News » Whistler

Sled dogs at centre of mass cull near Whistler to be buried in SPCA pet cemetery

Burial to be marked with service Nov.2



The sled dogs killed in a mass cull near Whistler in April 2010 are to be buried at the SPCA pet cemetery near Penticton.

"Unfortunately it was necessary to exhume the bodies from the mass grave in order to gather the forensic evidence needed to submit charges, but we were always very aware of our responsibility to treat the remains of the dogs with great care," said Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the BC SPCA.

"This was a heartbreaking case, but now that a guilty plea has been rendered and justice is being served we hope that these beautiful animals can now finally rest in peace."

Robert Fawcett, the man at the centre of the brutal sled dog killings near Whistler, pleaded guilty to one count of animal cruelty in provincial court in North Vancouver Aug.30. He is to be sentenced Nov.22

Fawcett was the general manager of the Whistler-based Howling Dog Tours at the time of the sled dog cull north of Whistler.

The BC SPCA spent more than $200,000 to investigate after it was discovered that Fawcett had given WorkSafe BC details of the cull when he applied for benefits as he dealt with posttraumatic distress.

"We hope this plea results in swift and appropriate justice in this very disturbing case," said Moriarty in August.

"While the scope and cost of the sled dog investigation were unprecedented in BC SPCA history, to ignore such disturbing allegations was not an option."

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.

Details of the killings were leaked to reporters in January 2011 after Fawcett was awarded WorkSafe BC benefits. The gruesome details led to an international outcry, and calls to ban dog sledding outright.

The BC SPCA submitted a 1,000-page investigative report to Crown Counsel in September of 2011 - the contents of which are unknown. Earlier, the BC SPCA uncovered the remains of 54 sled dogs from a mass grave at the company's sled dog operations site, though the original allegations suggested that up to 100 dogs were killed.

Fawcett could face up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $75,000 and a lifetime ban on owning animals.

The 56 sled dogs at the heart of a tragic animal cruelty case will be laid to rest on Nov. 2

Moriarty said the SPCA chose its pet cemetery near Penticton as the final resting place for the animals because of the beauty of the area and because the story touched people from around the province. "This wasn't just a Whistler story," she said. "It was a story that touched the hearts of every person across B.C. who loves animals."

The BC SPCA is planning a small gathering of remembrance on Friday, Nov 2 at 2:30 p.m. at the BC SPCA Pet Cemetery on White Lake Road (at Partington Drive) south of Penticton. Anyone wishing to pay their respects to the Whistler dogs is invited to join BC SPCA representatives or to post a message in memory of the slain dogs at or via twitter at #WhistlerSledDogs.