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SPCA 'stunned' by sentencing in Whistler sled dogs case

Probation and $1,500 fine for Robert Fawcett after nine dog deaths is 'shocking' says agency



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It was revealed that Fawcett was whisked from his home by Workers Compensation Board (WCB) representatives after he received death threats following the public release of the details of the sled dog cull.

According to Crown Counsel Nicole Gregoire, Fawcett's already fragile mental state declined further when the world learned of his actions to reduce the size of the sled dog herd he managed for Whistler Outdoor Adventures (OAW), under the company name Howling Dog Tours Whistler.

Fawcett and his family were housed in a hotel under a false name then moved to a new hotel when it was determined his safety was at risk after his location was discovered.

In an attempt to keep him safe, WCB moved Fawcett to a facility in Guelph, ON. Judge Merrick characterized that move as being very similar to being in jail, despite the fact that technically it was not a prison.

Gregoire also revealed that Joey Houssian, owner of OAW, declined a request from the RCMP to be interviewed regarding the matter.

Previously Houssian has told Pique that he was not aware of the mass cull, though he understood some dogs had to be euthanized for health reasons.

Gregoire said that to her knowledge Houssian was never interviewed by the police in regard to the way the herd of dogs owned by his company was reduced in April of 2010.

According to statements from both Gregoire and Fawcett's lawyer Greg Diamond, OAW's sled dog operation was under severe financial stress and Fawcett was being pressured to reduce costs and maximize income.

The cull of what is now reported as 56 dogs took place over two separate days, April 21 and 23. Both Gregoire and Diamond explained that the dates were strategically chosen. OAW's sled dog operation was reportedly under significant pressure to produce more revenue because the company's finances were tight.

The cull was put on pause April 22 because tours were booked on that day while no tours were planned for the day before and the day after.

Fawcett has a year to pay his fine and the victim surcharge of just over $200 that goes with it and he has until February of 2014 to complete his community work service.

The judge asked Fawcett if he wanted to address the court.

"No sir," said Fawcett in a quiet voice barely audible from the public gallery.

Crown counsel earlier told the court that he was remorseful and devastated by his actions.

While Moriarty says she was dismayed by the sentence handed down, she believed much good came out of the investigation.

“The sentencing... was about one individual and one horrific situation, but this case has also been about the bigger issue of making changes to legislation and industry standards to protect sled dogs across B.C. in the future.”

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