Who, age What Where When Last Known Address

Joey Houssian, 29

DBA Outdoor Adventures

Robert "Bob" Fawcett

DBA Howling Dogs Tours

culled 100 huskies because business goes bad after Winter Olympics

Whistler, Canada

April 21 & 23, 2010  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse
   

100 huskies

Under Investigation

 

100 huskies butchered as business goes bad

  (Photo courtesy of Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Sled dogs rest after returning from a tour run by Outdoor Adventures in the Soo Valley north of Whistler, Canada.

The slaughter of 100 husky dogs used during the 2010 Winter Olympics to pull tourist sleds is being investigated.

The grisly killings were reportedly carried out in Canada by one worker over two days in April last year. A shotgun and a knife, were said to have been used and there have been reports of injured dogs crawling out of a mass grave.

Local media said the dogs, used to pull tourist sleds during the Olympics, were killed because business slumped in the two months after the Games and they were no longer needed by tourism companies Outdoor Adventures and Howling Dogs. "We've opened a police file and assigned an investigator," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair said.

The case came to light after the unnamed worker claimed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of killing the dogs.

The man was reportedly awarded compensation for the stress from the British Columbia workers' board.

Marcie Moriarty of the Society for Prevention of Animal Cruelty, the lead agency in the investigation, stated, "The way he describes (in the board's report) multiple shots and faces blown off and coming back on a second day is gruesome.

"The way this employee describes it, it's a massacre absolutely, a criminal code offence.  "These dogs were killed in front of the other dogs that were all tethered up."

The man's personal injury lawyer Cory Steinberg stated "It wasn't always a clean, one-shot kill.  "Inevitably he ended up seeing and having to put the end to some horrific scenes."

The company's website, with photos of huskies and sleds, continues to advertise dog sled rides.

Update 2/2/11:  The owner of Outdoor Adventures at Whistler Ltd. is Joey Houssian.

Joey Houssian is the 29-year-old son of Intrawest founder Joe Houssian who is also the Chairman of Intracorp.

According to a statement from the company they say they "did not instruct the employee to euthanize the dogs in the manner described" but clearly they did instruct the employee to kill the dogs.

The statement says the 'employee' was actually "the General Manager of Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc.at the time and is the Founder and long-time operator of that business." An Alberta company with a similar name confirms this.

As of 2004, the owners of Howling Dog Tours Ltd. (Canmore) sold their interest in "Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc." to Robert Fawcett in its entirety. We do not have any involvement with that company, and have not since 2004. We are shocked and saddened by these events, however, we have not had any interest or control of Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. since 2004. To our knowledge, the company in Whistler, B.C. was operating as “Whistler Dogsledding”.

Update 2/3/11:  A Canadian government taskforce has been appointed to investigate the slaughter of 100 husky dogs used during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The dogs, which pulled tourist sleds in the Canadian ski resort of Whistler, were reportedly killed by a tourism company worker using a shotgun and a knife.   Injured dogs tried to escape and one survived to crawl from a mass grave a day later.

"No creature should ever have to suffer in the manner that has been reported, and we want to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again in our province," British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said .

The province appointed a panel headed by a veterinarian to investigate the two-day slaughter last April.

A criminal investigation was announced by Canada's national police force and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The dogs reportedly were killed because business slumped in the two months after the Games and they were no longer needed by tourism company Outdoor Adventures, which sold dog-sled rides to tourists.

They were among several hundred owned by Outdoor Adventures and its subsidiary, Howling Dog Whistler Inc.

Outdoor Adventures said in a statement that it was "shocked and appalled" by the description of the killings. It has suspended sales of sled rides to tourists.

The company said it was aware of the planned euthanisation of dogs last April, but "expected this to be done in a proper, legal and humane manner". It "did not instruct the employee to euthanise the dogs in the manner described".

After the case sparked worldwide media reports, rallies were held in support of the dogs and a Facebook campaign was launched to boycott Outdoor Adventures.

In addition to the slaughter, the British Columbia taskforce will report on the regulation and oversight of the dog sledding industry and the role of government agencies including the worker's compensation board, which did not communicate the case "to appropriate authorities". The board's report is due in March.

Update 2/4/11:  Bob Fawcett was the operator of Howling Dogs Tours Whistler and was the employee who submitted the workers compensation claim after he said he was forced to shoot 100 dogs in Whistler in April 2010.

  (Photo courtesy Lets Adopt Canada of Bob Fawcett) Alleged sled dog murderer Robert Fawcett and Outdoor Adventures the company that purchased his business Howling Dog Tours, released a statement to the press, claiming they wished to make an effort at clearing up any questions hanging over the case.

