SPCA 'stunned' by sentencing in Whistler sled dogs case 

Probation and $1,500 fine for Robert Fawcett after nine dog deaths is 'shocking' says agency

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOHN FRENCH - Robert Fawcett at a hearing into his case earlier in 2012.

The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is unhappy with the sentencing for the man behind the sled dog slayings near Whistler in April 2010.

Robert Todd Fawcett, 40, is not going to jail. Instead, the former manager of the company which used the dogs to provide sled tours has been fined $1,500, ordered to do 200 hours of community service and sentenced to spend the next three years on probation.

Judge Steven Merrick also ordered Fawcett not be involved in any commercial operations connected to animals and Fawcett is restricted from possessing firearms for 10 years.

“To say we are shocked by this sentence for these gruesome killings is an understatement,” said Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the BC SPCA in a release. “I can honestly say that the BC SPCA did its job to the fullest extent in this case, and in my opinion, the courts did not.”

Moriarty added that the case had wide implications for the treatment of working animals in Canada.

Judge Merrick said he started the day intending to reserve judgment, but what he heard through the day convinced him a sentence was best delivered as soon as possible. The hearing wrapped up at just after 6 p.m. Courts in B.C. rarely ever stay in session that late.

In delivering the sentence the judge said he did not intend for it to be taken as a criticism of the B.C. SPCA and he stressed that the fine in no way relates to the value of an animal's life.

"It is difficult to assess a fine for a crime that caused the unnecessary suffering and pain of nine living beings," said Merrick.

The BC SPCA’s investigation led to the charges of animal cruelty against Fawcett and the non-profit society also worked to bring about significant changes to the way the sled dog industry operates in B.C.

The BC SPCA was a key contributor to a government task force that was created to examine ways to ensure more humane treatment for sled dogs and to the creation of a sled dog code of practice that was adopted in February 2012.

While Fawcett admitted that in April of 2010 he shot to death or stabbed more than nine dogs, the judge said only nine suffered unnecessarily so his sentencing had to be based on that number. Fawcett pleaded guilty in August to a single count of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

The former dog-musher spent most of the day staring blankly down at the desk in front.

A number of new details emerged from the hearing. It was learned that Fawcett recently came to terms with sexual assaults he endured as a child.

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