In a matter of days last winter, the entire North American sled dog industry - and Whistler in its wake - was vilified when reports of the slaughter of over 100 sled dogs by the manager of Whistler-based Outdoor Adventures made international headlines.
To date, no findings related to the case have been released to the public save the number of dogs found in a mass grave - around half originally estimated to be there. Although forensic specialists were brought in to remove and examine the remains and a provincially mandated Sled Dog Task Force was directed to provide a report to the Minister of Agriculture by March 25 identifying the circumstances related to the reported killings, evidence has yet to be completely filed to Crown Counsel.
"The findings will be in by the end of August, it's just we've been working with Crown and our constables... well, it's summer, unfortunately, so charges will be in and hopefully there will be a decision sometime in September from Crown," said BCSPCA spokesperson Marcie Moriarity.
"It depends on Crown's schedule, we've been working with them quite closely so it may be a faster decision but who knows, it is a big case."
For sled dog operators across the province the wait and the prejudice now facing the industry have been nothing if not a burden.
"I think they tarnished everybody with one paintbrush... the case tarnished us all with that paintbrush," said Ron Stone, who owns Big Bear Tours in northern Okanagan and runs a small sled dog operation. "I think folks were having a pretty good season until the media got a hold of this thing and ran with it and it just painted everybody with one brush, and that's not right or fair."
The firestorm that took place after the allegations were made public led to public parades, vigils and protests from Rome to Nelson, B.C. When asked what would happen if the evidence proves no inhumane methods were employed in the euthanasia of the 56 dogs found in the grave, Moriarity said she's "cautiously optimistic," but joked that she'd be out of a job.
"Let's not go there. I'm sleeping at night knowing that there will be charges," she said. "This case, as I have always said, has always been bigger than - and was made way bigger too, by government - than just this one aspect of it. The government went and had the (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Act changed, the Task Force looked at the code of practice for sled dogs and my hope is that it will apply to more than just sled dogs so it's one piece of the puzzle."
The BC SPCA is the only animal welfare organization in British Columbia with the authority to investigate complaints of animal cruelty and enforce provincial and federal laws that protect animals from abuse, suffering and neglect. The organization gets their authority under the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act and reports to the Ministry of Agriculture and Land. SPCA constables are appointed pursuant to the Police Act.