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Local man believes his dogs among those killed in B.C.

Bonnyville's Marc Dumont knows better than most dogs are a man's best friend.
Bonnyville’s Marc Dumont shows pictures of his beloved Alaskan huskies he sold to a B.C. man at the centre of a scandal involving the slaughter of 100 dogs last April.
Bonnyville’s Marc Dumont shows pictures of his beloved Alaskan huskies he sold to a B.C. man at the centre of a scandal involving the slaughter of 100 dogs last April.

Bonnyville's Marc Dumont knows better than most dogs are a man's best friend.

That's why he is having such a difficult time absorbing how a man he trusted to treat nine of his beloved Alaskan huskies with the same care and passion he did when he sold them to him six years ago has admitted to slaughtering 100 dogs in British Columbia last April.

Dumont said because most of his dogs are older, he fully realizes some of the dogs he owned are likely among those euthanised in an incident drawing national and international attention.

For a decade, Dumont's favourite hobby was raising, breeding and training sled dogs.

Bob Fawcett, former owner of his own sled dog breeding company and director with Howling Dog Tours out of Pemberton, B.C. near Whistler, made headlines by filing a successful claim with the workers' compensation board, saying he suffered from post-traumatic stress after slaughtering 100 dogs, then dumping them in a mass grave last April.

Last week, the SPCA launched an animal cruelty investigation with assistance from the Whistler RCMP.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has also launched a task force to investigate the incident. MLA Terry Lake, a licensed veterinarian, will lead the probe and will report to the premier within 45 days.

Dumont sold his nine Alaskan huskies to Fawcett, a man he grew to call a good friend, in 2004. Fawcett contacted him online, they chatted for weeks and met on several occasions before Dumont sold the dogs to Fawcett.

The news Fawcett is involved in this incident is shocking to him, Dumont said.

“My wife came to greet me at the door (last) Monday when I got home from work … and asked me if I had heard about the dogs being slaughtered out in Whistler,” said Dumont, the superintendent of education for the local francophone school board. “When I found out there were 300 dogs at this operation, I figured it had to be the one where Bob worked.

“When I actually heard his name, my heart sank. I knew something really bad had happened because if he was being accused of such a horrible act that's not the man I knew and came to respect so much.

“I also figured if 100 dogs had been killed that some of mine were probably involved. It's very upsetting and just breaks my heart.”

Dumont visited the animals on numerous occasions in B.C. and was always impressed with the compassion and level of care shown towards the dogs by Fawcett and all members of his staff.

“There was never any indication at all that anything was wrong,” he said. “The only complaint I ever had was … my dogs were a bit fat and I wasn't used to seeing that because they had always been so lean and fit. But they were getting older and to me that meant they were just being well-fed.”

From everything he knows about Fawcett, the man loves dogs as much as he does and would never have been involved in the massacre without extenuating circumstances.

“If he's the one who pulled the trigger or slit the throats of those dogs, I just don't see how he could have done that because it just doesn't mesh with the man I know and the man I saw treating those dogs so well during my many visits,” he said.

“I don't know if he was put in a position as to whether he had to decide between killing innocent dogs or keeping his job. That doesn't make what has happened less wrong, but my feeling is he was probably put in a position to choose between two horrible wrongs.

“I can only imagine the gruesome scene of culling that many dogs that I still believe he loved with all his heart. It's just a very sad situation.”

Fawcett, the former general manager of Howling Dog Tours, issued a joint statement with Outdoor Adventures, the company that bought his business, last Wednesday.

The statement claimed the slaughtered dogs were old and sick, no one would take them and the company had no choice but to euthanise them.

The statement read “there were no instructions given to Mr. Fawcett as to the manner of euthanising dogs on this occasion and Mr. Fawcett was known to have very humanely euthanised dogs on previous occasions.”

A Jan. 25 compensation claim awarded Fawcett compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, which is how media in B.C. found out about the mass slaughter of the animals.

Fawcett told the compensation board he was under pressure to kill the dogs to make the business more cost-effective and a veterinarian refused to be involved in killing the animals.

According to published reports, the statement said Fawcett estimated more than 50 dogs were euthanised in mid-April after he informed company owner Joe Houssain “the dogs to be euthanised were too old or sick and not adoptable. These dogs live to run and were not able to do so and would have had to be kept in cages with the result they would have had very poor or virtually no quality of life.”

Efforts to find the dogs new homes were not successful, according to the claim.

Dumont said “there's simply no excuse” for euthanising that many dogs and rejects any suggestion good homes could not have been found for most of them.

He also believes several of his former dogs are the ones that were killed.

“I sold my dogs back in 2004 … I know most of them are older now and some are probably not in the greatest health, so I'm sure several of them were probably put down,” he said. “I will never know, of course, but it's a sickening feeling knowing dogs I loved so much had their lives ended in such a terrible manner.”

Dumont's passion for sled dogs didn't start until later in life as he adopted a Siberian husky from a good friend back in 1996.

Because he was single at the time and worked long hours, he bought another dog to keep his dog company.

Another friend from Ponoka had health issues, so he took in four more Siberian huskies.

Dumont, who was a school principal at the time, moved back to Bonnyville in 1999 and got more heavily involved in owning and breeding sled dogs.

When informed Alaskan huskies make better sled dogs, he started getting rid of his Siberians in exchange for the Alaskan breed and by early 2001 and 2002 had a dozen racing dogs — which increased to 20 by the spring of 2004 as he kept a couple of litters.

His first contact with Fawcett came by trying to find a good home for several of his pups in early 2004.

“I was really impressed with what he was doing … and we shared the same philosophy about breeding and training the huskies,” he said. “He was a very impressive guy who shared the same passion for these dogs as I did.”

Because of several successive mild winters where he couldn't get out and run or race his dogs on a regular basis, Dumont said he had to make a decision to move to a place where there was more snow or get rid of his dogs.

Because of his successful career in education, he reluctantly decided he was going to get rid of his dogs and decided to sell them to Fawcett.

“When I sold him my nine, he had over 200 dogs and told me his goal was to run a big tourist operation with 300 dogs,” he said. “I loved the fact I could keep all nine of mine together. They would also never lack attention being with so many other dogs and with people around them all the time.

“I really figured they were going to a better place where they would be very happy.”

During several visits to see his dogs, Dumont said he never saw anything but happy animals.

He was even considering racing his dogs back in 2009 during a visit and was upset when one of the handlers was “very aggressive and short tempered” with his dogs during a training run.

“But that's the only negative thing I ever saw regarding my dogs during several visits,” he said.