Animal rights workers in Whistler have begun the grisly task of exhuming the remains of about 100 dogs that were allegedly culled last April by an employee of a sled-dog tour company.
The excavation of the site and the follow-up examination is expected to cost up to $225,000, said Marcie Moriarty, the B.C. SPCA’s general manager of cruelty investigations.
“We owe it to those 100 dogs buried in that mass grave to ensure that this type of tragic incident never happens again in B.C.,” Moriarty said.
“We need to send a strong message to industry that use animals for profit that it’s simply not acceptable to exploit animals and then brutally discard of them when – quote-unquote: ‘they’re no longer useful.’”
News of the cull – allegedly due to plummeting sled tour bookings post Olympics – sparked headlines and outrage worldwide. It came to light in February after an employee of Outdoor Adventures Whistler filed a post-traumatic stress claim with WorkSafe B.C.
Public outcry prompted the province to launch a sled dog task force and then embrace some of the toughest animal-cruelty laws in Canada.
The B.C. SPCA investigation, Moriarty said, will be looking for Criminal Code violations, specifically whether animals were caused unnecessary pain and suffering.
The gravesite is currently covered in hay, logs, broken pallets and discarded doghouses. The excavation will be done in four stages, the first of which is the clearing of debris and mapping the site.
The B.C. SPCA hopes to begin removing the bodies by Thursday. The corpses will then be “triaged” to identify animals that did not die instantaneously. Those animals will be examined further and necropsies will be conducted. The investigation should be largely completed by May 10.
A final report to Crown counsel, which could recommend criminal charges, will be drafted. The total cost is estimated at $225,000. The province has pledged $100,000 for the investigation. The remainder will be covered by donations.
“I don’t think a criminal investigation should fall to donors, but we can’t leave those questions unanswered and not seek justice for these dogs,” Moriarty said. “If you don’t pursue this case, what animal cruelty case do you pursue?”