Sled dog slaughter ushers in new animal cruelty laws 

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

The province is rolling out a host of reforms to address animal cruelty and at least one dog sled operator in Whistler is satisfied with them.

Premier Christy Clark announced Tuesday 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 will require mandatory reporting of animal abuse by veterinarians.

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

The report was good news for Jamie Hargrave, who runs Trapper's Run, a dog sled operation out of the Callaghan Valley.

"I'm happy with what's happened," she said of the changes, drawing particular attention to the grant for the BC SPCA.

"I think it's a well-needed grant. It's obvious that the SPCA needs more funding."

The Sled Dog Task Force was struck in early February with MLA Terry Lake in charge in response to the alleged killings of up to 100 dogs in Whistler in April of 2010. An employee of Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc., a subcontractor to Outdoor Adventures Whistler Ltd., admitted in a WorkSafe BC filing that he had killed a substantial number of dogs and buried them in a mass grave.

Kirby Brown, vice-president of Outdoor Adventures at Whistler Ltd., said in an emailed statement that the company "fully supports" the task force's recommendations.

"Outdoor Adventures at Whistler Ltd. fully supports the B.C. Provincial Sled Dog Task Force recommendations, which will lead to strong regulations, increased oversight and the toughest animal welfare legislation in Canada," he said. "We also support the recommendation to develop standard of care and best practices guidelines for sled dog operations."

Outdoor Adventures is considering placing another 35 sled dogs in homes through WAG.

Joan McIntyre, the MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, also weighed in.

"This was decisive action that recognizes the seriousness of this act, and helps protect the industry in future," she said in a prepared statement. "Minister Lake's task force recommended comprehensive changes, including tougher laws, more funding for investigations, and a new code of practice for sled dog operators."

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