By now, we have all heard about the 100 dogs that were shot by a Whistler sled dog touring company. Understandably, people are outraged by this senseless loss of canine life. These were dogs with a job and when they were no longer of use to their owners they were expendable – only to be kept alive as long as they provided income for their owners. However, much of the outrage and the analysis is not thorough or overly accurate. The killing of these dogs is just one example of what is wrong with our society when it comes to companion animals. Most people who share their lives with their companion animals[1] are outraged that someone could do this to animals yet many of those people have also participated in and/or contributed to the commodification of animals.

The dogs, who were killed by Fawcett, were working dogs. Many of these dogs were not properly socialized to people. Making the transition from working dog to pet would have been very difficult for some of them. However, it would not have been impossible to rehabilitate them. Certainly rescues in northern BC, like Turtle Gardens K-9 Rescue, do this all day every day. They have a method of socializing those dogs so that they can transition to family homes in the south. Can they rehabilitate all of them? Of course not, but they do an amazing job proving that with the correct interventions and placements in well-screened homes most unsocialized dogs can make the transition. Had the sled dog company reached out to rescue groups in BC, I would bet that many of those dogs would have been taken in, rehabilitated and adopted into appropriate homes with support.

So that covers the sled dog industry and shows that there needs to be regulation in how they treat their dogs when they are no longer of use. What about the other types of commodification? Puppy mills? Backyard breeders? These people contribute to the over-population of companion animals in BC. I have no idea how many operational puppy mills there are in BC but I do know the damage. We have adopted two former puppy mill dogs to live in our home. One of them died of metastasized mammary cancer a year after she came to us. We still have the lovely Zoe and we work every day to make her life fabulous so she can forget her first 9 years of living in a cage, matted to her skin as she pumped out and fed babies for her owner to profit from. But I digress. How many people do you know who have a dog and they have decided to breed it for whatever reason? What do we say to those people? Personally, I think backyard breeders are every bit as reprehensible as the puppy millers. Just because you think your Fluffy is really cute, adding more dogs to an already over-populated world is completely irresponsible. Responsible breeders don’t purposely breed mutts[2] and they work to strengthen their breed by making sure their dogs are vet checked and free of health issues. These breeders also agree to be responsible for every life they bring into this world for as long as it lives. They ensure that if people decide that Fido no longer fits into their life that he has a place to go and does not end up in the shelter system.

As a society, we must begin to value the lives of our companion animals. When we bring them into our homes we must remember that we are now their guardian. We are responsible for their feeding, socialization, care and overall health. We must take them to the vet when they are sick, ensure they are adequately exercised and stimulated. We must also address the over-population of companion animals. Simply we must spay and neuter our animals. Early sterilizations are preventative for many animals in that the rate of cancer, particularly reproductive related cancers, is reduced by a whopping 92%.

It is very interesting that BC lame duck Premier Campbell has come out as a champion of the sled dogs – even setting up an inquiry. We are not stupid and we see this for what it is: a shameless play for positive publicity and a legacy. Even though this is the case, it does not mean that it is bad. If the legislation is changed to outlaw backyard breeders and puppy millers our society would be so much better off. Regulating the sled dog industry is clearly necessary. There must be a plan in place, funded by the industry, for the orderly and humane retirement of sled dogs. Maybe the dogs need to be more socialized so they are more able to transition into a family home.

The core issue with the sled dog murders is that the purpose of these dogs was to make money. Once they were no longer money machines they were expendable. The same thing happens with puppy miller and backyard breeder animals. Once they no longer make money for their owners they become expendable. Our animals give us everything they have every single day of their lives. I know that when I look into the eyes of one of my dogs, I can see that, without a doubt, that animal adores me and loves me unconditionally. My pug, Piper, my heart dog, is so fiercely loyal it almost brings me to tears. If I am upset or sick and I need comfort she is there for me. What else can we ask? Is it really fair to ask them to also make money for us too?

Updated February 4: Check this post out on the Turtle Gardens blog about another sled dog tragedy and how dogs were rehabilitated.

[1] Dogs, cats, bunnies, etc.

[2] Thing Jugs (Jack Russel/Pug cross) and other crosses going for a certain characteristic or low shedding etc.


2 thoughts on “Dogs as Commodities

  1. It’s pathetic….so many people are so gullible! No end of people come into our office to purchase licenses for their “purebred Labradoodles”. Who on earth can convince normally intelligent people that a mutt is anything but a mutt?
    Psychopaths could, and backyard breeders…..oh gee, they are one and the same, aren’t they?

  2. It’s frustrating that this guy didn’t get in contact with Turtle Gardens or another similar organization. (Or I assume he didn’t, otherwise at least some of the dogs could have been adopted out.) A simple Google search yields long lists of them–was it that hard to call them?

    I agree there needs to be regulation in place & a plan for these animals after they are no longer ‘useful’. Businesses that use animals need to think about how they’ll take care of (or find care for) the animals to the end of their *natural* lives. We live in a disposable culture: I think maybe when cradle-to-cradle design becomes more commonplace, the plight of commodified animals will improve too.

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