Early in 2008, I was working for Bosleys Pet Foods. Our store won a trip to Whistler for dog sledding. It was my first trip to Whistler and, being a long-time sled dog fan, I was ecstatic. We actually went with Howling Dog Tours – I even have a hat somewhere with their logo.
The sledding was very fun – I got to ‘drive’ the sled (it wasn’t really driving, as the dogs knew where they were going!). The dogs were fed after every trip, a greasy combination of fish oil, kibble and water to ensure that their energy was kept up and they didn’t get dehydrated.
When our sledding trip concluded, I chatted a bit with one of the people working there. I asked where the dogs came from and he replied that they were the “washouts” from other sledding kennels – dogs that were bred to the life, but weren’t fast enough for the racing kennels they came from.
I noticed that there were a number of puppies in the kennel and asked about them. I was told that they were the offspring of dogs that accidentally got loose and bred. “Accidents happen.” Didn’t the kennel spay and neuter incoming animals? No, that would be too expensive and “How would you like that done to you?”
I’ve had a tubal ligation, so I actually have a good idea of what it’s like to be spayed. It seems a hell of a lot more comfortable and humane than having my eye blown out by an inexpertly held shotgun.
The Cost of Responsibility
As for cost, Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. has suspended their page (and disavowed all knowledge of the choice of euthanization), but another company (note, not affiliated with HDTW) is citing prices of $200-$350 per adult. Let’s take prices from the Vancouver Animal Hospital, an affiliate of the BCSPCA (and who are kind enough to post their S/N prices online).
A dog between 21 to 49 lbs is $154 to spay. A dog between 50 and 100 lbs is $176. Most of the sled dogs used in tours are Alaskan Husky mixes and usually range between 35 and 60 lbs. So we’re looking at about $200 when all is said and done, if we’re estimating at the maximum cost of our range.
$200. A single person on a single ride on a single day could have paid for a single dog to get spayed or neutered. The Bosleys crew alone numbered four. We could have paid for four dogs to have gotten fixed that day. We were only one group out of 20 that we saw in and around the sledding area. Based on the traffic for that one day, Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. could have gotten the whole 300 dogs spayed and neutered with the income for one week.
How many of the 300 sled dogs were the result of irresponsible handling and “accidental” matings? Experienced musher kennels have figured out how to keep *their* dogs from breeding; how was it that HDTW couldn’t figure it out? How could they provide adequate care and attention for 300 dogs, anyway?
Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc had the means to prevent their dogs from breeding; they just decided that it wasn’t worth pursuing.