The anniversary of the alleged killings of up to 100 dogs in Whistler is to be greeted by a vigil based in North Vancouver this weekend.
Crystal Arber, a North Vancouver resident, is organizing a vigil to commemorate the deaths of the dogs, which were working as sled dogs for Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc., a subcontractor doing dog sled tours for Outdoor Adventures Whistler Ltd. when they were allegedly culled by an employee, believed to be Howling Dog Tours owner Bob Fawcett.
Officials with Outdoor Adventures have previously stated that it was their understanding that some dogs were to be euthanized for health and quality of life issues.
The North Vancouver event is to take place at the Ship Builders' Square behind the Pinnacle Hotel, at the foot of Lonsdale Avenue. The vigil will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday April 23.
Speakers for the event include City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto, North Vancouver Liberal Candidate Taleeb Noormohammed, Vancouver East NDP Candidate Libby Davies and North Vancouver Green Party Candidate Greg Dowman.
The vigils come as the SPCA continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the cull on April 21 and 23 of 2010. It announced on Monday that its investigations team plans to dig up the grave area as soon as the ground above them has thawed sufficiently.
Marcie Moriarty, head of the SPCA's animal cruelty investigations, said the association would employ experts in archaeology, medicine and pathology once the remains have been dug up. There is, as yet, no timeline on when it can work with Crown lawyers to press charges.
"We'll be using both local and outside experts in the field combined with our BC SPCA investigations team," she said. "If there is evidence to be found, we will be successful in finding it and hopefully move forward working with Crown on the file."
Arber, a drug prevention practitioner in North Vancouver, said she got the idea for the vigil after attending Barking Mad, a Tweet-up in West Vancouver in February that was intended as a show of support for dogs after news of the killings broke.
"I said it would be to raise awareness so we can change the legislation federally because it is totally antiquated," she said.
The vigil will be marked on the same day by at least 28 other events happening across Canada and around the world.
Participants at the North Vancouver vigil are asked to bring candles to place at the bottom of a jar, or else a LED light. Some LED lights will be provided at the protest itself. People are also asked to wear a red ribbon as part of an international campaign.
Mussatto, the City of North Vancouver mayor, believes the vigil is an opportunity for outreach with community members to get input into areas in the City where dogs are allowed to go off leash.
"I think it's good to raise awareness," he said. "Overall, we need to be humane about treating our animals, and aware of the responsibilities of having an animal."