Sled dogs

These beautiful dogs are deprived of their freedom, kept in squalid conditions.

Latest news

One third of Yukon Quest sled dogs injured in past races, study finds A new study of illness and injury among dogs in the Yukon Quest international sled dog race lays bare how many of the animals experienced “abnormal” health conditions while participating in the long-distance race.  The research focuses on the races held in 2018, 2019 and 2020, when the Quest was still a 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometre) race between Whitehorse…


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How you can help

Boycott sled dog tours and races, and ask your friends and family to do the same.

Donate to VHS’ efforts to stop the exploitation of sled dogs and other animals.

The truth about the sled dog industry

People in B.C. and around the world were shocked by the revelation in January, 2011 that dozens of sled dogs were brutally killed in Whistler in April 2010.  The BC SPCA and RCMP investigated the killings and the provincial government created a task force to review the sled dog industry.  In November, 2012 Robert Fawcett was sentenced to three years probation, 200 hours of community service, a $1,500 fine, a 10-year firearms ban and a three-year ban on any commercial involvement with animals. Many people were dissatisfied with the sentence but hoped steps had been taken to ensure such an incident could never happen again.

Earlier, in April 2011, a provincial government Sled Dog Task Force issued a report on the sled dog industry.  The report’s recommendations, which were accepted by the government, called for regulation of the industry and for tougher animal cruelty laws.

VHS welcomed stronger animal cruelty laws but was disappointed with the new regulations for the sled dog industry, which still allow dogs to be kept tethered for long periods and to be killed by gunshot. The government also failed to provide the BC SPCA with the resources necessary to enforce the new standard of care for sled dog operations.

VHS remains concerned about the inherent poor welfare that is widespread in these industries and wants to see them banned.  Sled dogs can spend most of their days tethered to posts when they are not pulling sleds, which denies them the opportunity to engage in normal behaviours.  Research has shown that this causes frustration and can lead to abnormal behaviours such as aggression or hyper-vigilance (leading to lack of sleep).  Tethered sled dogs are known to engage in rock-eating, indicative of frustration.  (Industry guidelines recommend dogs be kept on plywood or concrete to prevent digging and rock-eating.)

The Whistler case shows what happens when animals that are exploited for profit become surplus to requirements.  Any company whose bottom line is threatened has to cut costs.  If animals are involved their welfare will invariably be put at risk.

In our experience, the economic exploitation of animals (even when well-intentioned) almost invariably results in compromising their welfare.  We have found this to be the case in zoos, circuses, rodeos, the exotic pet trade and of course in animal agriculture.  When these animals cease to be of economic value, these industries often fail to take responsibility for their welfare.  Whether it’s ex-rodeo or race horses sold at auction for slaughter, unwanted greyhound racers, discarded exotic pets, or aging sled dogs, animals are put at risk when they are treated as commodities.

Currently, various rescue groups and well-intentioned individuals attempt to address these problems by setting up often financially-precarious sanctuaries or adoption programs. Essentially, industries using animals dump their moral responsibilities on others.

We have reached the conclusion that the economic exploitation of animals is incompatible with maintaining acceptable welfare. The only way to curtail animal suffering is to stop using them as commodities.  While regulation of these industries might be helpful, government is generally unwilling to take on the responsibility of enforcement due to cost.  For these reasons, VHS feels it is time to say “enough” and to work toward ending the economic exploitation of animals.

VHS was interviewed for the award-winning 2016 documentary Sled Dogs, which exposed the cruelty involved in sled dog racing and touring.

Reasons to oppose dog sledding