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Death threats mount in mass dog-killing case

Sled dogs rest after returning from a tour run by Whistler Outdoor Adventures in the Soo Valley north of Whistler, B.C., on Monday January 31, 2011. The RCMP and the B.C. SPCA are investigating the slaughter of about 100 sled dogs in Whistler in an incident the SPCA called an absolute massacre.

DARRYL DYCK/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press

Two days after the RCMP asked members of the public to remain calm and avoid uttering threats sparked by outrage at the killing of up to 100 dogs in Whistler, Mounties have issued another call for patience.

Sergeant Peter Thiessen said Thursday afternoon police are investigating an increasing number of threats regarding the cull. He said the threats have been directed at employees of Outdoor Adventures Whistler who had no involvement in the deaths of the dogs.

"I understand these allegations have touched a nerve in the community and across the country, and rightly so. We support the public's right to express their feelings of outrage and concern in a peaceful manner," Sgt. Thiessen wrote in a statement.

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"But let's be clear on this, no one has the right to threaten to harm or kill someone they suspect could have been responsible or involved."

Sgt. Thiessen said uttering death threats is a criminal offence that could result in jail time. He said the threats have primarily been made face-to-face, though others have come through phone calls and social media. Some of the threats, he said, have been very graphic.

"This has resulted in significant trauma and stress for Outdoor Adventures and all their staff. That's unacceptable and it needs to stop immediately."

Robert Fawcett, who used to run Howling Dog Tours before Outdoor Adventures took over operational control, told WorkSafeBC he killed at least 70 dogs last April after a decline in tourism. Outdoor Adventures later said the number of dead dogs was closer to 100. Mr. Fawcett, who filed a workers' compensation claim, has been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder.

He told WorkSafeBC he shot some of the dogs to death, and stabbed others. In some instances, he performed what he described as "execution-style" killings in which he wrestled the dogs to the ground and stood on them with one foot to shoot them. The animals were buried in a mass grave.

The B.C. SPCA has launched an investigation into the incident and is being assisted by the RCMP.

The SPCA is heading to court Friday to demand WorkSafeBC documents related to the slaughter. A WorkSafeBC spokeswoman said the agency cannot release confidential records without an order from the court.

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"We can only release documents with lawful authority, so if we misinterpret the scope of the order, we could actually be violating different laws, including privacy laws," said Donna Freeman.

"We're just seeking clarification. Whatever the justice orders us to produce, we will produce."

Mr. Fawcett issued his first comments on the slaughter late Wednesday, in a joint statement with Outdoor Adventures. The statement said Mr. Fawcett wasn't given any instructions on how to kill the animals, and he told the company the dogs he planned to cull were old, sick and 'not adoptable.' "

The statement said Mr. Fawcett had also told the company about 50 dogs would be euthanized, not 100.

It added Mr. Fawcett was not given any instructions on how to kill the animals. Outdoor Adventures has said since the story first broke that it did not instruct Mr. Fawcett to shoot and stab the animals and thought they would be euthanized humanely.

The B.C. government announced Wednesday the killing of the dogs will be reviewed by a provincial task force. The task force will also consider the responsibilities and regulations of the dog sledding industry.

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With a report from The Canadian Press

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