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Sled Dog Massacre
British Columbia tour company kills 100 dogs
My dog Renzo was one of the many unwanted sled dogs in Alaska and Canada. He's adapted to city life quite well.

As most of you who read this blog regularly know, I have a rescue sled dog. So I have a special fondness of these working dogs of the north, but it doesn’t take any special kinship to be sickened by the story of 100 sled dogs slaughtered in British Columbia, Canada. According to the story posted on HuffPo, a tour company near Whistler ordered the killing of 100 of its 300 dogs due to a downturn in the economy.

I understand that times are tough but did they try to place the dogs with other families, mushers even? Shouldn’t that be required of companies that make their money on the backs of dogs? I learned a lot about the dark side of sled dog ownership researching a story on a woman who rehabilitates sled dogs in Fairbanks. And I’m not saying every musher is cruel or even that most are cruel, but there are plenty who see dogs as machines and treat them accordingly. Add to that the profit motive and things get really sticky.
I also know that sometimes killing an animal is better than abandonment, but abandonment shouldn’t be an option. And if the reported details of these killings are accurate—some dogs “were repeatedly shot and had their throats slashed before being dumped into a mass grave,” others were tossed into the grave while still alive—it's a simple case of extreme cruelty and should be treated as a serious crime.
Meanwhile, the role of mushing for entertainment has to be examined. Can it be pursued humanely? How do we ensure the dogs are kept safe? What do you think?


Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

Photo by Chris Chang.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Maura | February 1 2011 |

I am a huge fan of dog sledding and love following the iditarod every year. I am sorry to say I never have even thought about mushers treating their dogs poorly. For people who do this as their livelihood , I wouldn't even think that they wouldn't treat their dogs the best they could!
I compete in various dog sports with my two mutts and always do my absolute best to make the right decisions to keep them in good health and happy before ever pushing them to beyond what they are capable of doing (or not having fun doing it).
I guess I have thought the best of People once again where maybe I shouldn't have:(
I think any dog sport can be approached humanely but it would be very hard to monitor what people do at home in comparison to at competitions.

Submitted by CollieMom01 | February 1 2011 |

I just read this story on CNN and it make my heart ache. How anyone could murder these healthy dogs is just beyond me--and this WAS murder. There was nothing humane or kind about the ending of these dogs lives. What gets me is that it would've been so easy to turn part of the business involved into education and adoption and all kinds of good things that would have provided so much good PR for this resort. Instead, the dogs were taken out into the woods and hacked to death. I don't have any answers about the morality of using dogs to provide entertainment for guests at the resort--I mean, I kinda think it would a fun experience. How many of us ever get to take a dog sled ride? But only if the dogs were well cared for and if needed, made available for adoption if/when necessary. The resort was clearly running a kennel, so they had the room to provide for these dogs until other homes could be found. This was strictly a financial decision, and I do not believe that the management didn't know what was going on. One can only hope the money saved was worth it because my guess is that their guest list will be much smaller after the publicity generated by this appalling situation.

Submitted by Julia Kamysz Lane | February 1 2011 |

A friend of mine and her husband breed and race Huskies. She was absolutely horrified to read this and does her best to assure the general public that not all sled dog racers pursue the sport for profit or sheer glory. They truly love their dogs and share their passion for racing.

The fact that these dogs were owned by a corporation intent on making money says it all; they were treated like puppies at a pet shop or greyhounds at a race track: inventory, not family members.

More details: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/sled+dogs+slaughtered+Whistler+when+tou...

I find it interesting that this only came to light because the employee who was directed to slaughter the dogs sought counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder. Should he be charged with a crime or is he a victim here, too?

Submitted by Kimberly B. Lawler | February 2 2011 |

It isn't corporate greed alone which treats sled dogs with such heinous disregard as happened in Whistler BC Canada. In January 2011, an Alaskan breeder of huskies and malamutes had 157 adult dogs and puppies removed from his property because of malnutrition and starvation. Apparently, some of the dogs were already dead and others were dying. The man had continued to breed dogs and feed the puppies because they produced income for him. When the profit waned, however, the adult dogs were no longer fed. Thoughts of these horrible abuses were in my head last night as I started to read DOG MAN by Martha Sherrill. On page 4, she recounts the story of dogs left behind on a research base in Antarctica. She writes, "As the account goes, the two surviving dogs, named Taro and Jiro, ran to their scientist owner with wild enthusiasm and slobbering affection despite the fact that they'd been abandoned by him for an entire year in arctic conditions." It made me think even the surviving Canadian and Alaskan dogs probably would forgive their abusers as well. Why dogs continue to love us and devote themselves to us in spite of our many, repeatedly tragic failings in their companionship and care used to be beyond my comprehension. Now, however, I have come to believe it is because in so many ways they are better than us.

