Sunday, February 20, 2011

More on the Sled Dog Killings

Christie Keith of the Pet Connection has written a very good series of articles on the topic of the recent killings of 100 sled dogs in British Columbia. Here are links to some of her writings, for those interested in learning more about this situation.

Head of BC Task Force: Sled dogs "arent pets," can be killed.

Anatomy of a Sled Dog Massacre

Lessons from a Sled Dog Massacre


  1. My comments regarding sled dogs have been taken out of context by those who genuinely care about these animals and I would like to add context. Every veterinarian will tell you that there are some dogs, particularly those that are raised outside with less human contact than housepets, are terrified to come into the veterinary hospital. We often have to perform euthanasia in the back of pick up trucks when dogs are simply too terrified to enter the clinic. When considering all the factors euthanizing a sled dog in its own environment is often far more humane than subjecting it to the confines of a veterinary hospital. These dogs, if well socialized, can be adopted to many homes but they are not suited to appartment life or to sitting around in a small yard their whole life. These were the points I made and if all my comments were published, it would have been clearer to all those who are concerned about this horrible situation.

    Terry Lake, DVM

  2. Laura Sterner (aka Louie's Mom)February 21, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    Thank you for your response, Dr. Lake. I have posted it at the petition site and also provided links for others who are concerned about this situation. Ideally we would all be working together to eliminate these breed-specific biases that cause people to believe that a particular breed cannot be adopted out to loving homes. As I'm sure you know, in the wake of this tragedy, statements were made by a representative of the BC RSPCA that suggest just that. Can we count on you to work to change this kind of thinking?

  3. Dear Dr Lake,
    thank you for your response.

    I am very upset about your stance on working dogs.

    By your words, for working dogs a bullet to the head or needle is acceptable humane retirement regardless whether healthy or not.

    Working dogs include K9s, seeing eye dogs, and yes, sled dogs too.

    I find that an atrocious stance coming from a veterinarian. The lack of compassion you have displayed in those quotes is appalling, and I suspect that with you in charge of this taskforce, the issues will be glossed over.

    Is your taskforce looking at the following???

    Animals can not be killed or discarded, in any manner, when they no longer serve their economic use. There must be in place a retirement plan once they have completed their career.

    A business who uses animals in their day to day work, for economic gain, for human enjoyment", must make provisions within their business plan for the future of these animals.

    A business that kills their animals must be penalized financially an criminally for their actions. Each animal killed must be a subsequent sentence. Sentences should be major fines!

    Any illnesses arising from the ordered actions of employees that require medical or psychological care must be turned back to the company or parent company of that employee who ordered the action.

    Any animal inflicted injuries arising from the actions of any employees because of their killing animals must be turned back to the company or parent company of that employee.

    Please reassure the many of us who currently have little faith in the Sled Dog Task Force that issues will be looked at severely and with forceful recommendations. You have the chance to stand up and be a leader.

    Julia Trops

  4. Sled Dogs DO interact with people all the time, Dr. Lake.
    Are you saying if a dog is left outside tied to his dog house and unsocialized, that it is unadoptable? Abused and unsocialized dogs are adopted all the time -- Puppymill dogs, ex fighting dogs, greyhound racing dogs, tortured and abused/unsocialized backyard chained dogs.
    Sled dogs dogs are probably more adoptable than any of the above dogs.

  5. Hi all,

    Comments are on moderation and I'm not going to post any sniping back and forth. Please be respectful, and let's have a productive discussion.

  6. Thank you, Dr. Lake, for your time. I would like to speak to the comments you've made here, as I am trying to understand your statements. While I understand that there are "some" dogs that may be unadoptable, doesn't one need to see and evaluate those dogs before making that decision?
    As a trainer and behavioral consultant who works very closely with many vets and vet behaviorists, I see a good number of pet dogs who will not enter a veterinary clinic, due to previously scary experiences there. These are pet dogs who already live in homes -- we work with them, and they overcome their fears.
    A very large percentage of my client base has adopted semi-feral dogs from the southern part of the country. My job entails helping these dogs become less fearful of new experiences. Many of these dogs have never lived in a house, have had to hunt for their own food, and have never been handled for even the most mundane of tasks such as brushing, attaching a collar/leash, etc. Their owners are happy to work with them to help them learn to trust.
    Before you begin to think I only work with cute little house dogs who just need a little extra TLC, let me tell you about my dogs. I have four retired racing sled dogs. The last one I adopted was 9 years old when he came to live with us, and had always lived in a competitive racer's mushing kennel. He was a breeze to house train; he had no problem deciding which sofa was going to be the most comfortable for him. He loves people of all sizes, was a little afraid of small dogs and cats at first, but he got over that. Interestingly enough, he's not really happy about veterinary clinics, either - perhaps because most of his vet work was taken care of at the kennel?
    A sled dog who travels to races or works for a touring company are very different from the picture being painted here. Competitive mushing and touring dogs are exposed to numerous types of people on a regular basis. Go to one of the big races or out to a touring operation. Once the dogs are harnessed up, notice how all of the people are drawn to then like moths to a flame? Children, especially, will run up to these dogs to pat and hug them. Before they were removed last week, the OAW website included pictures of their dogs being hugged by small children,as well as playing with adults and teens.
    My personal experience with my own sled dogs, known racing kennels, sled tours and clients does not support the opinion that sled dogs are raised with less human contact just because they live in a dog yard with other dogs for a good deal of their lives, and I am not alone in my experience.
    I understand that euthanasia of an elderly or an infirm animal should be taken care of in the least upsetting location for the animal; I've had vets come to my home in order to do that in the past, and in many cases, prefer this to taking the animal our of their comfort zone. After all, the origin of the word "euthanasia" comes from the Greek, meaning "the good death."
    However, that was not what was done at Whistler;that was not a good death, and it happened to dogs a vet had previously refused to euthanize because they were young and healthy - NOT elderly or infirm. If that vet thought they were unable to be saved because of behavioral issues, why did he refuse?
    What happened at Whistler could easily happen again if regulations are not created for the evaluation, rehoming, and if necessary, humane euthanasia of dogs who have been evaluated as individuals - NOT as a group - for behavior and health concerns.

    Respectfully, Dr. Lake, I would like to ask that you take my comments into consideration. Please realize that some of your statements may appear to seem as though you are looking at sled dogs as a group, and not as individuals. Your care in this matter can mean that hundreds of happy dogs are placed successfully in new situations and/or homes, rather than placed in a mass grave.

    Jo Jacques

  7. Lake has cashed his Joey check. Lake? Do you have pets?