If there’s one thing that Whistler has become known for over the last year, it’s the alleged killing of 54 sled dogs that took place just outside of the municipality’s boundaries in 2010.
News of the mass killing brought an international focus to Whistler as well as sled dog operations all over the province and has since led to new legislation enacted to protect working animals, in addition to criminal charges that are currently before the courts.
The company that was in charge of the operation at the time has since given up its sled dog business, handing everything over to the non-profit Whistler Sled Dog Foundation.
In the months after the foundation was formed, it became apparent that some of the dogs need homes. While some dogs have already been adopted, local animal shelter Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) is looking for more Whistlerites to step up.
“As of today, we’ve had 54 sled dogs surrendered to WAG,” said Shannon Broderick, director of shelter operations. “Of those, we’ve sent 36 to the Victoria SPCA to find homes for and we’ve adopted out 10 through WAG.”
Currently, there are eight former sled dogs at WAG still looking for homes, with seven more slated to come to the shelter once those have been adopted. Broderick said she is hoping that the community will come forward to help give the animals a good home in the town where they were raised.
“I don’t know if it’s because people don’t know they’re here, but these dogs need homes,” said Broderick. “Of the dogs that have been adopted already, they’ve all done really well in their homes and have been amazing with children a well as other animals.”
According to Broderick, all sled dogs coming through WAG are being trained by the shelter to transition comfortably into living in a home. Because the dogs have spent most of their lives working with guests and other dogs, they have amazing temperament when it comes to living alongside people and other animals, she added.
“I’m not sure if there’s a pre-conceived notion that there’s going to be a challenge, but once people actually meet them they really connect with them,” said Broderick, who noted that the age of the dogs ranges between five to 10 years old. “Some of them are just older and 10-year-old dogs are harder to find homes for, but these animals have lots of life left in them.”
Sue Eckersley, director of the Whistler Sled Dog Foundation said the partnership with WAG to adopt out the dogs is part of a move to downsize the operations, while making sure the dogs are given the best opportunity to find new, loving and caring places to call home.
“It’s about the dogs,” she said. “We’re looking at the dogs that would re-home well and be happy and healthy in a household and are looking at adopting them out. We’re looking to become a boutique operation where we’re down to around 80 to 90 dogs and therefore the quality of care we could give them would be higher.”
Currently, the foundation has 106 sled dogs in its service, Eckersley said.
And while WAG is able to send more sled dogs to the Victoria SPCA for adoption, Broderick is hopeful that people will be able to keep them in Whistler.
“These dogs are safe, they’re happy and aren’t in danger but they just need re-homing,” she said. “I know people are still rattled from what happened, but we’re in Whistler — this is where emotions were running high and these animals are here now and they need homes.
“The kennel is now downsizing and this is an opportunity for people who felt connected to the story and want to bring an animal into their life to do so.”
To contact WAG or to learn more about adopting a former sled dog, visit www.whistlerwag.com. Members of the public are also able to drop in and walk the dogs between the hours of 1 to 4 p.m. daily.