The released statement claims that Robert Fawcett informed Joey Houssian, owner of Outdoor Adventures in mid-April of 2010 that 50 dogs would have to be euthanized due to age or infirmity. Fawcett stated “These dogs live to run and were not able to do so and would have to be kept in cages with the result being they would have had very poor or virtually no quality of life.”

In the joint statement released by Fawcett and Outdoor Adventures, only 50 dogs are mentioned, yet in Fawcett’s WorkSafeBC documents he clearly describes the brutal killings of 100 dogs. Dogs he said that did not always die with the first shot.  In his WorkSafeBC documents Fawcett states that he consulted a vet who refused to euthanize young healthy animals, and so he was left with no choice but to kill the dogs himself. Which is the truth?

Fawcett was removed from the board of a group that sets voluntary guidelines for the industry.

The BC Ministry of Agriculture, is responsible for pursuing any legal/criminal action against those responsible for the death of these dogs. The contact info is:
The Honourable Ben Stewart, Minister of Agriculture
Office telephone: 250-387-1023… fax: 250-387-1522
Assistant email is Heidi.Scott@gov.bc.ca

Update 2/10/11:  A man later identified as Robert Fawcett, manager of a sled dog tour company in Whistler, had filed the claim, citing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by "having to put down a large number of dogs" under orders of his employer, Outdoor Adventures Whistler, because business had fallen off.

Fawcett, the claim states, had been with the company for many years, and knew the dogs well. He had named them. He'd raised them. He was responsible for feeding them, caring for them, and handling them. He lived with them, and was available to tend to them seven days a week. He had developed, he said, "a relationship of mutual love and trust" with them.

Fawcett says he asked one veterinarian to put down the dogs for him, but the vet refused to kill 100 healthy dogs. So on April 21 and 23 of 2010, he took a gun and a knife and brutally slaughtered them, in plain view of 200 other tethered dogs.

By the time he'd killed 15 dogs, the rest were starting to panic. This made it harder to get a clean shot on every dog, and as a consequence, the report states, "he wounded but did not kill one dog, 'Suzie.' Suzie was the mother of (Fawcett's) family's pet dog, 'Bumble.' He had to chase Suzie through the yard because the horrific noise she made when wounded caused him to drop the leash. Although she had the left side of her cheek blown off and her eye hanging out, he was unable to catch her."

Fawcett went and got a gun with a scope and shot her when she lay down with a group of other dogs, who attacked him when he went to retrieve her body. He also realized that, when shooting Suzie, he'd also wounded another dog, Poker, not slated for death, who was "one of his favorites." Poker suffered for 15 minutes before dying.

That day Fawcett says he slaughtered 55 dogs. He had to wrap his arms in foam to protect himself from the frenzied attacks of the dogs when he tried to handle them. He had to wrestle the dogs to the ground and stand on them before he killed them -- in his words -- "execution style."

In the report, he described "a guttural sound he had never heard before from the dogs and fear in their eyes."

Two days later, he did it again. This time, he said, it was worse. One dog, Nora, had been shot 20 minutes before but was still crawling around in the mass grave he had dug for the dogs. He killed one dog with his knife when he attacked him.

Five days later, Fawcett sought help from a counselor, who diagnosed him with PTSD. "Despite counseling," the report stated, "he has continued to deteriorate mentally and emotionally." Six months later, he was diagnosed with PTSD with dissociative symptoms. He was having nightmares, panic attacks and depression. He couldn't eat or sleep.

His workers compensation claim was granted in July of last year.

The story has been reported across Canada, in the United States and all over the world, and there's a tremendous amount of outrage being expressed by dog lovers everywhere. Most of the blame is being laid at Fawcett's feet, with most people unable to believe he is receiving workers compensation for this act of unfathomable brutality.

It's easy, and appropriate, to blame Fawcett. By his own admission in his workers compensation claim, he slaughtered those dogs. It seems from his description that he knew it was wrong even while he was doing it.

And while he says he made efforts to find homes for the dogs, no one in the Whistler area has any memory of him doing that, nor did he contact any groups that rescue or re-home sled dogs, nor any of the people he knew in the sled dog community.

But there are other people and organizations that share some of the blame. The company that bought Fawcett's sled dog tour operation, Outdoor Adventures Whistler, admits it told Fawcett to downsize the kennel, but seemed to think the only problem was that the dogs were gunned and knifed down in the woods while all the other dogs watched from their tethers instead of being quietly killed in a veterinarian's office.

