A man who killed at least 70 sled dogs and buried them in a mass grave pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal.
In 2010, Robert Fawcett, the former general manager of Howling Dogs Tours in Whistler, B.C., was ordered by the parent company, Outdoor Adventures, to destroy 100 of 300 sled dogs after a business slump following the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The incident came to light in January 2011 after Fawcett successfully filed a worker’s compensation claim for post-traumatic stress disorder. In the claim he described the gruesome slaughter and how he had previously “developed a strong emotional bond of mutual love and trust with” the dogs.
To destroy the dogs, Fawcett tethered them and shot them in front of one another. He said he had to hold some of the dogs down with his foot before he shot them. He also stabbed some of the dogs or slit their throats. He threw the bodies into a large pit.
When the snow covering the mass grave melted in May 2011, the dogs’ remains were exhumed by police, veterinarians and forensic scientists.
Last September, BC SPCA cruelty investigators submitted a report with more than a thousand pages of evidence, “including extensive forensic evidence collected at the gravesite using state-of-the-art scientific techniques,” according to the BC SPCA. Based on the report, investigators recommended that cruelty charges be filed against Fawcett.
Because of the mass killing, British Columbia introduced a new sled dog code of practice in February to protect these working dogs.
The new law has tougher animal cruelty penalties (including fines up to $75,000 and jail terms of up to two years) and a longer statute of limitations (three years instead of six months). It holds owners and companies more accountable for the welfare of their animals, and allows the government to regulate certain activities pertaining to the use, care and protection of animals.
“This investigation was about uncovering the facts in a particular case of alleged animal cruelty that shocked people around the world,” Marcie Moriarty, BC SPCA manager of cruelty investigations, stated on the website.
“But it was also about ensuring that all sled dogs and other working animals are protected from suffering and abuse. Only by fully investigating these allegations could we send a clear message that we are a humane society where brutality and violence against animals will not be tolerated.”
Fawcett is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 22.
A memorial for the slaughtered sled dogs will be held by the BC SPCA on Nov. 2.
“We have handled the remains of the dogs with the utmost respect and dignity and, in seeking justice in this case, we hope that they will finally be able to rest in peace,” Moriarty stated.
PHOTO: Frank Kovalchek