Online post about conditions at dog sledding company sparks OSPCA investigation
Rachael D'Amore, CP24.com
Published Monday, January 29, 2018 6:01PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 29, 2018 7:48PM EST
Two customers of a dog sled operation north of Barrie are claiming they saw signs of animal cruelty, prompting the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) to start an investigation.
A spokesperson for the organization confirmed via email the investigation began Monday.
“The society takes all reported concerns of animal cruelty seriously,” Melissa Kosowan of the OSPCA wrote in an email to CTV News. “As this is an open investigation, we can’t share details at this time to maintain the integrity of the investigation. We want to assure the public that the dogs are our top priority.”
The OSPCA were alerted to the dog sled operation, Windrift Adventures (also known as Windrift Kennels), after a woman who visited the business posted several videos to Facebook on Sunday that show numerous dogs chained to poles outside in a snow-covered, wooded area.
In one video, a white-furred dog appears to have an open wound on its front leg and is limping.
“At first we were thinking they were only out there to get switched every time there was a dog sledding to be done,” Natasha Guerriero, the woman who posted the videos, wrote in her Facebook post.
“But that’s not the case. These dogs live all day and all night with broken wooden houses and straw to keep them warm.”
Guerriero said an employee advised her and her boyfriend to “not get too close” to the dogs because “they don’t get washed very often.”
“You could definitely tell by just petting one because we were full with dirt from their coat and shit from their paws because there was no place else for them to go but where they sleep,” she wrote.
Her post had been share more than 70,000 times as of Monday evening.
The company that orchestrated Guerriero’s dog sledding trip, Toronto Adventures, wrote in a statement on its website that they’re aware of the allegations and have reached out to both Windrift and the OSPCA about the videos.
“At Toronto Adventures we take pride in ensuring that no animals are ever mistreated for the purposes of our events or the events of companies we subcontract. We review all dog sledding companies we hire for our events to guarantee that they are certified and regularly inspected by the appropriate Ontario government enforcement offices to verify that they abide by the guidelines set for the proper care and treatment of their dogs,” the statement from Toronto Adventures reads.
“We will be requesting an additional inspection of Windrift to assure that their dogs are healthy and being treated appropriately.
The company went on to say that it will “only work with companies that meet and/or exceed professional industry standards regarding the treatment of animals.”
“It saddens us greatly as dog lovers to think of any animal suffering,” they said.
Windrift has not commented on the allegations and the allegations have not been proven in court.
This morning, OSPCA investigators attended the kennel that oversees the dogs. A woman who identified herself as the owner of the kennel was seen opening the gate for the investigators but refused to comment when approached by CTV News Barrie reporters.
A veterinarian who viewed the videos said that while some of the animals appear to have wounds or injuries, they don’t seem to be in “dire medical distress.”
“They look like they are active, they’re moving around, their tails are wagging and they’re interacting with people. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re in any sort of medical distress from what I’m used to seeing,” Karren Prost, of O’Sullivan Animal Hospital, told CTV News Barrie.
“(But) in order to know whether they’re truly in distress, and whether everything is being supplied to them such as proper shelter, housing, food and water, I’d actually have to be there and have a look at it.”
Prost said that owners and operators of dog sledding facilities often have veterinarians that they work with closely.
She said the white-furred dog does appear to have a leg injury but, judging by the videos, it’s difficult to determine whether the injury is new or old.
“It certainly does (need medical attention) but it’s hard to know whether (the dog’s) had it or not,” she said. “It certainly looks like there is a little bit of fur missing. So, is it a prior injury? Has it already been assessed? Is it already on antibiotics and pain medication? It’s hard to know.”
The OSPCA says it will provide updates on the condition of the dogs as the investigation continues.