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Robert Fawcett sentenced to three years probation for sled dog killings

Former Howling Dogs Tours manager tells court of his remorse over actions



Robert Fawcett, the man at the centre of the sled dog killings near Whistler will not go to to jail for inhumanely killing at least nine animals.

He was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,500 fine, 200 hours of community service work, and a ten year firearms ban. North Vancouver Judge Steven Merrick handed down no jail time due in part to the negative attention Fawcett has received, including death threats.

The Crown recommended no jail time for Fawcett during the all day hearing which went well past normal court operating hours finishing around 6 p.m.

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Earlier in the day, graphic details in the case summary caused people in the room to react with gasps and distress.

"Stop, stop," a woman whispered loud enough for the whole courtroom to hear as Crown Counsel Nicole Gregoire described how some sled dogs in the Howling Dogs Tours Whistler's herd were shot more than once during a cull.

Graphic details of the dog slaughter between April 21 and 23, 2010 at the company's kennel area north of Whistler were outlined.

The graphic account is part of a sentencing hearing for Fawcett, who pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal in August this year.

Gregoire reviewed gory descriptions previously published of how some of the dogs died and how the living dogs were traumatized. Fawcett had trouble euthanizing the dogs because of their stressed state.

According to Gregoire's account, a dog named Poker that wasn't slated for euthanization died as a result of being mistakenly shot, possibly by a bullet exiting another dog.

A few members of the gallery were weeping as the details were outlined.

The emotional woman in the gallery, who whispered earlier, cried out at one point that the cull didn't have to continue.

"You could have stopped," she called in Fawcett's direction.

Judge Steven Merrick cautioned the gallery that quiet was required in the courtroom then asked Gregoire to continue.

In her submission to Judge Merrick, Gregoire said the investigation into Fawcett's actions determined that nine dogs died in an inhumane way. She said sentencing will be based on that fact and she emphasized that the case centres on the way those nine dogs died.

"Not 100 — not 300 — nine," said Gregoire.

Just before a lunch break, Gregoire explained that the sentence given to Fawcett should not be given in revenge but should denounce what happened and seek retribution.

The former general manager of Howling Dogs Tours Whistler faces a fine of up to $75,000 and up to five years in jail.

The cull was made public after Fawcett applied for assistance through the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) and details of his application were leaked to reporters. The BC SPCA spent more than $200,000 investigating the incident, based on details Fawcett provided WCB. The SPCA uncovered the remains of 56 sled dogs from a mass grave at the company's operations base just off Highway 99 north of Whistler.

The dogs and the company operations were taken over by the Sled Dog Foundation and a new company called Sled Dog Co. took charge of the remaining dogs. The foundation and the company are working to transform the way the sled dog industry operates.

News of the cull led to the B.C. government creating a Sled Dog Task Force, which resulted in amendments to B.C.'s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The laws around animal cruelty in B.C. are now the toughest in Canada.