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Man pleads guilty in Whistler sled-dog slaughter case

Robert Fawcett, accused of killing 56 sled dogs after the 2010 Olympics, leaves B.C. Provincial Court after pleading guilty to a charge of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals, in North Vancouver, B.C., on August 30, 2012.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

The man charged in connection with the slaughter of 56 dogs near Whistler, B.C., two years ago has pleaded guilty to the single count of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.

Robert Fawcett entered the plea through his lawyer during a brief appearance in North Vancouver Provincial Court on Thursday.

Sentencing is postponed until November 22.The Crown has asked for a psychological assessment, which Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie says will provide the court with "a better understanding of what took place."

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It is too early to discuss the Crown's "position on sentence or the specific circumstances that will be alleged," Mr. MacKenzie said.

Mr. Fawcett, who faces a maximum penalty of five years, left the courthouse refusing to speak with media.

Ingrid Katzberg is one of a dozen animal rights advocates, many of whom had signs and dogs, who rallied outside the court Thursday.

"We are hoping the judge will consider all of the lives he killed," she said.

"He brutally killed 56 dogs. That's got to speak to somebody."

The incident came to light in January 2011 after Mr. Fawcett filed a workers' compensation claim of post-traumatic stress disorder due to emotional fallout from the April 2010 slaughter. The B.C. SPCA exhumed the dogs from a mass grave and conducted the most complicated investigation of its history, at a cost of $250,000, to determine if the dogs had suffered as Mr. Fawcett put them to death.

The society then recommended to Crown a charge of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to the dogs, which the Crown approved this past April.

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In December 2010, a person identifying himself as Bob Fawcett from Whistler posted on a PTSD forum, saying he had been suffering from the disorder and was "not doing so well."

"I've had a pretty horrible ordeal and actually figure I may be able to be a good sounding board for others," he wrote. "I was forced to kill and it has pretty much destroyed my soul."

Mr. Fawcett, who ran Howling Dog Tours Whistler Inc. before Outdoor Adventures Whistler took over operations, said in his claim he had been ordered to cull the company's herd of dogs when tourist demand dropped off after the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Outdoor Adventures denied the killings were connected in any way with a post-Olympic decline in business, however, saying many of the dogs were old and sick and efforts to have them adopted were unsuccessful.

It was the company's expectation the euthanization of the dogs would be done in a "proper, legal and humane manner," Outdoor Adventures said in a January 2011 statement.

The incident spurred the B.C. government to create a Sled Dog Task Force, which resulted in amendments to the province's Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act. B.C.'s animal cruelty laws are now the toughest in Canada.

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The court case was moved to North Vancouver from Pemberton earlier this year due to threats being made to Mr. Fawcett.

"The sheriffs will be better able to manage any concerns that might arise at their facilities in North Vancouver," Crown spokesman Mr. MacKenzie said in May.

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About the Author
News reporter

Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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