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Mass cull of sled dogs in 2010 spurs new regulations

VANCOUVER (Canadian OH&S News)


VANCOUVER (Canadian OH&S News)

New regulations have been introduced to protect sled dogs almost two years after a brutal cull, but how effective the enforcement will be remains to be seen.

Sled dogs in British Columbia will be covered by the province’s Sled Dog Standards of Care Regulation and the province, the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA), veterinary associations and sled dog industry representatives have created the “Sled Dog Code of Practice” to outline the new requirements.

“We were pleased to be part of this process as we believe it is vital that animals used in recreation and tourism be protected and that their welfare not be compromised for the sake of profit,” Craig Daniell, chief executive officer for the BC SPCA, says in a news release.

The code sets out requirements and best practices for the management of health and welfare, nutrition and feeding, accommodation and housing, husbandry practices, transportation and euthanasia for the province’s approximately 10 commercial sled dog operations.

While the regulations will be enforced by the BC SPCA, Daniell says the organization cannot afford to send its 26 constables to do on-site visits of sled dog operations in addition to the more than 7,000 investigations already done annually.

“The provincial government has made it clear to the BC SPCA that it does not intend to provide any funding at all for cruelty investigations or any aspect of the SPCA’s work,” he says, “so if the regulation is to be enforced the government will have to allocate the funds needed to make this happen.”

The code of practice was part of the 10 recommendations put forward by the province’s Sled Dog Task Force in April of 2011.

The task force was formed in response to a mass sled dog cull in April of 2010 where a worker at a sled dog tour company in Whistler was forced to kill approximately 100 sled dogs after a veterinarian “refused to euthanize healthy animals,” a WorkSafeBC review decision dated January 2011 states. Many of the dogs were shot multiple times or had their throats slit, and their bodies were dumped in a mass grave. The worker suffered from acute post-traumatic stress disorder from the horrific ordeal (COHSN February 7, 2011).

Under the regulations, sled dog operators must now develop a euthanasia plan with a practicing veterinarian and it must not be used as a form of population control unless all other options to find another home for the dog have been exhausted. A life cycle plan for every dog must be in place by October 2, 2012 as well, outlining the dog’s primary activity, estimated annual budget, socialization and breeding activities, and measures taken to maximize chances of re-homing the dog, among others.

Dogs must also be let off their tethers at least once every 24 hours; something that Daniell says he is happy was put into the regulations, but adds he would like to see the practice of tethering eliminated entirely.

The legislation follows amendments made to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act made in June of last year which, in addition to making it a provincial offense to harm a law enforcement animal and increasing animal cruelty fines and penalties, also gave the government the ability to set standards of use, care and protection of animals.

This is the third animal protection legislation British Columbia has passed in the last year. Aside from the aforementioned amendments to the animal cruelty act, in October the province made changes to the Land Act that saw any sled dog companies with tenure on Crown land inspected annually by the BC SPCA or a licensed veterinarian.

Most of the regulations are now in effect, and standards for housing, tethering and record-keeping will be enforced beginning in October. The regulations will be reviewed in 12 months to determine their impact.