WARNING: Extremely graphic content may be distburbing to some readers
The man responsible for the "execution-style" cull of 100 sled dogs that were no longer of use to the Whistler-based Outdoor Adventures "due to a slow winter" season had known a lot of the dogs and was traumatized so much by the slaughter he now suffers from nightmares, panic attacks and depression, according to a confidential workers compensation review decision obtained by the Vancouver Sun. The man, who was not named in the document, said he had raised many of the 300 dogs owned by his employer and in fact had named many of them. But over a two day period in late April, 2010 he agree to carry out the orders from his employer to euthanize some of them because part of his job duties "included herd control." But what made it difficult for him this time was the large number of animals involved. The SPCA is launching an investigation of the cull.
In the document the man thought he had put down 30 per cent of the company's herd or approximately 70 animals, but the employers' report of injury to the animals, filed with the review board, in May, stated it had actually been 100 dogs. The employer's report "did not protest acceptance of the claim." The man received compensation after his claim of suffering from post traumatic stress disorder was accepted by review officer Allan Wotherspoon, in his report dated Jan. 25, 2011.
A veterinarian had been contacted but refused to participate in the cull of healthy animals. The report stated the man tasked with the job tried to adopt out the dogs but with limited success. "In the past, his practice when euthanizing a dog was to take it for a walk in the woods and give them a nice meat meal to distract them. That would make for a calm environment and kept the dogs away from the general population so as not to disrupt them. He would use a gun to euthanize the dogs," the report states. However, because of the large number of dogs he said he was forced to euthanize the dogs in full view of the other dogs and by about the 15th dog it appeared to him "the dogs were experiencing anxiety and stress from observing the euthanasia of other members of the pack and were panicking." As a result of the panic, a dog named Suzie was only wounded. "Susie was the mother of his family's pet dog 'Bumble.' He had to chase Suzie through the yard because the horrific noise she made when wounded caused him to drop the leash. Although she had the left side of her cheek blown off and her eye hanging out, he was unable to catch her. He then obtained a gun with a scope and used it to shoot her when she settled down close to another group of dogs."
The report states when he went to get the dog he was bitten in the arm and after disposing of Suzie's body when he returned he noticed another dog, named Poker, that was special to him and not slated to be euthanized had been accidently shot when he had shot Suzie earlier. "Poker was covered in blood from a neck wound and covered in his own feces. He believed Poker suffered for approximately 15 minutes before he could be put down." On April 21 he had put down about 55 dogs and by the end of the day the dogs were so panicked they were biting him and he had to wrap his arms in foam to prevent injury. "He also had to perform what he described as "execution style" killings where he wrestled the dogs to the ground and stood on them with one foot to shoot them. The last few kills were "multiple-shot" killings as he was simply unable to get a clean shot. He described a guttural sound he had never heard before from the dogs and fear in their eyes."
The killings on April 23 were described as "worse" than the previous time because the herd's fear and anxiety began almost immediately. On that day the first significant killing happened to a dog named Nora, who he had shot 20 minutes earlier and put into the mass grave. He noticed her crawling around amidst the 10 or so bodies already there so had to climb down into the grave and "put her out of her misery."
After that shooting, a male dog was shot "taking off part of his head." "The dog bolted and the worker realized he was out of ammunition. When he went to get more, he was attacked by the dog and had to kill the dog with his knife, by slitting its throat while the dog was on top of him."
He switched to using a rifle to finish the job but at that point "wanted nothing more than to stop the 'nightmare' but he continued because he had been given a job to finish and did not want to prolong the suffering and anxiety of the whole kennel population. He stated that he felt 'numb.'" His last memory of killing the final 15 dogs was "fuzzy" and in some cases he felt it was simpler to "get behind the dogs and slit their throats and let them bleed out." "By the end he was covered in blood. When he finished he cleared up the mess, filled in the mass grave and tried to bury the memories as deeply as he could." Five days after the final culling he sought treatment from a clinical counselor who indicated he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
His family physician also indicated the worker, who resides at the same location as the dogs with his family, complained of "panic attacks, nightmares, sleep disturbances, anger, irritability and depressed mood since culling approximately 100 dogs." In addition to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms he exhibited "dissociative symptoms."
