Animal cruelty charges on the rise in B.C.?

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In recent months, we’ve seen an alarming rise in the number of reported animal cruelty cases in British Columbia. The most high profile of these cases is, without a doubt, the shocking carnage inflicted on the 100 sled dogs at a dog compound in Pemberton, B.C. This took place in April of 2010, following the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The dogs were property of the Whistler based company, Howling Dog Tours Inc (now owned by Great Adventures Whistler). After the influx of tourism and demand for their services dwindled following the Olympics, an employee of the company, Robert Fawcett, slaughtered 100 of the canines “execution style” – either shooting them at point blank range, or slitting their throats. After they were killed, their bodies were disposed of in a mass grave.

It was not just the massacre of the dogs that infuriated the public; it was the fact that Mr. Fawcett filed a claim with the Worker’s Compensation Board, claiming to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Communities all over British Columbia demanded that justice be served in memory of the 100 dogs whose lives were viciously cut short. The B.C. S.P.C.A responded by hiring a team of forensic experts, at a cost of $225,000.00, half of which would be funded by the B.C. Government.
In May of 2011, an excavation team recovered the bodies of 56 of the animals. It has been noted as one of the Canada’s largest animal cruelty investigations.

The question that remained was how would Mr. Fawcett be held accountable for his actions? In May of 2011, new legislation was brought into effect in British Columbia, pertaining to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The new legislation was introduced as a direct result of the Sled Dog Massacre. Monetary penalties under the act increased from $10,000 to $75,000. Periods of incarceration for those found guilty of such an offence were raised to 24 months, from 6 months. Furthermore, the legislation extended the statute of limitations for prosecution from 6 months, to 3 years. Unfortunately, under the previous legislation, which applied to Mr. Fawcett’s case, time had run out, and no charges could be pressed under the Act. Charges approved under the Criminal Code were filed against Mr. Fawcett, and, in August of 2012, he pled guilty to one count of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. His sentencing has been set for November 22nd, 2012 and he will undergo a psychological assessment prior to the sentencing hearing.

The new amendments to the <em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act were made in hopes of deterring people from inflicting abuse upon animals, including service animals such as horses, sleigh dogs, and guide dogs. The only problem is that unless directly caught in the Act, these cases will be difficult to prosecute. The victims of these offences are unable to speak for themselves, and as their masters are usually the cause of the abuse, many cases go unreported.  It is often too little too late, as was the case in the Sled Dog Massacre.

Animal advocates, and those who are passionate about the comfort of our furry comrades, will continue to battle for the ethical treatment of animals abused at the hands of their protectors. Only time will tell if the new legislation is effective in the deterrence of animal cruelty.

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