Sunday, February 6, 2011

Protesters Hold Funeral Procession For Sled Dogs

About 70 people brought their pet dogs along as they met near a kiosk belonging to Outdoor Adventures, which used the sled dogs on tours near the resort town of Whistler, B.C.

On Saturday, the company's sign was removed and a security guard stood outside the door. The culled dogs were owned by Howling Dog Tours, which Outdoor Adventures now owns and operates. Jordan Tesluk, who organized the demonstration, said he was close to tears when he heard about the dead dogs and wanted to do something to raise money for organizations such as the SPCA. "There's people that fight tooth and nail on a day-to-day basis to protect animals, and the best thing that people can do is to support those people that are doing that good work," said Tesluk, who owns a Saint Bernard-American Eskimo-German Shepherd cross. He urged people to join the demonstration and donate money to an animal charity. "The next step is you go home and you snuggle your dog on the sofa," said Tesluk, a PhD student in forestry.

The procession wound its way through the resort town as onlookers snapped pictures. Some in the demonstration held signs reading slogans such as "Stop Animal Cruelty." Two members of the group aim to do just that. Lise Landriault and Sally Murray, two Whistler-based makeup artists, circulated a petition calling on the federal government to strengthen animal cruelty laws. "The penalties are not strict enough and I think that it's time now that they realize that things need to be done, so we're starting a petition and we're addressing our letter to our MP," Landriault said. "Awareness is the only thing we can do." Landriault said she was angry and shocked when she heard about the dogs had been killed. "Unfortunately this happened but maybe this is what we need to have happen and bring awareness to the fact that there's a lot of animal cruelty going on, and something has to be done." Murray said Whistler is a dog-loving community, but tourists are apparently cancelling their trips to the resort town after hearing about the sled dogs' deaths. "Whistler cares, the people that live here care," she said. "It is a black mark for sure, it's international news. I think we just have to band together as a community and show that we care and hopefully get some laws changed."

The sled dogs were killed last April and dumped in a mass grave after bookings apparently collapsed for the tour operator following the 2010 Winter Games. The gruesome event is detailed in WorkSafe BC documents awarding compensation to a worker who claimed post-traumatic stress disorder after having to shoot the dogs. Outdoor Adventures has said it had a financial interest in Howling Dog Tours for four years, but operational control remained with the worker who killed the dogs.


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