'Not truthful': B.C. man who had 40 dogs seized from his business denies they were in distress
VANCOUVER -- A man who had dozens of dogs seized from his business in B.C. this week says the animals weren't in distress.
The BC SPCA seized 40 dogs Tuesday from Spirit of the North Kennels, a sled dog operation in the West Kootenay region.
"We received concerns from the public with respect to the care of these dogs," said Marcie Moriarty, the chief prevention and enforcement officer with the BC SPCA.
"We attended on the property and were attempting to work with the owner but there was not substantial compliance."
Moriarty said their concerns included inadequate shelter, hypothermia, suspected dehydration and stereotypical behaviour witnessed in some of the dogs.
"They show signs of psychological distress,” said Amy Morris, executive director, Vancouver Humane Society. "Any kind of repetitive pacing and continuous barking shows that a dog is not in a good mental state."
Former volunteer Rory Knihnicki said she recorded videos when she worked there two years ago and brought them to the BC SCPA.
"As I worked there more, I just got more and more uneasy," she told CTV News on Thursday. "I knew in my gut that it was wrong."
She said she pushed the organization to make a move at the time, but felt nothing was moving fast enough so she posted videos of the dogs to social media.
"It was really tearing me up inside, I left that place in complete shambles and with very little faith in our animal welfare system," Knihnicki said.
She said at the time she worked there, there were up to 90 dogs in his care and she was one of three volunteers working with them.
"It strikes so deeply when you see these animals just running in circles and knowing that that has been their life for 12 years," she said.
Knihnicki also said she never saw the owner out caring for the dogs.
"I never saw him get up off of his computer when I was there he would sit on the computer all day every day," she said. "He doesn’t interact with the dogs at all. And anybody who’s volunteered there would say the same thing I’m sure."
But when CTV News reached the owner Al Magaw by phone, he disputed the claims his dogs were in distress or poorly housed.
"The fact that my dogs are in distress is not truthful. The fact that my dogs are poorly housed, is not truthful," he said.
"We've been getting inspections for 40 plus years. And we get compliments often; get compliments from the inspectors. What has changed so much? Our houses are exactly the same as they’ve always been."
Magaw added the dogs get three litres of water a day in the winter and in the summer, "they get fresh water in front of them 24-7."
Along with the dog sled operation, Spirit of the North Kennels also offers boarding and behavioural modification training, and some of the dogs seized were part of that.
"There are no standards for any set up to say what is, what constitutes behavioural modification," said Moriarty.
"What was being set up there unfortunately by all accounts nearly exacerbated the issues for these particular dogs."
The BC SPCA said it is working with owners to facilitate returning their dogs.
"I had my vet come out here too so she can inspect all the dogs," Magaw said.
"She said in her official report, all she can say is she found nothing that broke any of the rules or whatever."
The alleged violations go against Canada’s sled dog code of practice enacted in 2012. The Vancouver Humane Society said the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association penned a 2018 documents with updated regulations.
"What we’ve seen is that this footage mimics what happens across Canada, and across B.C. in terms of sled dog tourism," Morris said.
"What we’d like to see is the sled dog standards, which are from 2012, be updated to this 2018 document that has more recent science incorporated in it."
Moriarty said the investigation is still underway so they’re a long way from recommending any charges.
Magaw said he’s well aware of the regulations in owning and caring for sled dogs and is, "going to be appealing the seizure," and said he "got a lawyer, a dog law expert."