Ron Judd's take on Northwest people, places and events.
Chilling tale emerges of Whistler sled-dog slaughter
Posted by Ron Judd
Earlier today, reporting on an upcoming story about the legacy of the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Winter Olympics as the one-year anniversary approaches, I stumbled up on a report in the Whistler Question about rumors of an already infamous Whistler sled dog massacre.
The story suggests an employee of a dog-sled arm of Outdoor Adventures Whistler, a tourism company, was ordered to kill up to 100 of the company's 300 sled dogs last spring after an expected tourism boost following the 2010 Winter Games never panned out.
Details of what can only be described as a grotesque slaughter last April emerged only recently, when the man sought compensation for mental health treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by killing the dogs with a gun and knife and burying them in a mass grave.
After reading several accounts -- and then a copy of the report filed by the review board evaluating the alleged dog-killer's worker's comp claim for counseling -- it's clear this is going to be a major story with serious implications in Whistler, a resort town that lives and dies on tourism -- much of it from Washington state.
Tourism, of course, relies on goodwill and word of mouth, and this story is likely to prove that yes, there really is such a thing as bad publicity.
If it's true, it's horrific. You don't have to be a dog lover to be horrified by an account of a man slaughtering 70 to 100 defenseless dogs with a gun and a knife -- within sight of other dogs waiting their turn, and panicking. The employee told a counselor in April that he suffered nightmares and other symptoms related to chasing around mortally wounded dogs to "finish them off" with additional gunshots, or by slitting their throats. Others, he said, had to be held down with his foot so he could kill them "execution-style."
"By the end, he was covered in blood," the review board's report states. "When he finished he cleared up the mess, filled in the mass grave and tried to bury the memories as deeply as he could."
Some dogs, clearly aware of their pending fate, tried to attack the man in self defense, according to the account, which was made public Jan. 25 by WorkSafeBC. At least one dog was shot again after it was seen crawling inside the mass grave 20 minutes after being shot the first time.
Whistler, a resort town that's always had an easy-going attitude about its dogs and other animals, has been turned upside down by the reports. The resort village is about as dog-friendly of a place as you'll find, and the canine love extends throughout the area. The new cross-country ski area in the Callaghan Valley, the 2010 Olympic Nordic venue, has a separate trail just for skiers with their dogs; it gets heavy use.
It's worth noting that this is a single, second-hand account from one man, justifying mental health treatment; company officials have acknowledged an order to "cull" the dog herd, but insist they, too, are stunned by the details. The alleged killing field is under snow, as well, and an investigation was launched only recently.
But the review board reports that the man's employer did not dispute the claim for mental health treatment, and filed no evidence to contradict the account. Thus, the investigator accepted the worker's account "with reservation."
If his barbaric tale is true, you're left with qualified sympathy for anyone who went through something like this (especially if, as he purports, he raised many of the dogs himself from birth, named them and cared for them). And with far greater amounts of rage that the person in question didn't have the smarts, decency or integrity to simply say "Hell, no."
Not to mention the complete contempt felt for the Whistler business people so callously obsessed with the bottom line that they would pick up the phone and order the slaughter of 100 innocent animals merely to save the cost of dog food and other care.
It's all fairly mind-numbing. And, fair or not, it could prove to be a black-eye for an entire nation, especially one that prides itself on civility.
Here are today's accounts from B.C. media sources:
A report on CBC.
The Vancouver Sun's story.
At least two Facebook pages also have been set up to discuss and protest, with Whistler animal lovers already forming a weekend protest.
And for the non-queasy or nightmare-prone, here is the full report of WorkSafeBC, the agency evaluating the alleged dog killer. Honestly, it's graphic enough to be disturbing, so use your own judgment about reading it, especially if you're a dog lover.
More on this, unfortunately, to come as an investigation is launched by the B.C. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Don't be surprised if it becomes a criminal investigation, as well.
It's likely to have long-term implications for the business of tourist sled-dog rides. Some companies have drawn fire before for treatment of their dogs.
In the meantime, the company has stopped taking sled-dog reservations (there go your weekend plans). And a spokesman told the Vancouver Sun that if it needs to pare down its dog supply in the future, the deed will be done in a vet's office.
Good luck finding a vet for that task. Apparently the company was turned down prior to the mass kill by area vets who said they wouldn't euthanize healthy animals for expediency.