Crown counsel approves charges in Whistler sled dog slaying 

Investigation looked at more than 1,000 pages of evidence

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOHN FRENCH

Crown counsel today (April 20) announced charges of animal cruelty against Bob Fawcett, former general manager of the Whistler-based Howling Dog Tours, for allegedly causing unnecessary pain and suffering to a number of sled dogs in April 2010.

His first court appearance is scheduled for May 24 in Pemberton.

If convicted he faces up to five years in jail and/or up to a $10,000 fine.The Criminal Justice Branch of the Ministry of Justice charged Fawcett with causing unnecessary pain or suffering to a number of dogs, contrary to section 445.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. It was was sworn in British Columbia Provincial Court in North Vancouver.

"In order to move forward with criminal charges in the case, we had to produce clear evidence linking an individual to the crime as well as physical proof that the animals suffered unnecessarily, as outlined in the Criminal Code," said Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the BC SPCA, who announced the charges in an email.

"Without that verification we could not present a case to Crown counsel."

Gruesome details of the killings were leaked to media in January 2011 after Fawcett filed a successful claim with WorkSafe BC, saying the cull left him with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The BC SPCA immediately launched an investigation and last May a team of BC SPCA constables, veterinarians and forensic scientists completed the grisly task of exhuming the bodies of 54 sled dogs from the grave near Whistler.

Initial reports had the cull of the dogs as high as 100, but exhumation revealed 54 remains.

The story captured headlines across the globe. Many in the resort at the time were concerned how it would impact tourism.

Evidence gathered at the site formed the basis for a BC SPCA report submitted to Crown counsel in September 2011 recommending charges against Fawcett. The report contained more than 1,000 pages of evidence, including extensive forensic evidence collected at the gravesite using state-of-the-art scientific techniques.

"Our report is the culmination of thousands of hours of work, not only by our own SPCA constables, but by some of the best forensic scientists in North America who assisted us with the collection of the evidence," said Moriarty.

At the time it was estimated that the investigation would cost $225,00, with $100,000 coming from the government. The rest had to be raised by the SPCA.

Many of the experts at the exhumation site donated their services.

"It was our duty to carry out a proper investigation into these allegations, as we would with any other case," said Moriarty, adding that the BC SPCA also recognized that the case would have far-reaching implications for working animals in B.C. and across Canada.

"This investigation was about uncovering the facts in a particular case of alleged animal cruelty that shocked people around the world," she said. "But it was also about ensuring that all sled dogs and other working animals are protected from suffering and abuse."

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