The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) is investigating an Oro-Medonte dog sled operation after a patron’s Facebook videos about the state of the dogs and their living conditions went viral today.
Dylan Blake and his girlfriend, Natasha Guerriero, went to Windrift Adventures Sunday in Moonstone to try dog sledding. The Toronto area couple booked the trip through Toronto Adventures Inc.
“Little did I know I would be walking into a cruel and sickening environment,” Blake wrote on his Facebook page, which included video clips of more than 100 dogs, each on short chains, tethered around small shelters with straw floors.
Blake said the “dogs are chained up to a post to live in the same spot they use the washroom and sleep. I proceeded to ask if the dogs were ever let off the chains to go in a shelter or somewhere warm during the night, and the worker told me that this is where they stay all day and all night. She also told me that there were around 120 dogs in total.”
Guerriero said it was heartbreaking to see. “One of the people working there told us not to get too close because (the dogs) don’t get washed very often. You could definitely tell petting just one because we were full with dirt from their coat and (excrement) from their paws because there was no place else for them to go but where they sleep.”
Blake told OrilliaMatters he was “extremely shocked” by the conditions, which is why he posted the videos. By lunchtime Monday, the post had been shared more than 48,000 times.
Lori Burnett, animal care co-ordinator at the Orillia SPCA confirmed “the SPCA is now investigating the situation.” She said the Orillia centre is not involved in the investigation.
Melissa Kosowan, the acting associate director, communications for the provincial agency, said in a release that “concerns relating to a dog sled operation in central Ontario have been reported to the Ontario SPCA and we are following up accordingly. The Society takes all reported concerns of animal cruelty seriously. We want to assure the public that the protection and care of the dogs is our top priority. As this is an ongoing investigation, the details we can provide are limited in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”
Windrift Adventures, located on the Line 8 North in Moonstone, did not respond to a request for an interview. On their website, they encourage people to “come and enjoy the Canadian outdoors on your very own dogsled.” Cost is $60 per person per half hour ride shared with another person.
Toronto Adventures also did not respond to a request for an interview. However, their website said the following: “Here at Toronto Adventures we take pride in ensuring that no animals are ever mistreated for the purposes of any of our events or the events of companies we subcontract. We ensure that all of the Dog Sledding companies that we team up with for our various programs are certified and regularly inspected by the appropriate Ontario Government By-Law Enforcement Offices to ensure they abide by the guidelines set for the proper care and treatment of these animals.” By 11 a.m., that section of their website was no longer available.
Blake, a dog lover, is urging people to boycott the facility and hopes the operation is shut down. “I have a boxer and my girlfriend has two huskies and they are treated like family,” he said. “This is not right.”
If anyone has any new, first-hand information that could assist with this investigation, they are asked to report it immediately to 310-SPCA (7722). That animal cruelty hotline is intended for reporting first-hand information relating to animal cruelty concerns.