Sled Dog Task Force Report Summary…. and questions…

Link to the complete task force report here:
http://www.gov.bc.ca/agri/down/sleddog_taskforce_report_25mar11.pdf

My concerns are in italics.

Mandate: words used:
Reported circumstance
Killings appear to contravene

Future work is indicated

Methodology:
Appears to me that there were many agencies solicited but only one animal advocacy group – why only one and how was it chosen? When individuals were chosen what was the specifications for the choice?

Public consultation was encouraged

Onsite visit of a commercial sled dog operation. Why only one and how was it chosen?

Introduction:
Seems to me the overall message given is that if the slaughter had been done in a different way it would not have raised so many concerns

Sled Dog Industry Context:
Important : while industry supported voluntary codes of practice are emerging… They have no legal effect unless incorporated into statues or regulations.

Review of current criminal code as it has direct bearing on ability to convict.

Legislation in other provinces
BC is not listed in either a. Jurisdictions with leg ability to regulate animal welfare stds or
b. Jurisdictions with leg ability to regulate humane animal euthanasia

Legislation in BC
The PCAA does not reference specific stds for animal care and well being

Enforcement is thru BCSPCA

Land Act
Sled Dog operators may operate on Crown or private land.
Important: because land act pertains to occupation … There is a link to business operation.

Focus is on use of land and environmental use of land not business practices. …
As long as the business is using the land for the purpose specified, and abiding by the management agreement, the Crown AGREES TO Uphold the lease or licence.

Regulatory Powers of Local Governments

Local regulation is ideal where flexibility is desired, .. however… intentionally does not provide for consistent application of laws across the province. THis is a significant factor when attempting to apply and meet a standard of practice so that individual operations would be regulated relatively consistently. It does not lend itself to standard of animal care or to a business sector.

It should be noted that many sled dog industry activities may take place within unincorporated areas of the province or on Crown Land where local government regulatory activities are limited.

Animal Care Codes of Practice and Standards

Codes of Practice are intended to promote sound management and welfare practices.. and … represent a national understanding of animal care requirements and recommended best practices. Some provinces have incorporated these codes into their legislation, giving hem legal effect.

Canadian Council on Animal Care, Canadian Veterinary Medical Associations: national codes specific to kennels and catteries as well as guidance on the use of firearms in the euthaasia of animals… (want to see these) , American Veterinary Medical Association (typo top page 13 should read AVMO not CVMO, pretty sure). Mush with PRIDE, has own sled dog care guidelines and care of geriatric dogs and end of life (want to see that).

Mush with PRIDE requires certification be done by ONLY one of the following: Licensed vet, vet techician (!) animal enforcement officer or bylaw officer.

While Mush with PRIDE represents the leading standard for sled dog ativities, it should be noted that the standards are voluntary in nature and were found to provide insufficient guidance in several critical areas of animal welfare including end of life planning and euthanasia practices.

Provincial Sled Dog Industry

Within the province of BC the industry remains largeley a small niche tourism market specializing in outdoor sport and guided tours (commercial, and entirely dependent on tourism market)

…new firms entering the industry simply require only a business license specific to their local municipality, if applicable.

Task Force Review Methodology


Receiving petitions involving 42,087 participants and 1082 pieces of correspondences from individuals

Areas of investigation included housing , exercise programs, health and dental veterinary care, socialization and plans for the care of elderly or injured animals that were no loner involved in dog sledding activities.

Dr David Fraser, Animal Welfare Program UBC… A number of potential soutions were proposed including the establishment of provincial regulatory standards of care applicable to sled dog activities and animals more broadly.

Howling Dog Tours…The … unsolicited submission… included both a commitment to re-homing and adopting dogs no longer required for their operations and an assessment by a licensed veterinarian that substantive improvements have been made and that *overall, this is a healthy and well cared for group of dogs*. (makes me wonder what they were like before and why is it *overall*?)

Considerable discussion among sled dog operators and veterinarians resulted in a consensus that sled dogs deserved the same consideration as companion dogs. Such considerations include…an appropriate long term plan for the dogs after they have been retired. The Task Force agrees with the consensus stakeholder sentiment that there is no acceptable reason to end the life of a healthy socially amenable dog simply because it may no longer be suitable for use in the industry. (My question here is healthy is fairly easy to understand, but what about socially? Where is the accepted definition of socially amenable, and where is the commitment to ensure the dogs are socially amenable? what about the generally accepted view that all dogs can be rehabilitated if required, by those who are educated and knowledgeable in these manners? Who will pay for this?)

The Task Force agrees with the views of the veterinary community that any euthanasia , that is considered justifiable … (what is considered justifiable? )

Finally the Task Force took note of the views expressed by stakeholders who indicated that any operation or facility tht housed large numbers of dogs required significant and/or human resources to adequately care for the animals in question…. (what about a maximum? What about retirements and long term commitments?)

