This is a preliminary press release, created for PETA and numerous news outlets. This story is ongoing and, as such, will have additional pieces published as more information comes to light. This story has been written by Ashley Keith, founder of HumaneMushing.com
The Tuuluuwak Sled Dog Disaster
Steven Laviolette is a 4th generation musher who has operated a touring kennel for the past 20 years, and who has run sled dogs for the past 30+ years. He competed in the 2010 SHCC South Central Rig Race Bikejor 2-Miler, the 2011 Bancroft Sleddog Race 8-Dog 50-Miler, and the 2017 Canadian Challenge Race 12-Dog 336-Miler. He lives in Ste-Lucie-des-Laurentides, Quebec, and was planning to run the 2018 Yukon Quest. His kennel name is Tuuluuwak – but you’d be hard-pressed to find it anywhere on the internet after the past week. For reasons unbeknownst to most, Steven killed a handful of his dogs and scattered the rest throughout Quebec kill-shelters during the first week of August.
The Siberian Husky Assistance & Rescue Program of Canada (SHARP) took on the monumental task of scouring kill shelters in an attempt to find, pull, and rescue the Tuuluuwak kennel sled dogs – all of which were purebred Siberian Huskies. According to Mush With PRIDE President, Karen Ramstead, the dogs that SHARP was involved in helping “only represents the 20 left at the end,” which leads us to ask how many dogs he had in his care – an answer the mushing community has been hesitant to disclose.
His daughter-in-law, an aspiring 2018 Yukon Quest musher, stated in a message with Humane Mushing founder, Ashley Keith, that Steven had 20 adult dogs and 8 newborn puppies in his kennel at the time that he shut down his operation at the beginning of August. However, according to online sources, Steven was abandoning his dogs well before then. His daughter-in-law has admitted that he has had as many as 150 sled dogs at one time. When he started culling is still unclear – though his daughter in law stated he did not have all 150 going into 2017.
On the Mushing Quebec Facebook page, there is a shared article dating back to July 1st, which lists “a dozen dogs loose and no collars.” One of these dogs has been identified as Malick, a Tuuluuwak kennel dog fetching a reward of $10,000 from his breeder, CoeStar Siberians. Another of these dogs has been identified as Ukiuk, a Tuuluuwak kennel dog who currently has a “lost” posting out from his breeder, HaagenDaz Siberians. Due to the fact that HaagenDaz has their Facebook page privatized, and that the photos on their .com are limited – we are unsure as to whether or not they chain their dogs. Therefore, at this time, we are not sharing the “in search of” post they put out for Ukiuk, as we want to make every effort possible to make sure that he ends up in a proper home where he will not be chained. As CoeStar keeps a small number and includes their dogs as members of their household, we have been sharing their reward poster for Malick.
There is confirmation that at least one kennel – Sumbawa Siberians – had one of their dogs found and has left it in the care of SHARP to rehabilitate and rehome. Though this is part of the problem we are trying to curb within our sport – mushers not being responsible for their dogs and offspring throughout their entire lives – we are glad that this particular dog will NOT be returning to its musher, who proudly posts photos of her dogs chained to dilapidated structures, with little to no grooming, in Adin, California. Today’s high in Adin is 82 degrees – far too hot for a northern breed, especially one that hasn’t been groomed, to be chained outside. Sumbawa musher, April Cox, said in another online thread that Steven also had a second dog from her, who apparently did not make it out of the cull.
Steven, like most mushers in the industry, was a huge proponent of chaining. You can listen to him defend the cruel, outdated practice in his near hour-long interview with Cruzlin Schubert. The episode is described as such: “During this episode, I am going to speak with Steven Laviolette and his family about not just living with sled dogs, but living life THROUGH them. For those listening that already roll with this crazy life in and around sled dogs, you understand the sacrifices, the joys and the mushing lifestyle. But as this sport makes its rebound, with young folks up and coming, enthusiast and companion owners of these Northern Breeds getting interested for the first time in mushing, opening up the campfire style discussions of just what it takes to maintain a kennel of healthy, happy sled dogs, but the lessons these dogs teach us about how to live, and how to love. The everyday upkeep of a mushing kennel is just where this life begins. You tell most folks out there just the basics of nutritious diets, fresh water, clean kennels, vetting and of course daily exercise in harness, and they scratch their heads and wonder not only WHY we continue to do what we do, but do so with such passion and determination. THAT is what I would like this conversation with the Tuuluuwak mushers to cover.” You can listen to the interview here: http://bit.ly/2vfYwH7