A Canada-based tour operator employee slaughtered 100 sled dogs when they were no longer needed because of a slow winter season.
The employee, who has not been named, carried out the “execution-style” cull in April 2010 on the order of his boss, who runs Outdoor Adventures, based in Whistler, B.C.
The incident was noted in a confidential workers’ compensation review decision, obtained by the Vancouver Sun.
The cull came to light in a claim filed by the man, who was the general manager at the time, who sought compensation for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
He said he suffered from nightmares, panic attacks and depression resulting from the slaughter.
The dogs were shot or had their throats cut while tethered after business took a downturn.
The employer did not challenge the employee’s claim, which was accepted by review officer Allan Wotherspoon, in his report dated Januray 25, 2011.
The employee received compensation and the B.C SPCA has launched an investigation of the cull.
Connie Arsenault, owner of Snowy Owl Dog Sledding Adventure Tours in Canmore, said: “We’re horrified”.
“Those dogs didn’t deserve that. I don’t understand why that person would even follow through on instructions like that.”
Arsenault said it was time for tougher regulation of the industry with regard to the treatment of animals.
“We’ve been working with the government bodies and the SPCA because there have been a lot of issues, even here, about certain companies,” said Arsenault.
“And nothing is ever done.”
The culled dogs were owned by Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc., of which Outdoor Adventures owns a stake.
Rich Bittner, owner of Howling Dog Tours Ltd. in Canmore, said he sold his 50 per cent share in the Whistler company to partner Robert Fawcett in 2004 and said he has nothing to do with the B.C. operation.
“We haven’t even talked with Bob,” he said. “We didn’t know about this situation until (Monday) morning.
“We’re stunned and mortified,” Bittner said. “It’s certainly not our policy to do mass culls. Our company policy is we adopt as many dogs as we can.”
The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) report stated that a veterinarian had been contacted, but refused to participate in the cull. An attempt to adopt out the dogs had limited success.
“In the past, his practice when euthanizing a dog was to take it for a walk in the woods and give them a nice meat meal to distract them. That would make for a calm environment and kept the dogs away from the general population so as not to disrupt them. He would use a gun to euthanize the dogs,” the report states.
However, because of the large number of animals, the man said he was forced to euthanize the dogs in full view of the other dogs and by about the 15th dog it appeared to him “the dogs were experiencing anxiety and stress from observing the euthanasia of other members of the pack and were panicking.”
As a result of the panic, a dog named Suzie was only wounded.
“Susie was the mother of his family’s pet dog, Bumble. He had to chase Suzie through the yard because the horrific noise she made when wounded caused him to drop the leash. Although she had the left side of her cheek blown off and her eye hanging out, he was unable to catch her.
He then obtained a gun with a scope and used it to shoot her when she settled down close to another group of dogs.”
After disposing of Suzie’s body, he noticed another dog, named Poker, that was special to him and not slated to be euthanized had been accidentally shot when he had shot Suzie earlier.
“Poker was covered in blood from a neck wound and covered in his own faeces. He believed Poker suffered for approximately 15 minutes before he could be put down.”
The dogs were killed over a couple of days starting April 21.
His last memory of killing the final 15 dogs was “fuzzy” and in some cases he felt it was simpler to “get behind the dogs and slit their throats and let them bleed out.”
“By the end he was covered in blood. When he finished he cleared up the mess, filled in the mass grave and tried to bury the memories as deeply as he could.”
Five days after the final culling, he sought treatment from a clinical counsellor, who said he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
His family physician said the worker, who resides at the same location as the dogs with his family, complained of “panic attacks, nightmares, sleep disturbances, anger, irritability and depressed mood since culling approximately 100 dogs.”
It was also reported that the man must care for the dogs that remain seven days a week, but he continues to “deteriorate mentally and emotionally.”
Marcie Moriarty, the head of the BC SPCA cruelty investigations division, said she had no sympathy for the man.
“I’ve no doubt he has suffered posttraumatic stress, but there’s a thing called choice. I absolutely would not have done this and he could have said no, this is a Criminal Code offence, and to have just stopped. I don’t feel sorry for this guy for one minute.”
Moriarty said there was a problem with the sled dog industry in general.
“People see these 20 sled dogs, an idyllic setting with snow in the background and think ‘how great.’ But what they don’t see is the 200 dogs tethered and sleeping out back, chained to a barrel.”
She said they also plan to uncover the mass grave to examine the dogs’ remains, but can’t do that immediately because the ground is frozen under several feet of snow.
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