A former sled dog operator linked to the gruesome slaughter of about 100 animals has been removed from the board of directors of a group that sets voluntary guidelines for the industry.
Bob Fawcett was vice-president of Mush with Pride, a U.S.-based group that establishes best practices for sled-dog tour operators and racing kennels. He was also the longtime operator of Whistler, B.C.-based Howling Dog Tours, where the dogs were allegedly killed in a massive cull last April.
The RCMP and the SPCA are both investigating allegations that the animals were shot and dumped in a mass grave after business collapsed following the 2010 Winter Olympics.
On Wednesday, the group’s board voted to remove Fawcett from his position, said president Karen Ramstead.
“We’re not assigning any guilt on him and we certainly don’t have any more information than anyone else,” Ramstead said from Perryvale, Alta., where she runs a kennel for Siberian huskies.
“We just felt that our bylaws allowed for this if a board member was bringing unwanted attention to Mush with Pride, which is what we felt this situation was doing. It was not portraying Mush with Pride in the light that we felt was going to further our cause.”
Ramstead, who said she doesn’t know Fawcett personally, said she sent him an email informing him of the decision. He replied that he understood the group’s position, she said.
The allegations surfaced in a decision by the provincial workers’ compensation board to award an unidentified dog-sled operator for post-traumatic stress he suffered following a two-day cull of about 100 of the animals in his pack.
Fawcett hasn’t responded to requests for comment, but someone with the same name posted messages to at least two Internet forums for people suffering from post-traumatic stress in December and January. The posts vividly described the slaughter of dozens of sled dogs and the mental anguish that followed.
The profile for Bob Fawcett on ptsdforum.org lists the user as a 38-year-old man from British Columbia.
In a forum on the same website a man identified as Bob Fawcett posted a lengthy entry on Jan. 6, 2011, identifying himself as the owner of a “large dogsled company for the last 15 years” and describing the slaughter of dozens of animals over two days in April of last year.
The posting said the poor economy forced him to sell his company to a “corporation” about two years ago, and he suggested the new ownership pressured him to keep costs low. The posts said the unnamed corporation refused to sell any of the 330 dogs under his control, until money became tight.
“I was told the company was going to fold unless we took drastic action,” said the posting.
“I reluctantly agreed to the job as I have always euthanised the older or injured dogs myself.”
Howling Dog Tours cared for the dogs and ran tours on behalf of Whistler tourism company Outdoor Adventures, which had a financial stake in Howling Dog until it took full control last May — the month following the slaughter.
Outdoor Adventures has insisted it had nothing to do with the decision to cull the animals, and “did not instruct the employee to euthanise the dogs in the manner described in the report.” The company did not return calls and emails requesting comment on Wednesday.
The allegations have outraged some, and RCMP are now investigating threats sent by email and posted to social media websites.