Sled Dog Task Force makes recommendations

The SPCA say they are happy with the Sled Dog Task Force recommendations.

The SPCA say they are happy with the Sled Dog Task Force recommendations.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) is urging the provincial government to act quickly on key recommendations outlined in the report of the Sled Dog Task Force.

“The report contains strong recommendations which we believe will help prevent another tragedy like the devastating slaughter of the 100 Whistler-area sled dogs in April 2010,” said Craig Daniell, chief executive officer for the non-profit animal welfare society. While the BC SPCA supports all the recommendations in the report, Daniell said the society is particularly pleased with three key recommendations, including a call for the creation for a mandatory sled dog “standard of care” for B.C.

“It would be a huge step forward to have a code of practice that sets out clear standards for the care of sled dogs, including housing, food, water, exercise, socialization, “retirement” plans for dogs no longer needed by an operator and acceptable forms of euthanasia,” said Daniell. “A mandatory standard of care would also be an important enforcement tool when our special constables are called out to inspect sled dog operations and in recommending animal cruelty charges.”

While recommendation #3 in the report specifically calls for the creation of a standard of care for sled dogs, Daniell notes that report, which proposes that “the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act be amended to create a regulatory authority to define standards of care for animals”, also opens the door to codes of practices for other types of animal-related operations in B.C. “This authority could be used to stop other kinds of animal suffering, such as helping to eradicate puppy mills and unscrupulous breeding operations, for instance.”

Marcie Moriarty, general manger of cruelty investigations for the BC SPCA said the society is also extremely pleased with recommendation #7, that the province “enhance the capacity of the BC SPCA to undertake cruelty investigations”. “Without a doubt we need more constables and funding,” she said.

“Currently we have 26 full-time constables for the entire province and all of our funding for cruelty investigations comes from community donations. We carried out a record 7,147 cruelty investigations last year but there are so many more animals out there we don’t have the resources to reach. We look forward to working with the provincial government to find ways to enhance the enforcement of animal cruelty laws.” Moriarty says she hopes the government will review funding models from other provinces, where the SPCA receives significant support for cruelty investigations.

She notes that the cost of the BC SPCA investigation currently under way into the slaughter of the 100 Whistler-area sled dogs could be as high as $200,000. “Enforcement of animal cruelty laws, and the subsequent care of the thousands of injured and abused animals the BC SPCA seizes each year requires significant resources.”

Moriarty says it is clear from the international outrage expressed over the slaughter of the sled dogs that the public has high expectations for animal protection in B.C. “When the story about this terrible tragedy broke in January we received thousands of telephone calls and emails from people supporting our mission work of animal protection,” said Moriarty. “The task force report also acknowledges the overwhelming feedback the government has received on this issue. There is a clear public mandate here, a strong message that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in our province.”

Moriarty adds that the third recommendation of particular significance to the BC SPCA is recommendation #8, calling on the Ministry of Attorney General “to build upon existing prosecutorial expertise… to successfully pursue cases of animal abuse…”. “This is an issue we have championed for several years,” she said. “Having additional specialized Crown counsel to deal with animal cruelty cases is a crucial factor in achieving more consistent and effective charges and convictions against those who inflict harm and suffering on animals.”

Note: The first phase of the BC SPCA investigation into the sled dog killings near Whistler is now complete. The investigations team plans to exhume the bodies of the slaughtered animals for forensic evidence as soon as the ground has thawed sufficiently.