Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No jail time for sled dog killer

Slaughtered more than 50 sled dogs

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NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. -- A man who pleaded guilty to the slaughter of dozens of sled dogs will not spend time in prison, a judge has ruled, concluding the man had the "best interests" of the dogs at heart when he culled the pack near Whistler after a slump in business following the 2010 Olympics.

But while Judge Steve Merrick said he agreed with a psychiatrists' assessment Robert Fawcett's actions were the result of mental instability, he noted: "(You) ought to have anticipated the possibility of the horrific circumstances that could result.

"It is beyond comprehension as to how this could have occurred," said Merrick.

The devastating aftermath from the April 2010 killing was laid bare in B.C. Supreme Court for the first time Thursday by Fawcett's lawyer, who described how hard it was for his client to even listen to details of killing his beloved animals again in court.

"I will never stop feeling guilty for the suffering that the dogs endured that day," said defence lawyer Greg Diamond, quoting his client.

Fawcett admitted in August to killing the dogs in a gruesome tableau over two days following a post-Olympic slump in sales. Court heard he felt forced into the decision when the owners of Howling Dog Tours put an "absolute freeze" on spending, aside from food and the bare minimum of labour.

At that point, Fawcett was working 150 hours over two weeks to care for the animals and watching their conditions deteriorate to the point where they were fighting and killing each other in their kennel.

"In part, he accepted the burden because he felt he could do it compassionately and he did not want that burden placed on anyone else," Diamond said.

"He gained the fortitude to do it based largely on the vision the remaining dogs could have a happy life and it was for the greater good."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2012 A21

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