Submitted by Marlies | May 28 2011 |

Is it any wonder that the word dog spelled backwards is God!! The dogs are so much better than most people--they do not see religion, color or even political views-- they see nice or mean and how you treat them. That's all! The people responsible for this evil crime should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I do hope that the beautiful animals continue to haunt him forever. The fact that he even got workman's comp is out of the question!!! This is my second sled dog and I love him dearly and would stand in the way to protect him like I know he would protect me.

Submitted by Barbara Branton... | February 2 2011 |

I had the great privaledge of having an alaskan malamute as a companion in my life.She had a good life and survived to 17 years of age. She past two years ago and I don't think there is a day goes by that I don't miss that smile that greated me after work each day. Anyway,getting back on topic.The man who slaughtered these poor animals has to explain why he did it! No one put a gun to his head and threatened him if he didn't comply. Even if his job was threated if he didn't complete this task, then should have been when he blew the whistle, not months after the deadly deed was done! By the way, that is not post tramatic disorder that murderious devil is suffering from, it a conscience and those beautiful, spirited animals will haunt him for a long time.

Submitted by Ann | February 3 2011 |

Just so everyone here is aware, the man who killed the dogs and the business owner who authorized the killings are not the only individuals with blood on their hands. The B.C.SPCA is also responsible. The man who destroyed the dogs and filed for post traumatic stress contacted the B.C.SPCA on two difference occasions requesting help to adopt out the dogs and the B.C.SPCA refused, stating that "sled dogs would not make good pets." Their defense is that they would have responded had they know the dogs were going to be slaughtered. Very poor defense....

If you care to read it, here is a link to the article (from Vancouver Island) in which the B.C.SPCA admits they were not only contacted but would not help with adoptions or make a trip out to the site to check on the dogs.


Clearly, many people played a role in this horrible atrocity.

Submitted by Josie | February 3 2011 |

Ashley Keith, a former musher, and organizations like Sled Dog Watchdog show that the industry standard of treatment of working dogs is actually quite brutal. Bringing more public attention and pressure to bear on the working dog industry will enforce more humane standards. Hopefully the Whistler Massacre will at least generate perennial public scrutiny of how dogs are treated throughout the stages of their lives while they are owned by commercial and racing mushers. The more eyes that are on these folks, the less they can so easily perpetrate violence and neglect.

Submitted by Ann | February 4 2011 |

Ya know, I love my dogs dearly even though their favorite activity is primarily couch patrol. Yet, here are these working dogs performing as athletes, giving their all, not only because they love this work but also because they want to please their owners. What do they get in return? A musher that doesn't even value their labor. How could you not treat them like royalty when, without their high level of performance, you would have no sled team. Dogs that have a strong bond with their humans, work harder to please and give 1,000%!! I am struggling with the images this story has left me with. In the words of Donna Reynolds, from Bad Rap, after learning the details of the horrendous acts made by Michael Vick...."the rescuer in me keeps trying to think of a way to go back in time and somehow stop this torture and pull the little dog to safety. I think I'll be looking for ways to pull that dog out for the rest of my life." I too will be saving those sled dogs in my mind for a very long time.....

Submitted by Marion | February 4 2011 |

After reading about and seeing this story, I am appalled that this was allowed to happen. The fellow who did the killing could have said NO but he did not. He has no excuse. This person and the company should be held responsible for what happened along with Eileen Drever and the BCSPCA. This should not have happened at all. I am very disappointed in the BCSPCA, are you not supposed to be looking out for the animals.

Also, who said that these dogs were not adoptable. This is the same mindset that PETA had with the Michael Vick pitbulls, all of whom except for 3 have made remarkable transitions from fighters to pets. I rescue and foster racing greyhounds after they finish racing. These dogs are bred to race and have done so for thousands of years. The greyhounds transition beautifully to family pets. Yes, some have more issues then others but all it takes is kindness, knowing the dog and being a pack leader.

The last thing I have read is that the dogs that were killed were either too old or too sick. Why then were they pulling sleds. To everyone involved, take responsibility for this tragedy and hopefully lessons will be learned and this will not happen again.

Ottawa, Ontario

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