Opinion

Sled dog shock goes deeper

The shocking story of 100 sled dogs being shot execution-style after the Olympic Games in Whistler last year is attracting world-wide attention.

Indeed, this was an outrageously reprehensible act, particularly since it appears it was economically motivated. The bottom had dropped out of the tourist dog-sledding business after the Games.

Yet as appalling as this case is, people should find the following information even more shocking. In 2009, the BCSPCA conducted 5,870 cruelty investigations; removed 1,332 animals from dangerous or neglectful situations, and rescued an additional 3,443 injured animals; executed 133 warrants; and submitted 62 charges of animal cruelty and neglect to Crown.

The amount of government funding the B.C. SPCA received to undertake this crucial work, which comprised $2 million of the organization’s $25-million budget? Not a cent.

The B.C. SPCA is the only animal welfare agency in the province authorized to conduct animal cruelty investigations, and is officially responsible for protecting and rescuing animals.

It does so almost entirely via charity— public and private donations. That tells you the importance successive governments have placed upon animal welfare. It doesn’t warrant a sorry penny. Animal cruelty laws in B.C. were strengthened in 2008, yet penalties remain light, with a maximum fine of $5,000. That’s if Crown takes the case at all. Only about 50 per cent of charges submitted are approved.

The greatest good to come from all of this would be consistent, adequate funding of the organization responsible for animal welfare, further toughening of cruelty laws, and more legislation reform to make prosecution and conviction easier.

That would be a worthy legacy for those 100 dogs.

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