Disgraced Pemberton musher Robert Fawcett’s arraignment hearing on charges he caused unnecessary pain and suffering to dozens of sled dogs was delayed until Aug. 16.
Fawcett did not appear in North Vancouver Provincial Court on Tuesday (June 19), but his lawyer, Whistler’s Greg Diamond, argued for more time to prepare for the case while he waits for disclosure of more Crown evidence.
“We are completing our review of the documents that were disclosed by the Crown. (There are) thousands of pages,” Diamond wrote in an email to The Question. “In court, we requested a further four weeks to do so, but the matter was adjourned to Aug. 16 to accommodate the Crown's schedule.”
Judge Joanne Challenger set Aug. 16 for a pre-trial hearing and arraignment. Fawcett was the only person charged on April 21, two years after the mass slaughter of sled dogs. The matter was transferred from Pemberton to North Vancouver in May for security reasons.
Extra court sheriffs and RCMP officers attended the North Vancouver courthouse, but there were no incidents.
Marley Daviduk of the Vancouver Animal Defence League was among a half-dozen protesters holding signs on the steps of the courthouse, seeking justice for the “Whistler 100.”
Daviduk’s sign compared Fawcett to Luka Rocco Magnotta, the gay porn actor charged in a Montreal murder and dismembering case. Daviduk defended the comparison by noting that animal rights activists complained to authorities about videos of kittens being killed that were allegedly posted online by Magnotta in 2010.
“We were hoping to see Bob Fawcett today,” Daviduk said. “We're here to let the courts know that we want a maximum sentence dished out to him. We're tired of seeing animal abusers walk away with a slap on the wrist, no jail time and maybe a couple hundred dollars penalty. We know that people who abuse animals are very likely to commit violent crimes against human beings.”
Fawcett was operations manager for Howling Dog Tours. A Jan. 25, 2011 Worksafe B.C. claim review, which awarded him compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, described in graphic detail how dogs were slaughtered when business slumped after the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“On April 21 and 23, 2010, he was tasked to cull the employer’s herd by approximately 100 dogs,” said the claim review. “A veterinarian was contacted, but refused to euthanize healthy animals. Attempts were made to adopt out the dogs with only limited success.”
A $250,000 operation coordinated by the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) exhumed the remains of 54 dogs from a mass grave in the Soo Valley last summer. In December, Outdoor Adventures Whistler owner Joey Houssian transferred the company’s remaining dogs and other assets to the newly formed Sled Dog Foundation.
“This really brought Canada into the international eye,” Daviduk said. “It was in every major newspaper in Europe and the U.K.”
Messages bearing Fawcett’s name were posted on online bulletin boards for PTSD sufferers. One entry said the musher was “told the company was going to fold unless we took drastic action.
“The drastic action would be the immediate disposal of half the herd,” said the post. “There is no more money and the owners would only continue on if we did the reduction and went with a new business model, less dogs, less costs. These were my family. I reluctantly agreed to the job as I have always euthanized the older or injured dogs myself.”