Sled dog deaths usher in new animal cruelty laws 

Premier Christy Clark calls the laws the "toughest anywhere in Canada"

The task force spoke, and the province is acting on its recommendations.

Premier Christy Clark announced this morning that the province is introducing the "toughest animal cruelty laws anywhere in Canada."

"British Columbians have said clearly that cruel or inhumane treatment of sled dogs or any other animal is simply not acceptable," Clark said in a news release.

"That's why we are acting on the recommendations of the Sled Dog Task Force and sending a strong message that those who engage in that type of behaviour will be punished under tough news laws."

The release goes on to say that the province will "immediately begin" making changes to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, including penalties of up to $75,000 and 24 months in prison for the most serious offences. The province also plans to extend the current six-month limitation period for prosecuting offences and require mandatory reporting of animal abuse by veterinarians.

The BC SPCA, meanwhile, is getting a $100,000 grant to enhance their capacity to conduct animal cruelty investigations.

The B.C.'s Sled Dog Task Force was struck in early February in response to the killings of up to 100 dogs in Whistler in April of 2010. An employee of Howling Dog Tours Inc., a subcontractor to Outdoor Adventures Whistler, admitted in a WorkSafe BC filing that he killed a substantial number of dogs and buried them in a mass grave.

The dog killings stirred demonstrations throughout British Columbia and around the world, and participants circulated a petition asking for tougher animal cruelty laws. Hundreds signed various petitions at these events.

Former Premier Gordon Campbell also announced a task force that would specifically look into the sled dog industry and make actionable recommendations for the provincial government.

The task force came up with 10 recommendations in total, including the changes cited above. The task force also recommended that the Government of Canada consider strengthening the Criminal Code provisions relating to animal cruelty; enhance the ability of the BC SPCA to undertake animal cruelty investigations; and train Crown prosecutors to pursue cases of animal abuse through ongoing training.

The task force also recommended that a working group be established to develop a sled dog "standard of care." That group is expected to be appointed within the next two weeks.

Sled dog companies operating on Crown land are also being asked to include annual inspections by the BC SPCA or a licensed veterinarian in their management plans. To allow this the province will "immediately begin" making changes to the Land Act.



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