pet lovers all over BC by saying that it supported a ban on pet store sales of pups rather than saying that the best place to sell animals (since selling animals is legal) is in a public store where the treatment of the animals can be seen by everyone and where the municipality can write regulations and pull business licences if the regulations aren't followed. That is what AAS truthfully said, but we appear to have been the only ones to care less for donations than what will truly help animals. In fact, if AAS were in charge, the ONLY place where pets could be purchased would be in a public, regulated, licenced store.

      Animal Advocates Society of BC

      Mar 17, 2011 at 4:24pm

      DBourassa wrote: "...should a decision of retirement happen for the employees (dogs) of the company, steps taken to donate dog(s) to SPCA for new homes. If you cant donate all the dogs all at once, then take the necessary steps to place ads in ALL local newspapers and or drop one dog off at a time to the SPCA. No dog should be killed."

      You must not have been reading carefully: the SPCA said it would have to kill the dogs because sled dogs aren't adoptable. The SPCA kills animals that are dropped off to it "one dog at a time" all the time. AAS just posted the latest two stories of Tyson and Titan, but our site is filled with stories of mass killings of dogs and cats and rabbits and other animals. The SPCA has even made extra money by selling horses at meat auctions.