Animals In Print
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April 17, 2012

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New Sled Dog Code of Practice Issued


Editors note, many pictures below show humans looking for remains of dead (culled healthy "sled" dogs)

sled, dog, sled dog

VANCOUVER -- Two Vancouver animal rights groups say new provincial sled-dog regulations won’t prevent another massive slaughter, like the one that occurred in Whistler in 2010, because they still leave room for healthy dogs to be shot.

The Vancouver Humane Society and Lifeforce, a Vancouver-based animal rights group, said they were alarmed the Sled Dog Code of Practice, issued by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture Monday, has instructions on how to humanely shoot unwanted dogs.

sled, dog, sled dog  sled, dog, sled dog

“It’s disturbing that a document that is supposedly about animal welfare shows you how to shoot your dog,” said Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society.

The Sled Dog Code of Practice and sled dog standards of care regulations were created in response to the April 10, 2010 slaughter of 52 sled dogs owned by Whistler-based Outdoor Adventures.

“We don’t really see how this prevents something like Whistler happening again, given an operator who has a surplus of dogs and can’t find homes for them can still shoot them — even if they are healthy,” Fricker said.

The new document contains detailed instructions on how to humanely shoot a dog, including diagrams, illustrations and advice on restraining and calming the animal before shooting it and what to expect when the deed is done.

Both Lifeforce and the Vancouver Humane Society called for an outright ban of sled-dog tours and races because of the “inherent cruelty” associated with the industry. Failing that, they had hoped the new code and regulations would require dogs be euthanized by a veterinarian.

sled, dog, sled dog“They haven’t stopped any of the barbaric and cruel practices that were around when the Whistler sled dogs were killed,” said Lifeforce spokesman Peter Hamilton Tuesday.

“Killing a dog isn’t always instant. Dogs don’t always stand still,” he said.

Hamilton added many sled dog racers and operators “breed a lot of dogs to pick out the best one,” so it’s common in the industry to kill “surplus” dogs. “The bottom line is the industry doesn’t want to spend any money on veterinarians. It’s too costly to do the humane thing.”

Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the BC SPCA and a member of the government’s Sled Dog Standard of Care working group, said her organizations feels dogs should be euthanized by a veterinarian. But “there’s always compromises in a group,” she said.

Moriarty said even though it’s not required by law she hopes firearms would only be used to kill a dog in an emergency situation.

Another working group member, Nancy Clarke, an animal science professor at the University of British Columbia, said a gunshot can be just as humane as other methods of euthanizing dogs — if it’s done correctly.

“There are some circumstances when you are many miles from anybody and if a dog gets badly hurt it’s less humane to keep a dog in pain and a gunshot needs to be done,” she said.

A representative from the Professional Mushers Association of B.C. who served on the government’s sled-dog committee could not be reached for comment. However, Chris Schwanke, a member of the Mushers Association and owner of Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures in Kamloops said after reading the document he doesn’t see “any change in how he already cares for the dogs.”

While he personally would take his dogs to a veterinarian if they had to be euthanized, he said he doesn’t disagree with using a firearm.

“Honestly, I don’t see the problem with using a firearm in the proper fashion .... You just want to use a rifle. One shot. One kill and taking them away from the other dogs and having a nice peaceful moment with them before,” he said.

Schwanke said there are six tour operators with the Professional Mushers Association of B.C. and each one would have between 40 to 70 dogs. He estimates there are approximately 200 other sled dogs owned by individual racers and breeders in B.C.

Sled Dog Code of Practice:
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