Culled sled dogs remembered

Image from THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett.

Memorial held for slain Olympic sled dogs in Penticton

By Dylan Hackett, News Editor

Last Friday afternoon mourners attended a Penticton memorial for the 56 sled dogs that were found dead in a mass grave after their owners, Howling Dog Tours, had used them during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Although the dogs were exhumed outside of Whistler, the memorial was held in the Penticton area at a BC SPCA pet cemetery.

“Today we gather… to honour the 56 Whistler dogs whose violent deaths shocked the world and touched so many hearts,” spoke Craig Daniell, BC SPCA CEO at the memorial. “The dogs came from all over BC, and it was important for us to have them laid to rest in a forestry-type setting such as here and in a place where other people’s dogs and cats, who also touched the lives of their owners, are buried.”

The funeral service attracted many dog owners and animal rights enthusiasts, many of whom brought their own animals to observe the service.

A memorial stone decorated with paw prints was laid into the cemetery. The stone read, “In Loving Memory of the Whistler Sled Dogs. ‘We Will Never Forget. Run Free.’”

In February 2011, another funeral procession in memory of the dogs was held in Whistler as a rally against the former manager of the sled dog tours, who was charged with causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal in April of that year. The investigation into the mass grave begun when the manager, Robert Fawcett, filed a PTSD-related workers compensation claim which described the incident in which he brutally shot and slit the throats of the fleet of sled dogs.

Fawcett has yet to face sentencing and is expected to later this month. He currently faces fines of up to $75,000 and a maximum two-year sentence for the mass execution.