No charges one year after alleged slaughter 

Crown Counsel remains silent on whether charges will be laid

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOHN FRENCH - Break time A sled dog has a rest after a tour.

It was one year ago that the world was shocked by the news of Whistler's sled dog slaughter.

Through an application to WorkSafe BC the grisly details of an alleged dog massacre north of Whistler were revealed in a post-traumatic stress disorder claim filed by Bob Fawcett. The alleged cull took place in April 2010, though news of it did not break in the media until January 2011. At the time it was believed up to 100 dogs had been euthanized.

Following a lengthy and complex investigation by the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the organization passed on its findings to Crown Counsel with a recommendation that charges be laid against the individual who claimed to be responsible for the cull of more than 50 sled dogs.

This week, Nicole Gregoire of the Crown Counsel office in North Vancouver said her office is still working on the complicated file.

The investigation into the case reportedly cost $250,000. Marcie Moriarty, the SPCA's General Manager for Cruelty Investigations, said all the information discovered through the investigation was handed over to Crown Counsel and her organization's role in the process is complete.

Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society said this week that he thought Crown Counsel would have concluded if charges should be laid by now.

"We feel in the past that Crown has not taken animal cruelty cases as seriously as we think they should," Fricker said. "In our experience, for example, we had supported cruelty charges against the Greater Vancouver Zoo that the SPCA had recommended to Crown some years ago regarding the treatment of a baby hippo there. The Crown declined to proceed because they didn't think it was in the public interest."

Given the strong reaction to the sled dog cull Fricker said he thought this case would have moved along quickly.

In the aftermath of the drama the parent company to the sled dog operation has donated the sled dog company assets to a not-for-profit foundation that is operating the business and striving to set new standards of care. The Sled Dog Company reported that bookings for this season are healthy.

Foundation member Sue Eckersley said at the launch of the foundation that everything the foundation learns from its work will be made available to sled dog operators around the world to improve their operations for the benefit of their animals.

The alleged massacre also prompted the province to form a task force and resulted in changes to B.C.'s animal cruelty laws.

Fines for animal abuse for the most serious offenders rose from a maximum of $10,000 to $75,000 and jail sentences increased from six months to two years.

In addition to the tougher penalties, the task force also recommended mandatory standards for sled-dog operators and increased funding for the SPCA.

The amendments also include extending the statute of limitations for offences under the act to three years from six months and holding owners, companies and others responsible for animals more accountable for the welfare of the animals. Under the new regulations government will be able to regulate specific activities relating to the use, care and protection of animals, including sled dogs and service animals such as dogs and horses used by police.

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