"OAW is shocked and appalled by the events described in the Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) ruling issued late last week related to Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc.," read a statement on OAW's website.

"Contrary to media reports, OAW did not instruct the employee to euthanize the dogs in the manner described in the report. OAW was aware of the relocation and euthanization of dogs ... but OAW expected this to be done in a proper, legal and humane manner."

When an early news report said that Fawcett had been rebuffed when he asked for the shelter's help with the dogs before he killed them, the SPCA's response was to insist Fawcett hadn't contacted the organization prior to the killings. However, the SPCA admitted it wouldn't have saved the dogs' lives even if he had.

Update 2/15/11:  The B.C. SPCA has jumped a legal hurdle in its investigation of a mass cull of sled dogs near Whistler.

The group went before a judge to access WorkSafe BC documents filed by Robert Fawcett, who has admitted to euthanizing 70 to 100 sled dogs after the 2010 Olympics.

Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations, said the judge allowed the B.C. SPCA access to the files – except for confidential health files that the group didn’t want to access.  “We were never interested in any private medical files,” Moriarty stated.  “We just wanted the information that would pertain to the incident, and that was what was granted.”

Moriarty said the court victory will assist the SPCA in continuing with its investigation, with the ultimate goal of laying animal-cruelty charges.  “It helps us to proceed with the investigation,” said Moriarty. “We will be working with Crown to proceed with charges.”

  (Courtesy Photo of Bob Fawcett of Outdoor Adventures Whistler Dogsledding)

Update 3/24/11:  A taskforce report into the alleged culling of dozens of sled dogs near Whistler will soon be submitted to B.C. Minister of Agriculture Don McRae.

B.C. Liberal MLA Terry Lake, a veterinarian, was named to head the taskforce in one of Premier Gordon Campbell’s last major initiatives before he stepped down as premier.

Lake, who was recently appointed B.C.’s environment minister, will hand his report to McRae, who is expected in turn to make the taskforce findings public in short order.

Rather than focus on the possibly criminal activities involved in the Whistler cull, the sled-dog task force is looking to set up best practices guidelines for retiring sled dogs, finding ways that the dogs can be placed in new homes after they are no longer actively pulling sleds.

   (Photo courtesy of Wayne Leidenfrost/The Vancouver Sun)

Update 4/1/11:  The Whistler, B.C., offices of a company being investigated for the killing of 100 sled dogs have been vandalized.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair said vandals threw red paint all over the windows and a walkway.

"I can confirm there was some vandalism done to a business in Market Place," said LeClair.  He said the damage was reported to RCMP.

LeClair would not openly identify the name of the company hit by the vandals. He also said they have not heard from anyone claiming responsibility for the damage.  But he did offer a possible motive for the use of red paint.  "With animal-rights group and activists, the red paint symbolizes blood," he said.

A news release was issued by the North American Animal Liberation press office in response to the incident.  Jerry Vlasak, a press officer with the organization, said they were sent anonymous correspondence by the Animal Liberation Front. In it ALF claimed responsibility for the vandalism in Whistler.

"On the night of March 29th in Whistler, B.C. ALF decided to do what the Canadian government should have done in the first place, punish Outdoor Adventures for ordering the deaths of 100 used up sled dogs."

An ongoing SPCA investigation is reviewing what happened to the dogs.

The ugly circumstances came to light after a man who shot 100 sled dogs complained to WorkSafeBC B.C. that he suffered post-traumatic stress after the slaughter and was granted compensation.

The WorkSafe B.C. report dealing with the compensation, details the gruesome scene in April 2010, when the worker euthanized 100 dogs over two days. The size of the cull meant he had to kill the dogs in full view of the rest of the pack, leading to a bloody frenzy of wounded, frightened and angry dogs.

The dogs were buried in a mass grave.

Update 4/13/11:  British Columbia got a "terrible black eye" around the world after a mass slaughter of sled dogs near Whistler last April, but is now planning to implement the highest animal protection standards in Canada, Premier Christy Clark stated.

Clark announced the province will update the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act this fall after releasing the much anticipated Sled Dog Task Force report.

Among the report's 10 recommendations are increasing penalties for the most serious offenders under the act to a maximum $75,000 in fines instead of the existing $10,000 and 24 months imprisonment instead of the current six months. As well, it is planning to extend the statue of limitations for prosecution under the act from its current six months.

Under the current provincial animal protection legislation, time has run out to bring charges in connection with the April 2010 sled dog slaughter in Whistler. Instead, charges are being contemplated under the Criminal Code's animal cruelty laws, which has the additional onus for investigators to prove intent.

