The man who killed more than 50 sled dogs after business slumped following the Canadian Winter Olympics thought he was acting in the "best interests" of the animals, a British Columbia judge concluded.
VANCOUVER, B.C. — A man who pleaded guilty in the slaughter of dozens of sled dogs in British Columbia will not spend time in prison, a judge has ruled.
Provincial Court Judge Steve Merrick concluded Thursday that Robert Fawcett had the “best interests” of the dogs at heart when he culled the pack near Whistler after a business slump following the 2010 Olympics.
The devastating aftermath of the April 2010 killing was outlined in court by Fawcett’s lawyer, who described how hard it was for his client to listen to details of the slaying of his beloved animals.
Fawcett, 40, earlier pleaded guilty to one count of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals. That count relates to the deaths of nine dogs. More than 50 were exhumed from a mass grave in 2011 as part of a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigation. The court was told most of the dogs didn’t suffer.
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The judge gave Fawcett three years’ probation, 200 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine. He can’t work in the sled-dog industry or make decisions about euthanizing animals.
The court was told that Fawcett felt forced into the decision when the owners of Howling Dog Tours put an “absolute freeze” on spending, except for food and a bare minimum of labor.
Fawcett was watching the dogs’ conditions deteriorate to a point they were fighting and killing each other.
“He accepted the burden because he felt he could do it compassionately, and he did not want that burden placed on anyone else,” said defense lawyer Greg Diamond.
The defense supplied 30 character references to the judge who described Fawcett’s “admirable dedication” to the dogs.
Diamond said his client has become an “international pariah,” partly due to intense media scrutiny.
He said his client has attempted suicide, has tattooed a ring of dogs around his arm to remember their lives, and still shudders when he hears a dog bark.
Diamond said the one “silver lining” that has resulted was legislative reform giving British Columbia some of the toughest animal-cruelty laws in Canada.
Government prosecutor Nicole Gregoire said Fawcett has received death threats, had a mental breakdown that sent him to an institution for two months, and even saw his young children and wife forced into hiding.
The case became public in January 2011 after a workers’ compensation claim for post-traumatic stress disorder was leaked.
Gregoire said questions remain about how someone who was caring and had a record of high standards could inflict pain on animals.
She pointed to a psychological assessment, noting the psychiatrist found Fawcett likely had experienced “high levels of distress” leading up to the cull, and likely had disassociated his emotions during the event itself.