The owner of Outdoor Adventures Whistler feels a “sincere moral responsibility” for the shocking cull of 100 sled dogs last year.
Joey Houssian, an established businesses man in the Whistler community, broke his silence and did a limited number of interviews Monday.
He told Metro he was shocked to read – for the first time last week – the gruesome details of the mass killing at subsidiary Howling Dog Tours in April 2010, which is now the subject of a joint SPCA/RCMP investigation and worldwide headlines.
“I feel a sincere moral responsibility for what happened here,” Houssian said. “When I read [the Workers’ Compensation Board report into the incident] I was just in complete shock. It never went away. I understand people’s response to this. I understand the shock and anger, I felt that as well.”
Houssian’s company didn’t directly take over control of Howling Dog until after the incident, and he said he believed any euthanizations there were being handled humanely.
He still has trouble digesting the contents of the WCB report, which went public Jan. 31 through the media.
According to the report, an employee of Howling Dog Tours – now identified as general manager Robert Fawcett – killed 100 dogs over a two-day period.
Fawcett – who claimed to suffer from post-traumatic stress after the ordeal and was awarded compensation – described the scene as a “nightmare.”
Dogs were shot in plain sight of each other, causing panic among the herd.
It took multiple attempts to put down some of the dogs, and Fawcett resorted to using a knife in some killings.
The sled dogs, deemed too old, sick or not adoptable, were then thrown in a mass grave.
“For me it’s difficult to reconcile [details] with the man that I know,” said Houssian. “[Fawcett] had a reputation as a world leader in the industry. A lot of people have speculated on Mr. Fawcett and the staff. These are good people who love their dogs.”
Since the report went public, the SPCA launched a criminal investigation into the slaughter.
Outdoor Adventures Whistler has shut down their dog sledding business in the meantime and Houssian – who recently invested in a new kennel and instituted an off-tether policy at Howling Dog since taking over – doesn’t know if it will be re-opened in the future.
“I feel at this time I have to pause and take a deep breath and re-evaluate before moving forward,” he said. “I can’t speak for the dog sled component, but we’re not going anywhere. The week has been incredibly emotional for myself and the community. We’re cooperating with the investigation and trying to piece this together.”