"I was absolutely appalled when I learned of the tragic and senseless killings of those animals. The humane treatment of animals whether they are working animals or family pets is something everyone in British Columbian cares deeply about, as they should, because we will be judged as humans in the way we treat animals . . . we will be taking action on every one of the recommendations of the Sled Dog Task Force report," said Clark.

"This incident made an entire industry look like it wasn't doing its job. Yet the vast, vast majority do a terrific job and care about the animals. By setting the toughest penalties, the highest fines, the longest prison sentences it tells people around the world that we are indeed serious. It's a beginning. It's a strong statement but there's certainly more to do," said Clark.

The task force, headed by veterinarian and Kamloops North Thompson MLA Terry Lake, who was recently named minister of environment, said while the task force received many petitions calling for a ban on the entire industry, they felt the majority of sled dogs live "very fulfilled lives, some better than most family pets."

Task force member BC SPCA chief executive officer Craig Daniell agreed saying an outright ban "would force the industry underground."

Instead, he said, by creating strong Standards of Care in the sled industry, the BC SPCA's special investigation constables will be better equipped to assess whether sled dogs are being humanely treated or not.

Lake said a working group to help develop the Standard of Care for sled dog operators will be formed within the next two weeks. But, he added, government standards would be a baseline and it is his hope operators will want to go above that standard and created a self-sustaining certification process and auditing program for the industry and related events. The province plans to help direct stakeholders to establish an industry association.

He said the current high profile investigation into the Whistler sled dog massacre has completed the first phase and investigators are now waiting for the ground to thaw so they can dig up the mass grave of the sled dogs. After the slaughter came to the public's attention, Outdoor Adventures which ran Howling Dog Tours in Whistler suspended its sled dog operations.

Lake said the task force did receive a submission from the business, owned by Joey Houssian, describing their operation and steps they have taken to improve animal husbandry and finding suitable homes for the remaining dogs.

Houssian was not giving interviews but released a written statement by the vice-president of Outdoor Adventures Kirby Brown was released.

"Outdoor Adventures at Whistler fully supports the B.C. provincial Sled Dog Task Force recommendations which will lead to strong regulations, increased oversight and the toughest animal welfare legislation in Canada. We also support the recommendation to develop standard of care and best practice guidelines for sled dog operations. OAW continues to work with the SPCA and RCMP on their ongoing investigations."

Update 4/30/11:  British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will exhume the remains of the 100 slaughtered sled dogs.

  (Photo courtesy of adventureswhistler.com)

A Sled Dog Task Force led by Premier Christy Clark has promised stricter animal cruelty laws by the end of the summer this year. The provincial task force has been waiting until the ground thawed and obtained a warrant to exhume the bodies. The exact location has not been revealed to the public, but officials have promised to regularly keep the public informed without risking any evidence. Only investigators and the BCSPCA will have access to the location.

The exhumation is expected to take about a week, and Lorie Chortyk, General Manager of Community Relations states it is one step of the investigation.

No charges have yet to be filed.

Last week a one-year-memorial was held in honor of the slain dogs. The tragedy has garnered worldwide attention demanding tougher animal cruelty laws.

Update 5/8/11:  The bodies of 52 of approximately 100 sled dogs killed by Robert Fawcett in April, 2010 have been exhumed from a mass grave site near Whistler. The grave site was very hard to find because it had been camouflaged with trash and debris. The BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals expect to exhume the remainder of the dogs' bodies within the next few days.

  (Photo's courtesy of the BC SPCA)

The investigation is expected to cost $225,000 which has been funded by the BC SPCA. The provincial government is contributing $100,000. When criticized for the large amount of money being spent on the investigation, Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigation for the BC SPCA stated, "we are speaking out for all working animals in BC."

"Only by fully investigating these allegations can we send a clear message that we are a humane society where brutality and violence against animals will not be tolerated," Moriarty stated.

According to BC humane laws, a single, fatal gunshot wound is not considered animal cruelty, however slashing an animal's throat, beating and bludgeoning and multiple gunshots because the shooter missed are considered inhumane. The bodies will be sent for forensic testing. Results of the necropsies may take six or seven weeks for the results. Moriarty says it is this kind of physical evidence that is needed to positively determine if there is cause for animal cruelty charges.

The investigation has taken a very high emotional toll on everyone involved including forensic scientists, veterinarians, and animal cruelty specialists. The dogs will be properly buried at the conclusion of the investigation.

Penalties for animal cruelty can result in up to five years in jail and a lifetime ban on ever owning animals.

Reference:

Vancouver Sun Communities Canada
Herald Sun Adelaide Now
Examiner BC SPCA