Pet store owner starts sled-dog rescue network

A Trail pet store owner’s passion to find good homes for displaced sled dogs has turned into a movement over night.

Sarah Fulcher of Barks and Recreation Pet Services started up an online dedicated sled-dog rescue network to connect mushers and sled dog rescuers alike.

“It was just supposed to be between friends but then we had about 200 people on our page in three days,” said Fulcher, who is imbedded in the sled dog community since she has spent the last couple years “skijoring,” a cross between dog sledding and cross-country skiing.

Now the Facebook group Husky Emergency Adoption, Rescue and Transport (HEART)has nearly 350 people following it.

Fulcher along with Ida Koric, a groomer at Tails Pet Supplies and Services in Rossland, are among the handful of members working toward becoming a non-profit society.

The online community works at finding adoptive parents or foster homes for all breeds of sled dogs that are in need of a home.

In less than a couple of weeks, Fulcher has secured volunteers to transport the animals within B.C. and Alberta and the number of people looking to help is stretching far beyond these borders.

“There isn’t a sled-dog specific rescue group,” explained Fulcher.

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“With what happened in Whistler, if there had been a group like this existing, maybe they wouldn’t have been so pressured to kill those dogs.”

Fulcher is referring to the mass cull of 100 sled dogs owned by Whistler-based Outdoor Adventures.

The news sparked outrage from animal welfare groups and locally, Fulcher and Amanda Hamilton, owner of Tails Pet Supplies, hosted two walks in Greater Trail in memory of the animals and collected signatures for a petition that lobbied the government for legislation change around animal cruelty.

Fulcher’s passion for huskies, which generally are the breed used as sled dogs, is evident in her own home with two Siberian huskies Maui and Nick, along with Dexter, a Belgian shepherd.

Since the launch of the group, she has helped 12 out of 14 dogs from Hinton, Alta., find homes and is now working on providing homes for 150 dogs from the North West Territories, where there is no shelter and the SPCA works with foster parents to manage the steady stream of dogs coming in.

A Greater Trail resident is already considering adopting a dog since HEART started up and there are three in local foster care.

“It’s wonderful, it’s a huge step,” said Salmo’s kennel owner Al Magaw, who operates Spirit of the North Kennels.

Magaw owns 24 adult sled dogs, 12 puppies in training and three pet dogs.

“It’s a passion, it’s a way of life,” he said. “Everything else revolves around that, it’s like a dairy farmer.”

He not only offers tours to those who want to feel the excitement of riding on a sled behind a fast team of dogs but he also races his animals and teaches racing.

“(Sled dogs) take a special dog owner,” he said. “They’re not your typical golden retriever that’s quite happy curled up in front of your door all day.”

Huskies thrive in packs are a high-energy breed that make border collies look relaxed.

“These dogs are much more content and stable and not getting into as much trouble if they’re not alone,” he said.

Magaw is a member of the B.C. Dog Drivers Alliance, which helps set guidelines within the dog sled industry. The group is currently working toward making annual kennel inspections mandatory.

HEART is looking for volunteers to transport animals or act as foster parents until an adoption is made.

Those interested in helping out can visit the Facebook group or email huskyheart@live.ca

Until the group receives non-profit status, donations will be directed to the SPCA.