B.C. SPCA 'stunned' by suggestion it knew of dog cull
Bethany Lindsay, ctvbc.ca
Published Wednesday, February 2, 2011 8:03PM PST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:49AM PDT
The B.C. SPCA is vehemently denying media reports that its staff had any knowledge of a worker's plan to dispose of 100 healthy sled dogs before they were brutally slaughtered last year.
In a story published in the Vancouver Sun Wednesday, the SPCA's senior investigator Eileen Drever was quoted as saying that the general manager of Howling Dog Tours in Whistler had asked for help finding new homes for his surplus dogs in April or May of 2010.
According to WorkSafe BC documents obtained this week, that same worker shot 100 dogs to death on April 21 and 23.
But Marcie Moriarty, general manager for SPCA cruelty investigations, told ctvbc.ca that the worker didn't meet with Drever until May 28 -- long after the dogs were dead.
"The B.C. SPCA did not have a meeting with Bob Fawcett in April prior to this cull," she said. "We absolutely had no knowledge of this cull."
Moriarty said she was "stunned" by the suggestion that the SPCA might have been aware of the details of the gruesome mass killing before reading the WorkSafe BC documents.
"It's extremely upsetting for everybody who works at the SPCA, the volunteers, to make the suggestion that we would know these dogs were massacred," she said.
But she acknowledged that during the May 28 meeting, Drever was informed that there had been a "significant" cull.
"Should Eileen have asked more about that? Yes," Moriarty said.
However, she maintains: "There was no information that even hinted at the massacre that had happened."
Moriarty said that after further contact with Fawcett in the fall, the SPCA prepared shelter space for an additional 60 unwanted sled dogs, but the tour company -- now owned by Outdoor Adventures Whistler -- opted not to abandon the animals.
According to the WorkSafe BC decision granting the worker compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, the dogs were killed because of a "slow winter season." Some of the dogs survived shots to the head, and had to be chased down as they ran around with parts of their faces missing.
The SPCA and RCMP are investigating the slaughter, and criminal charges for animal cruelty are possible against the worker, although none have been laid.
Moriarty said she could not confirm that Fawcett is the worker under investigation, but added that he was the general manager of Howling Dog Tours at the time of the cull. Fawcett has not responded to numerous requests for comment.
This isn't the first time the SPCA has investigated the tour company. After complaints in 2005 and 2006, investigators issued 65 orders to the company, and Moriarty says that "substantial" changes were made.
Outdoor Adventures Whistler says that it didn't assume full operational control of Howling Dog Tours until May, and that it had no knowledge of the slaughter last year.
Since it took control, Outdoor Adventures Whistler says that it has made "significant" changes to the business to ensure the humane treatment of the animals.
Those changes include giving away 75 dogs, neutering males and creating an open-pen kennel rather than tethering the dogs. Guns are no longer allowed on site and the company's new policy is that euthanasia must be performed at a veterinary office.
Moriarty says that the company is now in full compliance with animal cruelty laws.
On Wednesday, Premier Gordon Campbell announced that MLA Terry Lake will lead a task force to review the dog killings. The task force will include representatives from the SPCA and the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
"The tragic and disturbing details that have emerged around how these dogs were inhumanely treated are not acceptable to British Columbians or to their government," Campbell said in a release.
The premier says the task force will try to determine why authorities weren't notified about the slaughter earlier. It will also look into regulations surrounding the dogsled tourism industry and come up with ideas for preventing similar massacres.
The task force is expected to produce a report for review by the agriculture ministry within 45 days.