The release of the film Sled Dogs has resulted in a spectacular backlash online by the mushing community. It’s actually been amazing how literally everyone involved in dog sledding who has access to the internet has banded together, like a huge cult. Many of the kennels I had hoped to hold up as examples have jumped on the bandwagon to defend every kennel everywhere. Except the Whistler kennel, obviously, they all agree the kennel in Whistler was a “bad egg”. Never mind that the kennel operator(s) killed those dogs after trying to surrender them to the SPCA, so they could better provide for the remaining dogs, who they moved off tether and into kennels.
Myself and others have tried to engage with these individuals online, and the conversations always go sideways very quickly. They insist they love their dogs, and that I haven’t been to their kennel, so how can I know that their dogs are unhappy being chained all day everyday. (Besides the photos and videos they keep posting on facebook, showing their dogs chained to barrels).
The thing is, I don’t need to come to your kennel. I’ve spend years volunteering in the rescue community and I’ve seen all types of dogs come into rescue, presenting with all sorts of behavioral and medical issues. The majority of dogs surrendered to rescue organizations have been poorly socialized and not provided with adequate medical care. The extremely fearful dogs come from either A) Hoarding Situations or B) Sled Dog Kennels. Which at this point are the same thing in my mind. So as long as you keep defending the actions of kennels that have surrendered dogs that I have personally met and helped re-home, you leave me with no choice but to assume you treat your dogs the same way. And I don’t need to do a forensic investigation to know that you failed that dog somewhere along the way when it is terrified of people, human touch, doorways and anything loud. Normal dogs, when surrendered to a rescue organization, are upset about losing their humans and are excited and happy to see new people.
Whenever multiple dogs are seized or surrendered from a hoarding situation, no one jumps online to claim the owner loved those dogs and that they keep their dogs in similarly small cages and it’s okay. Good, reputable breeders and owners stand up and say that this behavior is not okay and that there are better and appropriate ways to care for those animals.
The members of this insular sled dog community need to stand up as individuals and and recognize that most of them are about 30 years behind the science when it comes to animal husbandry. They do themselves a dis-service when they band together, they support the idea that dog-sledding should be shut down as an industry entirely, rather than regulated and inspected.