Two years after the brutal slaughter of 56 sled dogs from a failed Olympic touring kennel (commonly referred to as “the Whistler massacre”), a group of for-profit mushers in Canmore, Alberta formed a smokescreen sled dog welfare organization known as the Canadian Coalition for Sled Dogs. The president of this coalition stated that her objective was to, “develop a ‘bullet proof’ iron clad system to do something good for our industry and let the light shine where it needs to… without worry…”
Since the Coalition’s inception in August of 2012, there have been numerous sled dog neglect cases in Canada which have gone ignored and unaided by the group.
In December 2013, the South Peace SPCA in Dawson Creek rescued 19 neglected sled dogs from a racing & touring kennel. The dogs hadn’t been properly socialized with people or other animals, and most were underweight. Many had medical issues such as dental problems and minor scrapes. According to an SPCA worker, “it’s a strain on our resources because these dogs will be here longer than the average dog would be. It’s a huge endeavor and we’re working with our behavior specialist at the BC SPCA to develop individual plans for each animal.”
Brian Ladoon has been exploiting and neglecting sled dogs in Churchill, Manitoba since 1976. In an article from Outdoor Photographer Magazine in May 1997, it states that a polar bear “ran amok through his remote sled dog camp eleven miles outside Churchill, killing 6 dogs, eating two and wounding 12 more.” Prior to 1997, numerous bears had also become entangled in the dogs’ chains and accidentally broken the dogs’ necks in their attempts to get free. Most recently, in November of 2016, a polar bear killed and ate one of his chained sled dogs shortly after a video of the bear interacting with the dog went viral online. These dogs are chained without perimeter fencing, and many are chained without shelter. Puppies are also chained here.
In November 2016, Deerhurst Resorts ceased sled dog tour operations after Shani Ride of Hidden Meadow Farms was convicted of animal cruelty. Earlier in the summer, nearly 40 neglected sled dogs were seized from her kennel. Officers discovered dogs with large, open wounds that had been left untreated, as well as numerous older, partially healed and infected wounds. The bodies of deceased dogs were also present on the property, including a deceased dog that was at the edge of the woods in a wheelbarrow and covered with a kennel door. A subsequent veterinary examination of three dogs surrendered into the care of the Ontario SPCA revealed broken and infected teeth, fever and a swollen, painful leg that caused one dog to limp badly.
In February of 2017, the Thunder Bay & District Humane Society conducted a cruelty seizure of sled dogs that were discovered by snowmobilers just south of Longlac. Several were found dead and of the 15 dogs seized, only 10 survived. The remaining dogs were extremely emaciated and malnourished. Using a body condition scale from one to nine, the dogs were on the low end of the scale, between one and two. “Some of the dogs had active wounds, and low body condition scoring as well,” said Jeremy Gardiner, a SPCA agent with the Thunder Bay Humane Society. “There was some neglect going on there for sure.”
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. Steven killed a handful of his dogs and scattered the rest throughout Quebec kill-shelters during the first week of August 2017. Prior to 2017, he had up to 150 sled dogs.
While the Thunder Bay & District Humane Society, British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Victoria Humane Society, Vancouver Humane Society, South Peace Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Siberian Husky Assistance & Rescue Program of Canada, and many individual sled dog welfare activists have assisted both large and small cruelty seizures of sled dogs throughout Canada over the last six years, the Canadian Coalition for Sled Dogs has been strangely absent.
Though the Coalition claims that, “the organization works with federal and provincial governments to support efforts that ensure the humane treatment of animals in the commercial and racing sled dog operations,” there has been no sign of their involvement in any legislative process regarding animals. Their annual non-profit reports, which we purchased from Corporations Canada: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada / Government of Canada, show absolutely no activity in the organization aside for a sporadic annual meeting.
You may ask yourself – what exactly is the Coalition doing? They’re hosting for-profit sled dog races, and asking for your donations on their website – claiming that they will fund $25,000 – $250,000 studies which will prove chaining to be a humane method of confinement – however, they claim on their tax forms to be a non-soliciting corporation. By Canadian non-profit law, a corporation is considered soliciting when it has received more than $10,000 in income from public sources in a single financial year. Public sources include gifts or donations from non-members, grants from government and funds from another corporation that also received income from public sources.
Their board members are also chaining 180 sled dogs and profiting from them as a tourist attraction.
Now that the Windrift Adventures touring kennel neglect case has gone viral on Facebook, the Coalition appears to be hoping to cash in on the fame. Though they have no investigative powers, they recently made a Facebook post claiming that they are, “intent in further investigating this particular issue,” and that, “sadly, neither Natasha nor Dylan, the creators of this video, have chosen to cooperate in our investigation thus far.”
The Coalition claims that to be producing a regulating body of standards which, “would include humane kennel management, tethering and penning practices, free run requirements, veterinary care, mandatory dog registration, adoption outlines, a strict no-kill policy for controlling numbers and more,” and, “an educated, regulated permitting body [which would] would monitor kennels to ensure fully-disclosed, transparent operations.” In six years, none of this has happened.
We urge you – RESEARCH BEFORE YOU DONATE.
If you are interested in actually helping with the humane mushing movement and enacting laws to raise the standards of sled dog welfare, join us at K-9 Unchain Canada and K-9 Unchain USA on Facebook. Sign existing petitions to help sled dogs who are currently suffering. Join us at Humane Mushing and the Whistler Sled Dog Co. on Facebook to learn when foster care and rescue transport is needed for large-scale sled dog seizures. Together, we can make a real difference for North America’s sled dogs.