'Every dog here is happy': Whistler sled dog operator says animals are not in distress
WHISTLER, B.C. -- The owner of a sled dog company in Whistler says she believes every dog in her kennel is happy and wants to be there.
Jamie Hargreaves runs Blackcomb Dog Sled, a company being singled out by the Vancouver Humane Society.
The group has released video footage filmed from above the facility by drone during the summer, showing animals in pens and on tethers, pacing back and forth.
“We think that that is just not the way dogs should be kept, no dog should have to live that way,” Said Peter Fricker with the group. “They’re indicating what’s known as stereotypic behaviour which is a purposeless, repetitive action by animals when they’re showing psychological distress.”
When Blackcomb Dog Sled was reached for comment, Hargreaves invited CTV News Vancouver for a kennel tour.
She says she remembers when the drone flew overhead.
“Yeah it looks dry, you see dogs running but you don't see what’s going on, the bigger picture,” she said.
When asked about the animals walking around in circles, she said “I had dogs playing” and when dogs on their tether see others playing, they want to join in.
“They’re of course wanting to play, they’re excited (and) they’re going to have their time off in a minute,” she said.
Hargreaves and her team look after about 80 dogs at the facility. She describes it as a “summer camp for dogs” and says they carefully monitor the animals to see if they get along with their “roommates” or if they prefer to be on their own.
The use of tethers is legal under B.C.’s care standard for sled dogs, but the Humane Society is calling on the provincial government to change that.
“I think most people who see this video would not want to see any dog kept this way,” Frickers said.
But Hargreaves said tethers are useful for dogs who don’t want to be in a pen all the time.
“Some dogs just do better in their own space, and until you experience it or work with dogs it’s hard to tell that,” she said.
One thing Frickers and Hargreaves agree on is the need to change the law in regards to the killing of animals. The current legislation allows for sled dog owners to shoot an animal if it cannot be rehomed.
Hargreaves works hard to rehome her sled dogs if needed.
“I don’t believe that sled dogs can’t be homed,” Hargreaves said. Adding she has a number of retired sled dogs who are currently up for adoption.
In a statement, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries said “The Province worked with commercial operators, veterinarians, the BC SPCA and academics to develop a Sled Dog Code of Practice outlining a set of recommended best practices for B.C.’s sled dog industry.”