His wife also told the workers compensation board's case manager her husband developed the disorder as a result of euthanizing approximately 100 dogs. It was also reported that the man must care for the herd that remains seven days a week but he continues to "deteriorate mentally and emotionally." Marcie Moriarty, the head of the BC SPCA cruelty investigations division, said the man, who was the general manager at the time with Outdoor Adventures in Whistler, could have simply said no.
"I've no doubt he has suffered post traumatic stress but there's a thing called choice. I absolutely would not have done this and he could have said no. This is a criminal code offence and to have just stopped. I don't feel sorry for this guy for one minute."
But Moriarty said the man chose to shoot and kill the dogs over two days on April 21 and April 23 inhumanely.
"The way he describes multiple shots and faces blown off and coming back on a second day is gruesome. I've never read anything quite like it. The way this employee describes it - it's a massacre absolutely - a criminal code offence. These dogs were killed in front of the other dogs that were all tethered up on the compound (at Outdoor Adventures)."Moriarty said the SPCA began investigating the culling of the sled dogs this weekend after CKNW radio provided her with a heavily censored report from the Workers Compensation Board.
WCB spokesperson Donna Freeman said she can not confirm a claim has been filed by any party because if there was a report filed it would be "considered private because they're medical files."
She said her understanding of the situation is CKNW got a report off a law firm's website and that report was made to the first level at WCB which is the review decision.
Lawyer Cory Steinberg is reportedly representing the man, who has not been named.
Moriarty said from what she's read so far in the report "many people will be shocked" not only about the culling but how sled dogs are treated in general.
"There is a problem with the sled dog industry in general. People see these 20 sled dogs, an idyllic setting with snow in the background and think how great. But what they don't see is the 200 dogs tethered and sleeping out back, chained to a barrel."
She said from reading the report it appears the request was made to kill the dogs because of a downturn in the business after the Olympics on the compound of Outdoor Adventures.
"What do they do when they don't have the money to feed them all? When the dogs aren't needed. The order to simply put them down is not acceptable."
Moriarty said while RCMP have been contacted about the culling of the sled dogs the BC SPCA are the lead investigators and will be executing warrants to obtain further information. She said they also plan to uncover the mass grave to examine the dogs' remains but can't do that immediately because the ground is frozen under several feet of snow. And while this story is tragic, Moriarty added she is glad the public can finally learn more about the dog sledding industry. "I'm glad a light is finally being shed on this industry. I just shudder whenever I see the ads for sled dog tours because I know how the majority of dogs are living. There are a few good operations but on a smaller scale," she said.
In a statement, Outdoor Adventures spokesman Graham Aldcroft said there are now no firearms on site and any time a sled dog will be euthanized in the future it will be done in a vet's office. "While we were aware of the relocation and euthanization of dogs at "Howling Dog Tours" we were completely unaware of the details of the incident until reading the WCB document Sunday," he stated in the release. Outdoor Adventures had a financial stake in 'Howling Dogs' with the operational control of the company in the hands of the worker referred to in the WCB ruling, according to CKNW. Outdoor Adventures is owned by 29-year-old Joey Houssian, whom Pique Magazine identifies as the son of Intrawest scion Joe Houssian. B.C. NDP leadership candidate Mike Farnworth said Monday that B.C. needs stronger protection for animals and tougher penalties against their abusers. Commenting on the Whistler dog cull and the Dawson Creek case where a dog's body was frozen in a tub of water, he said, "As an animal lover, I along with the vast majority of British Columbians find these stories despicable. Clearly, we need to send a stronger message to those who think animal abuse is acceptable. "We need to treat animal abuse as the horrific crime that it is. Anyone caught doing it should be significantly punished."