Everyone is talking about the 100 sled dogs that were slaughtered in April last year. They were murdered because Outdoor Adventures Whistler – owner of the subsidiary sledding tour company Howling Dog Tours – did not find keeping the dogs economically feasible. They killed them because it was cheaper than keeping them alive. Certainly cheaper than trying to find home for them. Especially considering that most sled dogs are not well-socialised or well-loved. Trying to fit these dogs into a normal home would be very hard. So they made it easy on themselves. They are just dogs, right? Just money-making tools. When they are no longer useful, why keep them around? After all, there are always more where they came from.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. It is just the first time the media has cared.
According to local blog writer Joan Sinden, in 2008 a former puppy mill in New Brunswick called Chapman Kennels killed 175 dogs after some bad press. They had over 425 dogs in their care and no one to buy them. I’m assuming many were very ill already given where they came from. Many may have died before the kennel owners came around to do the slaughtering.
I suspect such horrific events happen a lot more than any of us want to realise. Puppy mills are only one way the government allows it to happen. In some cases, as in Breed Specific Legislation, the killing is even government mandated. But when I read about stories like this, I have to wonder how many times companies just like them have done this before. How many dogs have been killed so brutally and carelessly for the same reason?
If this employee had not filed his claim with WorkSafe BC I doubt anyone would know about it. If this employee had kept his mouth shut, would international news outlets even have anything to report? How often does this happen? Once a year? Twice? We’ll never know.
As long as the government views animals strictly as property, this isn’t going to change.
About two years ago now I heard about a seventy-three year old man who beat five puppies to death with a hammer because the SPCA intended to seize them. Apparently, this person thought they would be better off killed by him than placed in the local shelter. If you are interested, you can read the details here. The reason I am talking about it now is because the man received a very light sentence. He was essentially acquitted with the condition that he could not own a pet for the next twelve months. Twelve months of no dog ownership. A period that is long over in February 2011. I shudder to think this man has puppies under his care as I write this.
Unfortunately, this judge’s ruling was not different from the norm. This is pretty much how it goes. Pets are property. Full stop. Ownership is ownership is ownership. As far as the law is concerned, this man was able to dispatch of his property as he saw fit. This man killed five puppies. The manager of Howling Dog Tours killed 100. The two are not mutually exclusive.
The Vancouver Humane Society wants to put an end to all sled dog tours. I am not convinced that is the best response.
There are a lot of sled dog tour groups throughout the country. Many of them are probably in violation of ethical treatment standards. I’ve seen the images on television. Dogs who permanently live outside, leashed up to a small dog house or barrel. They’ve never been given human affection, never been praised. Dogs who exist purely for the tourist dollar. Dogs who know nothing but the harness and the sled. However, I know there must be some that are run by good people who care about their dogs and treat them with the respect – and love – they deserve. I know some dog sled tour companies are much smaller. Their dogs probably are just as much companions as they are meal tickets. Forcing these people out of business isn’t the answer.
This tour group should be set up as an example. One hundred dogs is a massive number. I am guessing they own more than that. I wonder what their facilities look like. How many places are capable of caring for over one hundred animals? Perhaps there should be clearly defined legal standards for running an animal-related business. Perhaps there should be regular inspections. Perhaps there should be legislation for the proper handing of animals when the company faces a financial loss. Perhaps there should be a limit on the number of dogs a business is allowed to keep in one place.
In my opinion, this devastating tragedy could have been prevented. If businesses knew there would be real repercussions for the mass killing of their animals, perhaps they would find another way. A precedent needs to be set. At the very least consumers need to be more informed. I know I will be doing my research before I give my money to any animal-related business.
I hope all the press around this terrible event will be one step in the right direction. I hope.
If you want to read a great post on the subject, CindyLu’s Muse did an excellent job of breaking it down. I am too angry to be nearly as poignant.