Will you vigil for the sled dogs on April 23rd?

By isak, April 15, 2011

About this time a year ago, someone was sitting in the office of their business and looking over the financials. The expected boom from the recent Olympics had not worked out as expected, so changes had to be made. The easiest and quickest change would be to reduce the number of dogs this sled dog touring company had in its inventory. So he decided: 100 dogs needed to be killed.

And word was sent to the man who lives among them — the dogs’ very lifeline. It would be the job of their caretaker — the man who fed them, attended to them; the man who named them, and even kept one of them as his family dog — to kill them.

Reports that I have read say that he tried to find homes for as many as he could. And he was largely unsuccessful. The BC SPCA reportedly turned him down saying that sled dogs are unadoptable. This is not true.

But what I read that has stuck with me the most was the report released from Work Safe BC:

“As a result of the panic, mid-way through April 21st, he wounded but did not kill one dog, “Suzie”. Suzie was the mother of his family’s pet dog “Bumble”. He had to chase Suzie through the yard because the horrific noise she made when wounded caused him to drop the leash. Although she had the left side of her cheek blown off and her eye hanging out, he was unable to catch her. He then obtained a gun with a scope and used it to shoot her when she settled down close to another group of dogs. When he went to gather her body he was attacked by one of the other dogs and bitten in the arm. Although because he had a thick shirt on he was not injured, the moment was horrific given his fear when attacked combined with his feelings about the culling of the dogs.”

“On April 21 ,2010, he put down approximately 55 dogs. As he neared the end of the cull that day, the dogs were so panicked they were biting him; he had to wrap his arms in foam to prevent injury. He also had to perform what he described as “execution style” killings where he wrestled the dogs to the ground and stood on them with one foot to shoot them. The last few kills were “multiple-shot killings” as he was simply unable to get a clean shot. He described a guttural sound he had never heard before from the dogs and fear in their eyes.”

I do not doubt that this man has PTSD. I would be forever haunted. I want to scream at the computer that he could have done more and should have done more. But I have not walked in his shoes to fully understand.

Instead I feel that on some level, in some parallel universe, or sadly in THIS universe, we ALL failed these dogs. We failed to realize the nature of this industry to periodically cull their dogs for business’ sake. We have failed to pull together as a society to be open and responding to their needs, we failed to help these babies..

Most rescues and shelters are full… and likely responded as such if/when they were approached by Outdoor Adventures Whistler. Would/could they have responded differently if they had realized the very real urgency here?

As we finally start to really embrace a more humane lifestyle for our animals — pets, farm animals and wildlife, we must make ourselves available to the situations we encounter and respond appropriately. Both the situations that we know of and those that will arise. We need to improve our animal welfare legislation. We need to stop animals from being categorized as mere property and respect their sentience. We need to create a more effective countrywide network of rescues and shelters so that people in trouble can more easily tap into this community of caregivers when they need help. We need to do it for the animals.

On April 23, 2010, the last of the dogs were killed. And not in a pretty or humane way. They died terrified.

On April 23, 2011 in many communities across the globe, people will be marching or gathering in vigil to the victims who were given no say about their very own lives, the ONE thing that truly is our own. It’s not too late to organize your own vigil — whether it is a march, a gathering in a park or even inviting your friends to join you in your backyard. In remembrance of these dogs, we MUST enact better legislation for the welfare of our animals. And we must enact stiffer penalties for animal abuse/cruelty.

And remember: Get out and vote. Reading a blog or carrying signs for the news cameras won’t change the world. Voting can.

More photos of Outdoor Adventure Whistler sled dogs | Thanks to Amie Wills for posting their photos


  1. Michael Michalewski says:

    Please do not let this issue pass and die as time passes by .We need to keep up the pressure to ensure that this never happens again not only in Canada but the whole world.

