© The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck
Robert Fawcett, accused of killing 56 sled dogs after the 2010 Olympics, leaves B.C. Provincial Court after pleading guilty to a charge of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday August 30, 2012.
Canada, North Vancouver - A man charged with the slaughter of more than 50 sled dogs near Whistler, B.C., two years ago has pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals.
Sled-dog operator Robert Fawcett entered his plea while standing next to his lawyer in a North Vancouver court Thursday afternoon. Outside, about a dozen animal-rights advocates gathered to call for a prison sentence for Fawcett.
Fifty-six dogs were dug up in a mass grave after details of the cull leaked out in January 2011, following a post-traumatic stress disorder claim made by Fawcett through workers' compensation.
The leaked documents from the workers' compensation claim described a bloody scene of how the dogs were shot or had their throats slit before being dumped in the grave site.
The slaughter prompted the B.C. government to bring in tough new anti-cruelty laws to protect sled dogs, with penalties that include fines up to $75,000 and two years of prison time.
The Crown prosecutor has asked for a psychological assessment for Fawcett, who is expected to be sentenced in November.
Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie did not specify what sentence Crown counsel will ask for.
Under the Criminal Code, the maximum sentence for causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal is five years prison time and up to $75,000 in fines.
Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations for the BC SPCA, said this investigation was the biggest and most costly in the organization's history.
"We hope this plea results in swift and appropriate justice in this very disturbing case," said Moriarty in a statement.
The workers' compensation claim suggested the dogs were killed to cull the sled-dog pack after a post-Winter Olympic slump in tour sales. The companies that employed the man, however, have denied such instructions.
A man calling himself Bob Fawcett had written on a PTSD website, describing a gruesome scene of how the dogs were shot or had their throats slit before being dumped in the grave.
The post claimed upwards of 100 dogs were slaughtered, although the SPCA said the investigation only ever turned up about half that number.
After the incident came to light, Fawcett and the company that bought his business said that many of the animals were old and ill and efforts to have them adopted were not successful.
The slaughter sparked international outrage and prompted the B.C. government to bring in tough new anti-cruelty laws to protect sled dogs, covering issues such as working conditions and euthanasia.
Environment Minister Terry Lake, a veterinarian, chaired a task force that investigated the recreational sled-dog industry soon after the horrific cull came to light.
Lake said he is relieved the prominent case is coming to a close.
"I'm hopeful that the system will make sure that if there is a guilty plea or a guilty finding, that this person is treated under those new laws," he said.
Source: The Canadian Press, CHNL