Over 200 sled dogs will remain in Ontario’s care, court finds | The Canadian News

An Ontario court ordered the province to return 11 sled dog puppies it seized, but ruled that it can keep more than 200 dogs because the animals would return to a “distressed situation.”

Four of the dogs died in government care as the case worked its way through the Animal Care Review Board, a quasi-judicial agency, which took note of the deaths in its decision.

Windrift Adventures, a dogsled operation north of Barrie, Ontario, had appealed the seizure of 239 dogs from the province’s Animal Welfare Services on September 23, 2021, along with the decision to keep them.

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The board, which handles disputes and appeals in animal welfare cases, heard the appeal in the fall.

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“I believe that ordering the return of the rest of the dogs to the appellants at this time would be to return them to distress,” wrote Lindsay Lake, a member of the board of review, who adjudicated the case, in its December 31 decision. 2021.

Inspectors from the province’s Animal Welfare Services pounced on two of Windrift’s properties, one in Moonstone, Ontario, and another in Severn, Ontario, in September.

At the site, Lake wrote, inspectors looked at the length of the dogs’ leashes (the dogs live outside) and the insulation in the dog houses, and said Windrift was not in compliance with the law.

Then the dogs were taken away.

“I am extremely frustrated and disappointed,” said Adrienne Spottiswood, one of Windrift’s owners.

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“Animal welfare is supposed to protect animals and that is not what they are doing. Four of our dogs are dead.

The court previously heard that at least two of the dogs died from a bacterial infection. Spottiswood said he was told by Animal Welfare Services that two others died of cancer.

“They were all healthy when they took them,” Spottiswood said.

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The government said the dogs contracted the bacterial infection from Windrift’s horses.

Spottiswood disagreed.

Brent Ross, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Ministry, who is responsible for Animal Welfare Services, confirmed the deaths of the four dogs in his charge and said he returned 11 puppies to Windrift.

“Since the matter remains within the appeal period, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment,” Ross said.

Spottiswood said they will appeal the decision.

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In the past two years, there have been 15 inspections at Windrift, the board heard.

Inspectors had long focused on the dogs’ living conditions: they live outdoors year-round in dog kennels.

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In February, Animal Welfare Services ordered Windrift to repair the dog houses and give them longer leashes – the dogs are on chains that are connected to posts buried in the ground.

In June, the board found that all of Windrift’s dogs were in danger. It found that the outdoor dog kennels were not properly insulated and the dog leashes were too short. An appeal from Windrift was dismissed.

The board ordered Windrift to comply with the orders. On September 23, inspectors discovered that Windrift had not made the changes and later seized the dogs.

Animal Welfare Services and Windrift agreed that the dogs were in good health at the time, but the board said the animals were in danger because the insulation and leashes weren’t up to scratch.

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The inspectors’ decision to remove the dogs was “highly questionable,” Lake said, but ultimately did not have to decide whether provincial inspectors broke the law when they confiscated the dogs.

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She said she just had to decide if the dogs would return to a situation where they would be distressed.

Inspectors can’t take animals based solely on noncompliance with orders, Lake said, but some of the evidence “strongly suggests” that’s what happened.

The dogs should be returned if Windrift provides longer leashes and insulation arrangements for its doghouses, Lake said.

The board found that provincial inspectors overreached when they confiscated four cubs, born after the board’s June decision, which said they were not in danger.

“I think they shouldn’t have been eliminated,” Lake wrote.

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Seven puppies that were considered endangered on the Moonstone property lived in a pen along with a wooden frame and a plastic barrel.

Lake said standards of care were not being met because the structures were “not in good shape.”

She said body camera footage from one of the inspectors “showed him scraping the accumulation of green sludge from the inside of the wooden frame in the puppy pen.”

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Those puppies were ordered back because Windrift had already cleaned the pen, Lake wrote.

“There is no evidence before me that returning these seven puppies to the appellants will cause them distress or expose them to undue risk of distress,” Lake wrote.

As for Windrift, they remain out of business, unable to offer dog sledding.

“Our business is down,” Spottiswood said. “Not good.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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