  2. Dana Jefferson says:

    As someone who was involved for years in sled dog racing on the east coast, I know how much people loved their dogs. The formal portrait of my lead dog is hanging over my piano even though he died of old age decades ago. I had dogs that were from Alaska, and I can tell you that they CAN be adopted. I think the confusion comes from the fact that these dogs LOVE to run. When I had sled dogs, I dragged myself out of bed to train them because they loved it more than anything. I no longer have sled dogs because I’m not in a position to let them do the work they love. It’s similar to issues that arise with other breeds when they aren’t allowed to do the job they love. All this means is that need to be adopted in the right household. Yes, it takes more time to find these homes. Years ago they said that racing greyhounds were not adoptable, but my neighbor walks his by my house every day.

    I think we need to make a distinction between the individuals who have a sled dog business to help support taking care of their dogs because they love the dogs and sled dog racing (folks who would have these dogs anyhow) with those who are into the business just because they want to make money and see the sled dogs as a business asset/liability. I agree that regulations would help distinquish these two groups and help protect the poor dogs unlucky enough to end up with the latter group of greedy individuals. However, shutting down all sled dog racing would be like not allowing border collies to herd sheep. It would be cruel.

    I will mourn for these poor dogs and for the lost individuals (the man who pulled the trigger along with those that ordered the killing) responsible for this horrific act.

  3. sheila henry says:

    absolutely sickening to think that we as humans, would not consider the life on one of these dogs to be worth saving. May those who make these decisions be encumbered forever with guilt and retribution. That so many people could adopt and love them is not even considered? shame on them

  4. Dianna Kobley says:

    YES!! We will Vigil.

    Victoria BC is one of the cities hosting a Vigil for the 100 Sled Dogs and also have available Mark Holland’s petition to sign.

    WHEN: April 23, 2011

    WHERE: Meet at Ogden Point (the Breakwater) walk to Parliament Buildings.

    TIME: 3:00 p.m. (rain or shine)

    Join us.

  5. isak says:

    This “culling” of the dogs is certainly not new. Perhaps the quantity is not unusual either. We have not been privvy to this side of the business before now.

    The man who killed all these dogs sought help for the trauma he continued to experience after their deaths. And it was this breakdown that brought this situation to the surface.

    Sled dog tour companies are not necessarily regulated as we would think. This would be a good place to add needed legislation.

    I am sure it is an exhilarating experience to ride behind a dog-drawn sled through the openness of a snow-covered landscape, but at what expense? In the photos I have seen, these dogs live tethered to their dog houses when they are not working. Of course they do. How else could you have so many dogs in one place? They are integral parts of a larger machine — the sled dog tour business — and once they fail to be a useful, productive part of the machine, they are removed.

    In my own personal opinion, I would like to see this industry shut down. The lives of these sled dogs is simply for the entertainment of us humans.

    The BC SPCA turned down a request for help saying that sled dogs are unadoptable. This is simple not true. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty let these dogs down. They may as well have pulled the trigger, too.

    We need to require better legislation for the animals we share this planet with. We need a more centralized network of rescues and shelters. We need to go the extra mile and save lives. And we need to stop the killing of millions of healthy animals every year.

    I know it sounds like a grandiose challenge, but it is do-able if everyone chips in a little.

    Yes, by all means, write letters, share the story with your friends and ask them to share it with their friends. The more people that become involved, the easier the work becomes.

    As for whether this guy rots in hell… I have the feeling he is living in a hell of his own making right now and every time he looks at his dog, Bumble, whose mother he did not quite kill on his first try.

  6. Lee Busby says:

    I don’t know why I am leaving a comment. What good does it do. I am disgusted at what I read. I wish I could be a vigilante for the dogs killed. I know he will meet the maker on the other side. How in God’s name could anyone kill dogs that they raised, fed and named is beyond me. I only hope he rots in hell over and over. What an idiot………

  7. Joy Cade says:

    What can we do do help. Letters to write. More vigils to organize at later date? Please let me know. I don’t have time to organize onefor this week as have choir concerts every night of holy week but would very much like to organize one at later date….Please help me be of use. This is unbelievable.

    • isak says:

      Please do write letters, share the story and ask your friends to share the story. The more people that know about it, the easier our work becomes. We must keep the pressure on for better legislation for our animals.

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