In early January media reports of the slaughter of about 100 sled dogs by a tour operator in Whistler, British Columbia generated a vast amount of public ire directed at just about everyone who has an interest in sled dogs. Even people only peripherally associated with the alleged perpetrators were receiving credible death threats, and the primary subject had to be whisked away to an undisclosed "safe house" and has been incommunicado since.
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell appointed a task force within the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture to review the circumstances related to the reported sled dog killings and make recommendations to prevent such an incident from occurring again.
That task force has recently released their report, which can be downloaded from the Ministry of Agriculture's web-site or can download the pdf file directly by clicking HERE.
Among other things, the task force "took note of the voluntary Mush with P .R .I .D .E . standard, but believes that the unique circumstances of the sled dog industry would benefit from the development of mandatory standards regarding a number of the reported issues raised in the April 2010 event including but not limited to:
• Prescribed methods of euthanasia, including the role of firearms to provide for humane euthanasia under certain circumstances;
• Shelter and housing;
• Tethering, exercise and water drainage requirements;
• Veterinary care;
• Socialization requirements; and,
• Full life cycle planning for every animal (e .g . care plan for the animal following the conclusion of its time as a sled dog) . "
Dog mushers should take note of the task forces use of the word "mandatory". Mush with P.R.I.D.E. members have been reminding our colleagues for years that if we don't voluntarily provide the best care possible for our dogs that the law will demand it and standards established by politicians will invariably be the best possible standards for garnering votes rather than for caring for dogs.
That will almost certainly be the case in British Columbia, as the task force has issues 10 recommendations, including:
1. Creation of a regulatory authority to define Standards of Care for animals extending the current six month (statute of) limitations for bringing prosecuting alleged violations.
2. Increased penalties for offences committed under the PCAA
3. Establishing a working group to develop a Sled Dog ‘Standard of Care’.
4. Requiring that all sled dog companies receiving tenures on Crown Land under the Land Act include in their management plans annual inspections by either the BC SPCA or a licensed veterinarian.
5. Recommend to the (national) Government of Canada that consideration be given to strengthen the Criminal Code provisions related to animal cruelty .
6. Creation of a mandatory reporting requirement that requires veterinarians to report suspected cases of animal abuse to the BC SPCA.
7. Enhance the capacity of the BC SPCA to undertake animal cruelty investigations .
8. Build upon the existing prosecutorial expertise within the Ministry of Attorney General to successfully pursue cases of animal abuse through ongoing training and related efforts.
9. Encourage the development of a self-sustaining sled dog industry association which incorporates a certification and auditing program . Encourage agencies and organizations that have the ability to market or license sled dog sporting events (e .g . tourism associations, business advocacy and consumer organizations, race organizers), to require membership in this association as a condition for B .C . related activities and marketing.
10. Enhance the provincial public sector’s ability to recognize and report instances of animal abuse by:
Developing and delivering information awareness materials regarding animal abuse to front-line staff as appropriate;
Developing policies to ensure the expectations and mechanisms to report animal abuse are in place; and,
Establishing Information Sharing Agreements between the BC SPCA and the numerous provincial Ministries, Crown Corporations and non-government agencies with statutory obligations .