My heart is heavy. My soul hurts. My mind is full of questions. My voice is at ready to rail against injustice. When it comes to including animals in our entertainment venues, we humans have never considered much on the impact it might have on them. Oh, sure, we talk endlessly about humane care and maintenance, and quality of life is batted about endlessly in discussions; but looking at the whole forest, instead of single trees, hasn’t been our strong-suit. And yet, so often we hear of horrible consequences, sad endings, unintended suffering, all caused specifically by, or as a result of, our use of these animals purely for our entertainment.
Sometimes I wish we, as a society, would follow the lead of the Native American Indian, and other indigenous people from around the world, who seemed to have a solid respect for nature and all within it. To “use” an animal would only be morally okay if one needed it for survival – for food, warmth, shelter. And at that, to use the entire being; not to waste or use carelessly by only a portion, discarding the rest. But I realize that’s not the reality of our world. And I realize there are plenty of people who believe our entertainment warrants enough priority to allow for the use of animals.
One of the main discussions that have been going on in recent weeks has been over the use of the word “euthanasia”, and the question of whether it is a euphemism shielding us from the awful truths of the killing that goes on in shelters to rid them of “excess” animals. Edie Jarolim of Will My Dog Hate Me began the current conversation; posing her question about our use of the word; Kim Clune continued it on her blog, This One Wild Life. The conversation is highly-charged, and surely far from over.
Let me make myself clear upfront here: I believe euthanasia is the humane, caring and considerate ending of a life appropriate for an ill, suffering, dying being. I would even support it for humans, if there was a way to incorporate that successfully into our society. I do not believe what goes on in shelters, or as I’m about to describe in other places, can be included in the category of euthanasia. To refer to the ending of lives at a shelter – determined to be necessary because economically, physically, practically the shelter cannot sustain the number of animals it has – to me, is about the furthest thing from euthanasia. It is killing. Just as there are different terms for the action of ending a human life in our legal system, whether it be voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, murder, war or even suicide – the intentions and the means of killing animals in our society must also be properly designated.
On to the story. Last spring, when all the hooplah and hurrah died down after the Winter Olympics were held in British Columbia, Canada, 100 dogs died as well. With a cadre of 300 sled dogs, a company had amassed what apparently was an additional population specifically for the big tourist invasion expected with the arrival of the Olympics. Afterward, there were too many dogs. An employee of a company charged with the duty of doing something about these dogs went out and literally shot 100 of them to death. Mind you, shooting an animal is legal where this occurred; the only stipulation is that death is immediate. It is done by farmers or ranchers, and although usually done for humane purposes, it is nonetheless legal.
The man who shot and killed the dogs ended up requiring services for his resulting PTSD from the event. It’s no surprise someone would suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after such an ordeal, particularly when you learn the details. Apparently these were not all “clean shots”, causing the dogs to immediately fall to the ground dead. Details include the dog whose cheek was blown off, eyeball hanging out, still running. The man had been dumping the bodies into a mass grave; he turned to see a dog struggling to climb out of it, obviously not dead (yet). For those that did not die from the gunshot wounds, this man then went and slit their throats. I can only imagine (and lord knows I wish I didn’t have an imagination!) the horrendous, bloody, gut-wrenching sight this place must have been.
The SPCA has now gotten involved, researching as to whether or not any of the dogs suffered during this incident, whether some were tormented by a slow, painful death. It’s looking pretty definite their results will be positive on that one. The man himself has not only admitted to killing the dogs, but also has relayed the details of the ones who suffered during the ordeal. The man may be charged. Honestly, I think going after him is losing sight of the picture; this man is an employee of a company, he was trying to do what he’d been ordered to do, and without the resources and support he needed to do so in any other way. He has stated that he had tried to get the dogs adopted. This may sound flimsy, until you learn that sled dogs are very difficult to adopt; they are bred and raised in an entirely different manor than what would work in a home as a pet. They are pack members, will go after smaller prey (like a cat!), and require enormous amounts of high-level exercise.
What about the company that ran the dog sledding business? Obviously, they made their profits off the Olympics, and now that they no longer needed the dogs, where were they? According to their company spokesman, the company had offered assistance to this employee, including euthanasia (note: this term was used by them to refer to shooting deaths). Forgive me for doubting the validity of their defense; between their vague response, and a man’s now-mortally wounded soul as evidence he has a heart, I’m seeing discrepancies here.
The bottom line? Dog sledding is big in Canada, and makes for huge entertainment and profits by those who provide it to the general public. These dogs were apparently nothing but commodities, to be used and then discarded when no longer needed. The tourists had long gone back home, unaware of the fate of the dogs they’d enjoyed watching. And now the company may get a slap on the wrist, and who knows what punishment the employee may receive. There is something wrong with this forest.
100 Sled Dogs Killed In British Columbia Due To Slump In Tourism