$1K Reward Offered for Information About Illegal “Culls” of Sled Dogs

Posted on February 2, 2011

Husky dogThis week, a shocking report from the British Columbia Worker’s Compensation Board has sparked outrage across North America–the general manager of a dog tour company filed an application for post-traumatic stress disorder after having killed 100 sled dogs on April 21 and 23, 2010, as allegedly ordered to by his employer. The execution-style cull is now the subject of an animal cruelty investigation. Many aspects of the Howling Dog Tours case suggest the possibility of culls occurring in similar sled dog operations elsewhere, driven by the poor economy and the high cost of maintaining the dogs. That is why the Animal Legal Defense Fund is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone engaged in the illegal killing of sled dogs in the U.S. or Canada.

According to the British Columbia SPCA, the slaughter of unwanted dogs is “a problem with the sled dog industry in general,” and one of the companies involved in the incident says they expected a cull to take place. The British Columbia government announced today that it will consider changes for the dogsledding industry generally. In the U.S. the industry goes largely unregulated, and mushing is actually exempt from state cruelty laws in Alaska (Alaska Stat. § 11.61.140(e)). If there is an economic incentive for dog sled operators to engage in culls and little oversight of the practice, similar culls may be happening in the U.S. and elsewhere in Canada.

Media reports suggest that the killing of unwanted dogs is standard practice in the mushing industry:

  • Iditarod musher John Cooper wrote a story for the Anchorage Daily News about getting rid of unwanted puppies by tossing them in a creek;
  • Iditarod musher Frank Winkler was charged with animal cruelty for bludgeoning 14 sled dog puppies with an ax handle;
  • Dan MacEachen, owner of a sled dog center at Colorado’s Snowmass Village, allegedly shot old, injured, and unwanted huskies with a rifle and buried them in a pit;
  • Musher Charlie Campbell said to the Anchorage Daily News, "I’m definitely going to have to cull some dogs,” and “we’re going to have to be ruthless about who we keep;"
  • Musher Frank Turner told the CBC, “Competitive kennels, or even kennels that may not be competitive but aspire to be, often breed more dogs than they’re actually going to be able to keep, afford to keep and pay for the vet bills, the food and all the other associated costs.”*

Law enforcement and the American people need to know about the abuse behind the dogsledding industry. If you have information relating to the practice of behind-the-scenes dog culls at sledding operations, please contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at 707-795-2533 x1035.

* Citations courtesy of the Sled Dog Action Coalition.

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