A renowned team of forensic experts have come together to exhume a mass grave in British Columbia where the bodies of 100 sled dogs were buried last year after the company that owned them ordered their murders when tourism in the area slumped.
The B.C. SPCA announced it had enlisted a stellar team of specialists to lead the investigation which will determine if there is enough evidence for an animal cruelty case for the owners of the dogs.
“The scope of this investigation is unprecedented in North America,” Marcie Moriarty the SPCA Investigative manager said. “We owe it to those 100 dogs buried in that grave to ensure that this kind of tragic incident never happens again in B.C.”
Details of the two-day slaughter in April, 2010 became known in January when the tour operator who carried out the killings filed a worker’s compensation claim saying he suffered post-traumatic stress from shooting and slitting the throats of 100 dogs.
Robert Fawcett said he was ordered to kill the sled dogs by his bosses after tourism in the Whistler ski area dropped off. Fawcett told authorities he dumped the bodies — some still alive- in a mass grave north of Whistler.
The event received international attention and ignited an initiative for tougher animal welfare laws in Canada.
The government in British Columbia already took action and increased the penalties for animal cruelty in the province, established mandatory standards for sled-dog operators and increased funding for the SPCA.
The B.C. government provided $100,000 for the current investigation. The SPCA says the entire cost is estimated at more than $225,000.
Twenty-six forensic specialists will examine the dogs’ remains and gather evidence. The group of experts is made up of veterinarians, archaeologists and anthropologists from across North America.
Some on the team helped solve the case of serial killer Robert Pickton, a pig farmer who took the lives of prostitutes from downtown Vancouver. Others helped overturn the murder conviction of Steven Truscott, 48 years after he was sentenced for killing a classmate.
The expertise of the forensic team has led them to examine mass graves in Guatemala, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It will take three to four days for the team to hand dig through the gravesite. The body of each dog will be photographed and then moved to an onsite triage station for examination and x-rays. The remains will then be taken to another location for necropsies.
Following the investigation the SPCA will see the dogs are given a “respectful and humane burial.”
Creative Commons - Drew Avery