Animal rights groups are shocked over the new sled dog regulations issued by the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture. Instead of protecting dogs from another massive slaughter, like the one that happened in Whistler in 2010, the new guidelines instruct owners how to “humanely shoot” unwanted animals.
The Sled Dog Code of Practice was created in response to the April 10, 2010 brutal killing of 52 sled dogs owned by Outdoor Adventures in Whistler BC. The operator claimed he was forced to massacre the dogs because his sled dog business was going bankrupt due to the economy and lack of tourists.
The new guidelines were intended to provide standards and care regulations for sled dogs, but a section titled Guidelines for shooting domestic animal species, leaves room for healthy dogs to be shot.
Diagrams in the section show how to properly position dogs for a fatal shot and written instructions are included for further guidance.
“Once the dog has relaxed, it can be taken outside, the leash secured to a solid object, and the dog offered some food. The firearm is then aimed at a point midway between the level of the eyes and the base of the ears, but slightly off to one side so as to miss the bony ridge that runs down the middle of the skull,” the guidelines state.
The Vancouver Humane Society and Lifeforce, a Vancouver based animal rights group, are appalled by the regulations.
“It’s disturbing that a document that is supposedly about animal welfare shows you how to shoot your dog,” said Peter Fricker of VHS.
“We don’t really see how this prevents something like Whistler happening again, given an operator who has a surplus of dogs and can’t find homes for them can still shoot them – even if they are healthy,” continued Fricker.
Lifeforce has called for a ban of sled dog tours and races calling them “inherently cruel.” The group hoped the new guidelines would require dogs to be euthanized by a veterinarian.
Peter Hamilton from LIfeforce said, “Killing a dog isn’t always instant. Dogs don’t always stand still.” He worries this will give operators permission to breed more dogs than needed, keep the pick-of-the-litter and kill off the unwanted animals.
Nancy Clarke, an animal science professor at the University of British Columbia, thinks the guidelines are being realistic. “There are some circumstances when you are many miles from anybody and if a dog gets badly hurt it’s less humane to keep a dog in pain and a gunshot needs to be done,” said Clarke.
It is estimated there are six sled dog operators in BC with 40 to 70 dogs and another 200 sled dogs owned by individual racers and breeders.
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