Pet store owners plan walk in Trail and Rossland this weekend to help push for legislation with bite
In memory of 100 sled dogs slaughtered in Whistler, two local animal lovers have laced their running shoes up and are ready to pound pavement for change.
Amanda Hamilton, owner of Tails Pet Supplies in Rossland, and Sarah Fulcher, owner of Barks and Recreation Services in Trail, have organized walks this weekend to raise awareness, but at the same time they’re encouraging residents to sign a petition and support a letter writing campaign lobbying the government for legislation change around animal cruelty.
“Walk for Animal Welfare: In Memory of the Whistler 100” will bring people together to acknowledge that these animals “were not killed in vain and that something positive can come out of their pain,” explained Hamilton.
“Those dogs suffered because the current animal cruelty legislation is incredibly antiquated,” she said. “It was created in 1892 and the only changes that have been made to it were in 2008 when some penalties were increased.”
She guessed that there would be people who shared her views on the Whistler tragedy but was surprised to find a Facebook group, where there are now over 50,000 people committed to “boycotting Outdoor Adventures.”
A former SPCA employee, Hamilton used to work closely with animal protection officers and is frustrated that abusive owners are falling through the cracks in the system.
“The owner of the company received 65 orders, he fulfilled them all but only when requested,” she said, referring to investigations conducted by the SPCA.
“Because the company made all the required changes, the SPCA had no authority.”
Trail’s SPCA manager Danielle Jackman said when her office receives a complaint, an employee is sent to check out the situation and make orders when necessary.
“We are looking that they’re providing basic necessities to the animals,” she said.
An employee tries to ensure the animal is given water and food, that he is not injured or suffering from disease, distress, discomfort or anything else that could affect his well-being.
“We are obligated to ensure that the owner has the opportunity to rectify the situation,” said Jackman, adding that when notices are ignored, the SPCA then submits its concerns to Crown counsel.
Though Jackman would not comment on the Whistler case still under investigation, she agrees that there should be some improvements to the legislation and covering the cost of cruelty investigations, which are currently funded by SPCA donors.
Money is tight when donations look after the care of approximately 37,000 animals in SPCAs across the province, in addition to covering the expenses related to animal cruelty cases.
“It’s quite expensive, especially if you’re dealing with a large animal. In a lot of cases, a vet has to be called out, then there is transportation to and from each call, the officers’ time to go out there and then we have to wait for it to go through the courts,” said Jackman.
The last high-profile local case involved a dog in 2008. After the shocking discovery of a pitbull that was sprayed with gasoline and set on fire in Trail, the local SPCA nursed “Tigger” back to health, giving him another shot at life.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a specific case before any action takes place,” she said. “The standards for animal care have definitely improved over the years, it would be nice to see the legislation catch up with that.”
That is what the two pet store owners are pushing for, calling current legislation “vague.”
Fulcher, a husky lover, felt sick to her stomach when she caught wind of the news. After spending the last couple years “skijoring,” a cross between dog sledding and cross-country skiing, she met many people involved in the dog sled community, including those from the Whistler parent company that looks after Howling Dog Tours.
“I was pretty shocked that someone that I met could be (involved with) that,” she said. “The sad part is that they’ll get by with very little in return.”
The two local walks will both take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, with the Trail crew meeting at the Gyro Park boat launch and Rosslanders getting together at the Centennial Trail parking lot.
Those who wish to participate can bring friendly dogs on leash or come without a pet.
Those who can’t make it are encouraged to stop into one of the pet stores and sign a petition or letter, or support the online campaign at www.stopanimalabuse.ca