How can you as a consumer make informed decisions? Look for transparency. Through your research you will unfortunately find that transparency is an effort for some. This is commonly due to the lack of welfare in their company and although easy to recognize, here are some tips:
- Is their sled dog welfare program accessible online? If not, why? If it is, is it detailed or vague? Be aware that some mushers don’t want you to know everything for a reason.
- Is the company’s photo collection diverse or does it only show photos of their dogs on tour with beautiful scenery? Sled dogs love to run and of course it is easy to capture great shots of the dogs on the trail however, behind the scenes at the kennel the dogs should look equally as happy.
- If they are showing photos of their dogs in the kennel, are the photos cropped to avoid showing the kennel conditions? This is a tactic used to shield consumers from the truth.
- If they are displaying photos of the kennel, do the conditions match their claims in their sled dog welfare? For example, housing. Dilapidated houses, plastic rain barrels, housing that is not raised off the ground or with large entrances do not provide the dogs proper shelter from the elements.
- Do they share photos that speak to their sled dog welfare? For example, if a company claims they feed their dogs regularly and with high quality ingredients, there should plenty of photos and video of their nutrition program available.
- Do they use their social media to share the lives of their sled dogs or to promote their dog sled tours? It is our opinion that guests should easily be able to see the ways in which a company puts money back into their pack. Therefore, we share everything on our social media from building new dog houses to our dog’s attending their veterinary appointments and everything in between.
- Don’t look at only one operator. Do your research, ask question and when you are provided with information, compare the details.
- Careful of operators claiming they are operating within regulations – there are none.
A common blanket statement used to excuse and justify poor sled dog care or practices.
Although a sled dog’s genetic composition is unlike any other dog breed, intellectually, he or she is still a dog and all dogs have the same important requirements to be healthy and happy. Love, care, compassion, enrichment, food, water, exercise, socialization, housing, bedding and veterinary care are all important components in a dog’s life and should always be done to the highest standards. Sled dogs are purpose bred which means they thrive when working however, this does not excuse the non-existence of exceptional dog care.
In hopes to defend low standards of sled dog welfare, some company owners will comment that their kennel has been inspected by the SPCA. If a sled dog kennel has been inspected, it is because the kennel facility was reported due to an animal welfare concerns.
The SPCA does not conduct inspections of a sled dog kennel unless they have received complaints. Unfortunately, when the SPCA does follow up on complaints and inspects a sled dog kennel facility, they have very little criteria to protect sled dogs which means they can only follow the Animal Protection Act and sadly, officers can only intervene/remove animals when they are in visible distress. Distress is classified as being:
(a) deprived of adequate shelter, ventilation, space, food, water or veterinary care or reasonable protection from injurious heat or cold,
(b) injured, sick, in pain or suffering, or
(c) abused and subjected to undue hardship, privation or neglect.