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Whistler local reflects on sled dog killings

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By now, the tragic story of the 100 sled dogs killed in Whistler last April has made its way around the world, much to the chagrin of Outdoor Adventures Whistler, Tourism Whistler, and local residents and businesses.

For a place used to being in the limelight for its skiing and lifestyles of the rich and famous, last week's allegations are a hard pill to swallow. The timing couldn't have been worse as Whistler prepares to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Olympics during the Whistler Winter Arts Festival, February 11 to 13. How do you relive the magic and energy of the Games, with this dark cloud hanging over the resort's head? Some have even argued that the black eye given to Whistler from this incident surpasses any good that the Olympics ever did.

Another bombshell could be unleashed this coming Friday as the Fifth Estate airs an investigative piece, Death at the Olympics, to coincide with the anniversary of the tragic death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili.

The disturbing dog killings story broke last Monday morning around 7 a.m., and within hours, Whistler's name was sent swirling into cyberspace and a witch-hunt quickly ensued on social media, despite very few concrete facts. Some angry animal activists resorted to uttering death threats to staff of Outdoor Adventures Whistler (OAW) and their families, taking things way too far.

Greed is cited as the possible motive for the cull after business dropped post-Olympics. If it costs approx. $500 to keep one sled dog fed per year, could the cull have been a way to trim $50,000 from the company's bottom line before it was fully acquired by Outdoor Adventures Whistler?

At this point, no one knows.

Whistler's residents were collectively labeled as "dog killers," yet the massacre happened in the Soo Valley 20 minutes north of Whistler's boundary on Crown Land in the bush. We can't be collectively blamed for the actions of a few deranged and greedy individuals.

Whistler loves their canine friends

Whistler is probably the most dog-crazed town I've ever lived in. The resort has an amazing animal shelter [WAG] with a no-kill policy and hosts the annual K9 Wine and Dine Fundraiser, a fine dining experience for dogs and their owners, complete with vintage "Pinot Growlio", and a walk along the red carpet past the local Pup-arazzi. Last summer, WAG successfully relocated approximately 100 stray wild dogs that were roaming the streets of nearby Mount Currie.

While I can understand the loyalty that pet owners have towards their canine friends, let's not forget the hundreds of rare frogs that were destroyed to expand the Sea to Sky Highway for the Olympics, and the grizzly bears, beavers, otters that were displaced from their homes to build the nordic and downhill ski trails, and the hydrogen bus refueling station. There were no global outcries when Whistler's officials decided to log the 1,000-year-old growth trees last summer either.

Thus far, the allegations are based on a leaked WCB report and one man's claim of post-traumatic stress resulting from the cull that occurred in the Soo Valley on April 21 and 23, 2010. Until a gravesite is found and forensics are performed, there's no point in speculating.

In about 45 days, we should hear back from the provincial task force appointed by Premier Gordon Campbell to look into all the facts surrounding the dog sled deaths and the dog sledding industry itself.

Local residents are hoping to change Whistler's perception and turn anger into a positive force by hosting a "Dog Walk for Change" event on February 12 at noon starting in Village Square near Lululemon.

Two other rallies to protest the sled dog killings called "Barking Mad" took place in Whistler on Feb. 5 and at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver on Feb. 6.

The facts don't add up and the PR spinners and lawyers are busy behind closed doors. Before we destroy reputations of entire towns and their families, let's see what unfolds in the coming weeks. Hopefully once the dust settles, the truth will lead to a tightening of B.C.'s animal cruelty laws and ensures that this never happens again.

See Also:
Letter from Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed to local businesses on the sled dog murders

WorksafeBC Report (dated August 3, 2010)


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