Cooperation leads to relocation of sled dogs 

BCSPCA, WAG will adopt out former sled dogs

click to enlarge FURRY FRIENDS

Cooperation between officials and the operator of a Mt. Currie sled dog business has resulted in a number of animals being successfully turned over to the BCSPCA, which plans to adopt out as many as possible.

The dogs were delivered to the BCSPCA by Tanner Moody following the expiration of an agreement he had with a local resident to use the land, which is under Lil'wat First Nation jurisdiction, for his sled dog business.

"We've been working with the operator," said Mark Takhar, chief operations officer with the BCSPCA.

"A lot of people have come forward to assist him, and other agencies are also taking dogs. We'll probably take the bulk of them, because we have the biggest capacity to take them."

Takhar estimates the BCSPCA will take on about 30 of the 60 or so dogs being re-homed. The rest of the dogs are being placed with sled dog operators by Moody.

"It's something that is out of (Moody's) control (losing access to the land)," Takhar said. "But he notified us well in advance, which is nice to see, and he's been very cooperative throughout the whole process."

Before the dogs are deemed fit for adoption they will have to be assessed by the SPCA.

"That's the first step when the dogs come to us, is we'll do the full assessment to see what their temperament is like and what the needs are," Takhar said.

"I'm thinking we should be able to do that within this week, and they should be up for adoption very soon after that."

The process of finding a new home for the dogs was a group effort that came about through the cooperation of a number of parties.

"I've been fairly impressed with everyone's responsiveness to the whole thing," said Kerry Mehaffey, director of business and economic development with Lil'wat Nation, who played a role in facilitating the moving of the dogs.

"I think we were lucky," he said. "We already had some good contacts at both the SPCA and at WAG (Whistler Animals Galore) that had worked in our community before."

Sue Eckersley, of the now-closed Whistler Sled Dog Co., was one of the first people Mehaffey called. She formed the company to look after the sled dogs left behind after a mass killing of animals in 2010 by Howling Dog Tours Whistler operator Robert Fawcett. He pled guilty to a single count of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and was ordered to pay $1,725 in fines. He was given three years of probation and 200 hours of community service, and ordered to continue counselling. He was also handed a 10-year firearms prohibition.

"Whenever there's a dog situation in town I seem to be one of the first calls," Eckersley said.

"I got the call from the Lil'wat Nation seeing if there was anything I could do to help, that they were having a hard time reaching the BCSPCA, so I hooked those guys up."

Once the right connections were made, the process of moving the dogs went smoothly.

"We basically have a pretty good network at this stage, and understand the needs of these dogs and their special needs when finding homes," Eckersley said.

Organizations like the SPCA and WAG will be working with the dogs to habituate them to life outside of the kennels.

"We placed quite a few sled dogs last year working with the Whistler Sled Dog Co., and we took on I guess what you would consider to be some of the harder cases," said Shannon Broderick, executive director of WAG.

"So we've offered to do that again for the SPCA this year."

Normalizing the dogs to life indoors comes down to routine, Broderick said.

"We'll tie them to us and walk around the shelter so they get used to us doing normal things like laundry, washing dishes, answering the phone, tinkering on our computers," she said. "It's almost like a halfway house, if you will."

Most sled dogs display characteristics common in puppies — house-training, chewing, and so on — that need to be coaxed out of them, Broderick said.

"WAG, I feel, is one of those great shelters where we can give them just a few of those bits and tools so that the home is not such a foreign thing to them," she said.

The collaborative effort around finding the dogs a new home is encouraging to see, Takhar said.

"In the past, there have been very negative outcomes in situations like this," he said.

"It's been a collaborative effort from many different groups. It's great to see that we can help."

Tanner Moody could not be reached for comment by press time.


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