Update: Speaking up for sled dogs and wild animals in captivity

This summer, the VHS ramped up calls for changes to B.C.’s regulations on two key animal welfare issues: sled dogs and wild animals in captivity. All B.C. residents can help by raising these two animal welfare issues with their MLA in a call or meeting.

You don’t need to be an expert on either of these topics to make an impact. Instead, what’s important is that they hear why these issues matter to you. You can ask them to raise the issues, along with the VHS’s recommendations, with the relevant B.C. Ministers.

Provincial decision-makers have previously noted that the regulations for both issues are due for review, without a timeline for action. The VHS has provided clear recommendations for how the regulations need to be updated to better protect animal welfare, but action continues to be delayed and animals continue to suffer as a result.

As MLAs return to parliament this fall, the VHS will continue to advocate for wild and exotic animals in captivity and sled dogs in the commercial sled dog industry.

Can you help by engaging with your MLA on these animal welfare issues? To find your MLA’s contact information, head to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia website and enter your postal code.

Find my MLA

Short on time? Use the quick email tool to send a message to your MLA today!

Commercial sled dog industry

Under B.C.’s current sled dog regulations, sled dogs can be tethered for lengthy periods of time and sled dog tour companies are allowed to shoot surplus dogs, so long as the operator has made reasonable efforts to try to rehome the sled dog.

Recommendations on sled dogs

Wild and exotic animals in captivity

Meanwhile, B.C.’s outdated wild and exotic animal captivity regulations allow for many species to be kept as pets or in captive facilities, despite the difficulty in meeting their complex physical and psychological needs. Numerous incidents in recent years at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, including the escape of wolves from the zoo this summer which tragically resulted in the death of one wolf, reiterate the urgent need for updating the province’s regulations.

Recommendations on animals in captivity
“Think about the worst thing you think could happen to an animal in Canada … I guarantee that what’s out there is a thousand times worse.”
Rob Laidlaw, Zoocheck founder

The VHS was recently joined by Zoocheck founder Rob Laidlaw to share his decades of experience advocating for the well-being of animals. Read or listen to the discussion on the VHS’s exclusive podcast, The Informed Animal Ally.

Learn more about captivity laws & practices


“Dogs in Distress”, Iditarod, and summer weather: Sled dogs still suffering

“Dogs in Distress”

You may have seen the recent W5 investigation, “Dogs in Distress”, which exposed the commercial sled dog industry in Canada. The investigation found disturbing evidence of dogs chained outdoors for prolonged periods; repetitive pacing behaviour; and inhumane forms of euthanasia.

The welfare issues highlighted in the investigation reiterate the need for updating B.C.’s Sled Dog Standards of Care Regulation, which are overdue for review.

You can watch the full investigation below. Please note that the images and stories shared in this story may be very upsetting.

W5: Uncovering the shocking treatment of sled dogs in Canada

An iconic winter tourist draw is being scrutinized by experts and activists. Once essential to the survival of indigenous communities, dog sledding is embrac…

Recent decision by Iditarod

A recent concerning decision by Iditarod officials also highlights welfare issues in the long-distance sled dog race across Alaska. Despite claiming that participants would be disqualified for inhumane treatment of dogs, race officials penalized those who made the decision to shelter their dog teams safely indoors during a dangerous storm.

Officials noted that the participants who decided bring their dog teams indoors gained a competitive advantage even though they “did the right thing for their dogs”.

This concerning decision highlights a prevailing attitude that sled dogs can be exploited for human gain, even at the expense of their well-being.

Act now!

With warmer weather fast approaching, sled dogs will soon find themselves in the sled dog tourism industry’s off-season. Current regulations allow dogs to be chained for more than 23 hours a day, and many outdoor dog houses provide little protection from the summer heat. Use the quick email tool below to help protect sled dogs now.

Last year, animal advocates called for stronger regulations for sled dogs.

More than 4,700 individuals used VHS’s quick action tool to contact B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham, who is responsible for the Sled Dog Standards of Care Regulation.

Thanks to all the support, VHS was able to meet with the Minister. She indicated that reviewing the sled dog regulations was delayed, but that they are on the Ministry’s to-do list.

Each email to the Ministry helps to get this issue recognized as a priority as VHS continues to follow up. Can you send a quick email to Minister Lana Popham now?