The Whistler community is reeling from reports that 100 sled dogs were killed by a contracted employee of Outdoor Adventures in Whistler (OAW) as business slowed after the Olympics.
WorkSafe B.C. documents provided to CKNW Radio in Vancouver show that a subcontracted employee of Outdoor Adventures was compensated for post-traumatic stress disorder after shooting 70 dogs on April 21 and 23 of last year. Media reports later had the company admitting that 100 dogs were killed.
The documents also state that demand for dog sled tours fell after the Olympics and that the shootings were carried out when the company could not find homes for the animals. They were buried in what's referred to as a "mass grave."
"It's a black eye," said Chris Quinlan, a councillor with the Resort Municipality of Whistler who has been in touch with other dogsled operators throughout the day.
"So I think what's going to happen is the guys who are good operators are going to step up and continue doing the job. Hopefully that doesn't have a negative impact on their operations."
Both the B.C. SPCA and the RCMP are investigating.
Canadian Snowmobile Adventures, which itself runs dogsled tours through a subcontracted company called Trapper's Run, contacted Pique on Monday morning to say that it has a high the standard of care for animals in dogsled operations.
Jamie Hargrave of Trapper's Run, which owns the dogs that do tours for Canadian Snowmobile Adventures, said she works hard to ensure that her animals are treated humanely.
"All my guys can run free," she said. "Just as an example, at other companies you won't see any off a chain, whereas these guys can run free without a chain. In the summer you'll see me running 40 loose dogs on an ATV at a time, just running with me."
Asked whether such mass killings are common in the dogsled industry, she said her own retired dogs still live with her.
"I've got dogs here that don't like to work," Hargrave said. "I try to place them in homes. If they don't, then they hang out."
Corey Steinberg, a Whistler lawyer who is representing the employee allegedly involved in the dog killing, initially planned to have a news conference in the Summit Lodge at noon.
However, Pique arrived at the lodge only to discover that it had been cancelled. When Pique called the Double Diamond Law Corporation, the office where Steinberg works, the receptionist said they would have no comment on the matter today.
There are three dog sled companies operating in Whistler. Neither Canadian Snowmobile nor Blackcomb Snowmobile is affiliated with Outdoor Adventures.
Outdoor Adventures has contracted the services of Hoggan and Associates, a Vancouver PR firm, to assist with communications around the incident.
In a statement issued on Monday morning, Outdoor Adventures said it "only recently" learned about "tragic and regrettable events regarding a cull of animals at Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. (Howling Dogs)" that were the subject of the WorkSafe B.C. compensation.
The company maintained in its release that it "did not instruct the General Manager" of Howling Dogs to carry out the killings in the manner described in the media.
"OAW was aware of the relocation and euthanization of dogs at Howling Dogs in April 2010 but it was our expectation that it was done in a proper, legal and humane manner," the release read. "We only learned otherwise on Friday, January 28 when we read the WCB ruling for the first time. OAW is now investigating the matter."
Pique will continue to follow the story.
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