Bob Fawcett must be a very unhappy man right now. He is the man some media outlets from out east allege was behind the brutal killings of the one hundred or more sled dogs in B.C. last April.
This would make him possibly one of the most abhorred men in Canada right now judging by the comments in all the online papers which have printed the story of the shotgun slaughter. The Globe and Mail published an article yesterday called Post-Olympic slaughter of 70 sled dogs prompts rage, embarrassment (someone was "embarrassed" by this?). It gathered over 1500 comments.
I can't remember too many articles which have caused so much outraged response. The vast majority of the comments want the man and the organization behind this bloodshed strung out to dry - and that's putting it politely. The Facebook comments are much less forgiving.
But, as reviled as the dog killer might be, there are some who defend him - meekly, of course, because they don't want to be trounced. While I haven't read anything, and I doubt I ever will, which would sway my opinion about the ethics behind these killings, they do bring up some relevant points.
Most who have been involved in dog welfare know that sled dogs are abused more often than the general public would like to think and that, for too many operators, the mistreatment of their dogs is part and parcel of running a profitable business. See here and here and here (for this last link, type "sled dog" into the search box) as a start.
In this portentous article published in "Whistler, The Magazine" almost two years ago, we get a glimpse of the treatment of sled dogs from two very different perspectives.
The casual observer, Patricia Watson wrote that she was “horrified” to see dogs that were “extremely underweight, had horrible diarrhoea and bleeding paws” when she took a tour booked through the Hilton in February.
The vet for the sled dog companies in the area defends the condition of the dogs. “It’s not a matter of the dogs not being offered enough food,” he said. “Some of the dogs look a lot thinner than they really are.”
How do dogs look a lot thinner than they really are? Are they wearing black?
It's ironic that this vet was the vet for a dog sled company headed by Bob Fawcett. Yes, that Bob Fawcett.
In the article, we learn that Fawcett is vice president of Mush With Pride, an organization that outlines standards for the care of sled dogs.
Do the standards for the care of sled dogs include the following points? (From the alleged dog killer's application for compensation due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder):
In war, soldiers are able to kill and kill again because they are living in a culture of violence which makes it acceptable, even necessarily to do such things. And here, a man is able to slaughter a hundred dogs because the culture he works in says it's acceptable, even necessary to do such a thing. A man slaughters a hundred dogs and yet becomes so allegedly distraught over his own acts that he seeks solace within an online PTSD group and applies for disability compensation. What does it say about the culture of dog sled tourism? Conflicted perhaps.
In Canada, most of us grow up with a respect for dogs, albeit to varying degrees. The idea of using them as a source of income doesn't always sit well with a lot of people especially if the business results in dogs suffering. But the public itself is conflicted in this. Puppy mills, for example, are generally disgusting places full of abused, even tortured animals and most people wouldn't tolerate such conditions for their own pets and yet a vast number of pet owners get their pets, directly or indirectly from puppy mills via pet stores, resellers on Kijiji, country flea markets or the guy who knows a guy who has some really cute puppies.
Dog sled tourism and, similarly, competitive dog sledding, also sit on that edge between what is publicly acceptable and what is not. I have to admit that the idea of being pulled around by a team of huskies has more than once crossed my mind as something I'd like to try doing some day. But while we, the public, are shown pictures of outdoor adventure and excitement with a fun loving pack of dogs, we are not usually privy to the lives, and deaths, of the dogs after they are taken out of the public eye.
Remember this incident?
There is too much neglect and abuse of sled dogs going on. Unfortunately, we usually only hear about it if it is on a large enough scale to make the news and even then, it's only if someone lets it slip out. What about all the lone dogs who have been shot because they sustained an injury while running or shot because they got a bit too old or shot because they weren't strong enough? I doubt we ever would have known about this most recent cull if the man responsible hadn't applied for disability.
This does not in any way deflect the responsibility of the parties involved in the terrible deaths of these one hundred exploited sled dogs but it is our collective responsibility to change, and if not change, then police, the cull culture which allows such monstrous acts to continue season after season.