Whistler Animals Galore is questioning the actions of Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations staff that resulted in a dog it was trying to rescue being shot and killed.
WAG volunteers were on site at the Sloquet Hot Springs last Thursday (Aug. 9) attempting to rescue two dogs at the campground after finding out they could end up being destroyed unless they were captured and removed from the area.
However, while there Lindsay Suckling, who is also an adoptions coordinator with WAG, said she heard two shotgun shots ring out and then was told both dogs had been killed.
“To be honest I just couldn’t believe that would have happened,” Suckling said on Tuesday (Aug. 14). “We couldn’t find them so we headed back here pretty upset because our whole mission was to save these dogs’ lives.”
In fact only one of the two dogs had been killed and the other one was still in the area.
Public affairs officer Brennan Clarke in a press release Friday (Aug. 10) indicated the campsite manager, who is also the band manager for the Douglas Lake First Nation, received permission from ministry staff to shoot the dogs at the campsite if they posed a threat to people.
However, the release indicated the shooting occurred several kilometres away from the campsite near a hunting lodge operated by the first nation.
Suckling, however, heard two shots fired nearby and left the area thinking both were killed when in fact that was not the case.
WAG board member Sue Eckersley said she questioned whether both dogs had in fact been killed and the actions of the ministry throughout the entire situation.
“We returned immensely distressed,” Eckersley said adding it is hard to understand why the dogs would be shot at while volunteers were on site actively trying to capture them. “The following day when we were debriefing the situation things weren’t adding up so I made a few phone calls to find out what had happened and why.”
That is when WAG discovered the second dog, which is now in their care and has been named Atlas, was still in the area of the campground and the immediately took action to get back on scene and capture it.
Clarke had stated in the press release ministry staff provided WAG an opportunity to remove and care for the dogs having “requested a written assurance from the organization to take responsibility for the animals and any associated liability. When this consent was not forthcoming, he advised the manager he could shoot the dogs at the campsite if necessary to protect camper safety.”
Eckersley as a charity WAG could not take liability for the animal until it was physically in their control but informed the ministry volunteers would immediately respond to capture the dogs and asked them to refrain from shooting them.
“We absolutely 100 per cent did not and would not take responsibility for dogs not in our care that is not our position,” she said. “The big question for us is how did this happen – it is beyond an abomination.
“As a taxpayer I expect my government to make better decisions.”
The government press release stated the dogs had been causing problems in the area recently including stealing food from campers and biting one person, both had open sores and one a severe injury to its hind leg.
“The dogs had been feral since at least last summer,” indicated Clarke.
Director of shelter operations Shannon Broderick said she was informed the dogs had been in the area for up to 16 months, however, they were not feral.
“I can tell you how he (Atlas) is behaving now, he is not feral, he is abandoned,” Broderick said adding he is taking food by hand and has started to approach Eckersley, which are not characteristics of a feral dog.
She said feral dogs typically are aggressive or try to escape whereas Atlas is beginning to approach Eckersley and was finally caught by one of the loggers in the area who built trust with the dog by feeding it.
“This animal would not have been caught the way he was caught (if he was feral),” Broderick said. “I am extremely confident he will be available for adoption in a short while.”
Eckersley agreed it won’t be long until Atlas is available for adoption and said the experience is a good opportunity to begin working with the ministry so that in future the rescue group is called sooner.
“The good news I think that comes out of this is we are in discussions with the ministry now regarding dogs in this area that in these situations we will ensure we are the first call,” she said. “Anybody who decides they want to shoot a dog we want to give them pause.”
Suckling also pointed to the support that came from the Whistler community once WAG put the call out through social media for support to make it out to the hot springs, which is three hours away.
“So many amazing people supported this endeavour,” she said.