End Sled Dog Cruelty: Leeann’s Story

 

In the winter of 2018, Feb 2nd 2018, to be precise, a video went viral after a young couple visited a Dog Sledding Kennel located in Moonstone, Central Ontario and posted it after they reported deplorable conditions to the OSPCA.
The conditions were so shocking to the public that nearly half a million people signed a petition on line to close down Windrift Adventures.

People of course thought these malnourished, depressed, anxious and desperate dogs were an isolated incident. Chained outside on short chains to only a plastic barrel or dilapidated wooden box, in all weather extremes, any sane and humane person could not even contemplate that this was the way things were done in this exploitative industry. That this has to be an one off incident. I know I couldn’t. The more I delved into it, joining an on line facebook club, called K-9 Unchain Canada, the more I saw that Windrift was just the tip of the Iceberg.

To think that a whole industry revolved around exploited, abused, dogs being chained for life and forced to live outside and never receiving Vet care, indeed just being shot if sick, old or no longer needed, just to pull tourists around 4 months a year and left to rot the other 8, was mind blowing. I never thought of myself as naive, but I was ignorant.
To find out the laws in Ontario and all across Canada in fact, with the exception of a few municipalities allow this treatment of dogs, with Sled dogs having even less rights, as the false narrative has and is pushed that they are bred for this, was for me, life altering.

These dogs are, just dogs. Labs, Collies, Pointers. The Mushers (Owners and runners of these dogs) will say that they are invincible, stronger, meant for this chained life, but one look at a miserable chained sled dog or any dog for that matter and you know that is total bull.

I felt like the more I found out about this industry, it was like falling into a deep, dark hole, and I still had not hit the bottom.
Finding out that the B.C. Olympic Sled Dogs had all been knifed, bludgeoned and shot to death when the tourists left floored me. I vaguely remembered hearing about it, but like everyone else, filed it away as an isolated tragedy.
Finding out there is this crazy organization called “Mush with Pride” that has influence over Canadian laws in regard to the treatment of Sled Dogs was frightening. The man that killed all those dogs in BC, Bob Fawcett, was, at the time, the Vice President of Mush with Pride.

Yes, even though half of the current board members live in ALASKA, they still influence our laws, meaning there are practically no protection laws for Sled dogs in Canada, for sure there are not in Alaska, and the number one mandate of ” Mush with Pride” is to chain the dogs for life outside. Cheapest way to warehouse them.

I still could not wrap my head around that this was happening in my country. This was not Korea or China where they actually eat dogs on a regular basis. To find out our laws are just as bad or non-existent , was a real wake up call.

So considering that the common denominator among all these horrible dog exploiting kennels is the chain, I am determined to change the chaining laws in Ontario, as I have been told this is a provincial issue, and maybe somehow federally. As it is a nation wide disgrace and injustice.

To say this has literally kept me up at night is not an understatement.

So trying to organize it in my mind, because I will never be able to rationalize or relate to the exploitation and abuse of these dogs as the Industry mushers do, to make a profit, I have decided to, with a group of other determined people, such as Chantal, who have worked in, witnessed and have the guts to talk about this abomination of an Industry, work towards the end of indefinite chaining and being able to leave dogs out in extreme weather in Ontario and Canada.

Toronto has a one hour limit. Calgary has no acceptable limit at all!

Some people say these Mushers will adjust. I don’t think so.

In order for that to happen it would take money for free runs and heated shelters.

And maybe some humane thinking and interest in all current scientific research that proves chaining a dog is detrimental all all levels, physical, emotional, mental and physiological.

If they had any compassion for their dogs, they WOULD read it, hear it, practice it. Done it by now.This information has been proven and has been assessable for decades. And they don’t. They don’t even follow the Rules of the World Sled Dog Association that denounces life long chaining. It’s the Wild West here in Canada and in Alaska. And the dogs are suffering and dying because of this lawlessness.

We have to change the laws. Bottom line. Self regulation of this hellish industry has not , does not and will not work.

“Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Angel at Windrift. This is a picture of  the dog at Windrift that started this whole journey for me. The bleak emptiness of his life struck me so hard, it was paralyzing.

 


He also inspired a poem:

COLD BLUE MOON

I NO LONGER FEEL THE COLD METAL
THAT SURROUNDS MY THIN NECK,
IT HAS BECOME A MEMORY,
OF THAT ONE HAND THAT CARESSED.
I NO LONGER FEEL THE COLD AND INSINUATING GROUND,
IT’S NOW A WARMTH THAT ENVELOPES,
AND A COMFORT I’VE FOUND.
IT’S SO STILL HERE,
INSIDE MY HOLLOWED OUT PIPE,
I HEARD SOME VOICES.
FAR AWAY IN THE NIGHT.
I’VE STOPPED HOPING
THIS ISOLATION WOULD GO,
NOW THE COLD BLUE MOON IN THE SKY
IS MY FRIEND THROUGH THE NIGHT, OH SO SLOW.
I HEARD A RUMOR TODAY
FROM THE OTHERS,
SO FAR AWAY,
THEY WERE COMING TO SAVE ME,
AND TAKE ME AWAY
BUT I DON’T THINK I’M GOING
IT’S JUST A LITTLE TOO LATE
MY BLUE MOON IS CALLING
AND THIS IS MY LAST FRIGID NIGHT.

LeeAnn Baker

Sled Dog and Dog Activist

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