VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As Vancouver marks 10 years since it played host to the Winter Games, an animal rights organization is calling for the end of the commercial sled dog industry.
During the Olympics, a number of companies in the Whistler-area offered tourists sled dog excursions. However, after business dried up following the Games, one man had to kill more than 50 of his dogs, sparking outrage.
Laura Jeffries with Direct Action Everywhere says the group objects to owners having the right to shoot their dogs to end their lives.
“They do have like an adoption program, so not every sled dog gets shot. But it is legal to, you know, decide to shoot your dog,” she tells NEWS 1130, adding tourists who enjoy getting pulled around by a team of dogs aren’t aware of what kinds of conditions the canines live in.
“They don’t really see or think about where the dogs are the rest of the time that they’re not pulling the sled. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and the conditions these animals live in are pretty horrendous.”
Jeffries adds the famous Iditarod has changed from being a relay to something much more competitive.
“Now, they don’t have a relay of dogs. They have one team of dogs that run the whole race, which is insane because their poor bodies cannot handle this,” she explains.
But Megan Routley with the Professional Mushers Association of B.C. says the characterization of sled dog owners as “cold-hearted” and “money-hungry” is not accurate, especially when it comes to the end of their dogs’ lives.
“All my dogs go to the vet or my vet comes here when it’s time for that dog. So, when it’s his time, the veterinarian will come here and he’ll go peacefully out in the outdoors, where he loves to be, instead of going into a clinic.”
Routley says she’s tired of hearing the misconceptions about sled dogs, and says they’re not treated as commodities.
“My dogs are definitely not treated as commodities. They’re treated all as very distinct individuals,” she says, noting her dogs are only tied up at the end of the day. “My dogs that go to work, work, so they’re off their tether all day. They’re tethered at night because it’s similar to having children in their desk in the classroom, there needs to be some order.”
The province adopted a Sled Dog Standards of Care Act in 2012, which includes best practices for the animals’ health, nutrition, and how to humanely end their lives.