Wednesday April 16, 2014


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Fawcett sentencing offers chance to move on


Some people can look back and pick one moment in their life when everything changed completely and utterly for the very worst.

For Robert Fawcett that moment occurred on April 21, 2010, when he headed out into the woods with a shotgun and clearly thought-out intention to cull his companyís sled dogs team.

While his claim for post-traumatic stress disorder coverage puts the number of dogs he killed at 100, the reality is the B.C. SPCA only found 54 animals in a mass grave during its investigations. To this day, officials still donít know if that was because he got mixed up on the numbers, inflated them for his WorkSafeBC claim or they just didnít find all the dogs.

Regardless of the final number, the criminal case against him focused on the nine dogs investigators could prove with physical evidence suffered as a direct result of his actions.

It is important to distinguish between those two numbers. While 54 dogs were euthanized, a common practice in that industry and by veterinarians, it was what happened to a few that is the focus.

The details are a horrifying, gut-wrenching account that no animal lover could stomach. The manner in which those few dogs died was cruel and unnecessary, and as a result Fawcett may count himself as another victim of his own actions.

The court heard of a man destroyed by the consequences of what he did, his conscious decision to opt for a full-out slaughter. While he approached the SPCA prior to it happening and approached the local veterinarian, it appears he never fully communicated to anybody just how dire the situation was and what he would have to do to address the problem of too many dogs and not enough business.

During the sentencing, Fawcett declined an opportunity to address the judge and by doing so speak out to the public and his community about what he did. It was a chance for attrition and closure to atone for his morally reprehensible and criminal acts.

Outdoor Adventures Whistler owner Joey Houssian has also not given a public interview since the news broke. Instead, he has relied on public relations firms to represent him and declined to be interviewed by RCMP, according to the statement of facts.

A request for an interview this week resulted in the following statement from Houssian being sent to The Question: ďThe past 22 months have been extremely painful for the community of Whistler, people who work with sled dogs, and for animal lovers everywhere. It is my hope that the changes to provincial legislation and the creation of the Sled Dog Foundation right here in Whistler will continue to improve the lives of all sled dogs.Ē

Painful is only one word that can describe the emotions that have swelled up and surrounded this entire story. The media attention, death threats, protests, boycotts and vitriol that came out of this incident is stunning.

No wonder the judge in this case felt the backlash Fawcett faced and its affect on him was a mitigating factor for the sentence he received. We wonder if those people who were so savage in their insistence Fawcett be punished realize all they did was lighten his sentence?

With the sentencing behind us as a community, the local sled dog industry has a chance to move forward. Progressive changes to the regulations governing sled dogs and the first code of practice are milestones local operators make it a point to exceed.

Letís remember this incident comes down to the actions of one misguided person, and not continue to punish those who care for and work with sled dogs everyday in our community.



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