The philosophy of animal rights and laws was presented to consider moral principles which are not addressed by animal welfare positions.
However, it is the Lifeforce position that a ban on sled dog businesses for profit is necessary based in part on the probable lack of compliance and enforcement of any guidelines or legislation.

Save the Sled Dog: Reform British Columbia’s Anti-Cruelty to Animals Law: The Ian Somerhalder Foundation, based in the United States, provided a petition supported by 37,464 individuals
To avoid compromising any ongoing criminal investigations all interviews, discussions and documents were structured to preclude engagement with the parties on matters directly pertaining to the reported April 2010 events.

Observations and Findings
Role of Sled Dogs…

Dogs have a special relationship with Canadians as companion and acting as working animals tasked with policing communities, assisting person with disabilities and providing Search and Rescue Services. Such a close relationship is difficult to align with the reality that animals within Canada and British Columbia are considered chattel or property of their owners…and when an individual fails to adequately care for his or her animals, it triggers a social responsibility to ensure that standards are in place to protect animals, regardless of their ownership. (my bolding)
Enforcement of Existing Legislation

While provincial animal protection legislation was found to be effective in ensuring that instances of animal cruelty and abuse are identified, and prosecuted appropriately, the Task Force noted concerns expressed by the BC SPCA that it does not have the financial resources required to ensure consistent enforcement of the PCAA across the province

The BC SPCA investigated 7,147 complaints of animal cruelty and removed 1,249 animals from neglectful or distressful situations in 2010.During this period, 117 search warrants were executed and 78 charges of animal cruelty were submitted to Crown Counsel. (Terrible statistics. They need more funds to do their work.)
Standard of Care

The Task Force took note of the voluntary Mush with P.R.I.D.E.standard, but believes that the unique circumstances of the sled dog industry would benefit from the development of mandatory standards regarding a number of the reported issues raised in the April 2010 event (listed page 18 and 19
Provincial ministries also have the opportunity to positively influence the operations of the sled dog industry through their existing regulatory powers such as requiring consideration of animals’ well-being when they are part of a business occupying Crown Lands. (what if not on Crown lands, what are the provisions?)
Dog Sled Industry

… uncharacteristic of the industry…

While there remains a range of practices within the industry, several representatives identified current best practices that recognize the importance of the animals and their overall well-being.
These include:

••Providing for the health and well-being of the dogs over the full course of their entire life (e.g.veterinary care, exercise, nutrition and retirement);
••Prioritizing early socialization of young animals; and,
••Population management practices that preclude the killing of healthy animals that may be unsuited to the task of sledding or surplus to the operation’s requirements.
Unfortunately, the lack of an effective provincial industry association restricts the consistent voluntary adoption of comprehensive best practices, the sharing of expertise and resources as well as the identification of inappropriate activities by individual operators.As a result, public confidence in the industry is more likely to be eroded by instances of poor performance.
Members of the dog sled industry … have indicated that they would support the introduction of common standards of care.Industry members have requested both involvement in the potential development of the standards and time to transition.
Public Dialogue

Common concerns raised by the public specific to the reported event included:
••Concern for the current well being of the remaining dogs;
••Killing of sled dogs as a business practice based on economic factors;
••Number of animals killed and the manner in which they were killed;
••Concern that the level of care provided to the animals involved in the sled dog industry was insufficient and failed to meet their physical and mental needs;
••Maximum penalties under existing provincial and federal animal protection legislation to address instances of severe cruelty are not strong enough;
••Failure to access other options for the placement of the animals (e.g.adoption and referral to rescue organizations); and,
••Appropriateness of engaging animals in recreational or commercial sled dog activities without common standards as a basis for effective oversight and enforcement
Common concerns raised by the public specific to the need to prevent future reoccurrence included:

••Amending the PCAA to incorporate clear standards of care;
••Strengthening penalty provisions under the PCAA for serious cases of animal abuse; and,
••Providing funding to the BC SPCA to support the organization’s animal cruelty investigation and enforcement activities
Duty to report animal abuse.

The Task Force determined that there is currently no legal requirement to report inhumane treatment of an animal. (The incidents can be reported but as seen from the stats of BC SPCA, there are not many charges, and even less convictions.)
Licensed Veterinarians

Only four provinces have a mandatory duty for veterinarians at large to report suspected abuse of an animal including legislative protection for such individuals: Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador (pending legislation).
WorksafeBC

WorkSafeBC conducted its own internal review in order to clarify what action it may take in the future when matters relating to the inhumane treatment of animals is brought to its attention, with particular attention to the claims and compensation route, and has provided recommendations to the Task Force.The Task Force is of the view that these are valuable recommendations and asks WorkSafeBC to implement them. (I would like to see these! I hope it includes the requirement for anything that is considered immoral be refused, and that the company who ordered the immoral act must step up and pay for any compensation claims.)

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