Animal welfare inspectors remove ‘large number of dogs’ from Ontario sled business

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Animal welfare inspectors have removed “a large number of dogs” from two properties associated with a dog sledding business in Ontario, the province’s ministry of the solicitor general confirmed on Tuesday.

Animal protection officials inspected properties associated with Windrift Adventures in Oro-Medonte Township, north of Barrie, and Severn Township, north of Orillia, on September 23, according to Brent Ross, spokesperson for the solicitor general’s department.

The dogs were removed upon inspection, Ross said in an email to CBC Toronto on Tuesday evening.

“Animals are housed and received care,” Ross said in the email.

Ross declined to say what prompted the removal of the dogs, how many animals were involved and whether any needed veterinary attention. He also declined to say where the dogs are currently being cared for.

He said the inspection was ongoing and it would be inappropriate for the department to provide further comment.

It is unclear whether Windrift Adventures is appealing the seizure of its dogs.

CBC News left two phone messages at the numbers listed on the company’s website, seeking comment from the company as of the date of this article’s original publication. CBC News didn’t hear about the company until after publication, and the article has since been clarified to address a number of its concerns.

Company investigated in 2018 for animal cruelty

In January 2018, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), which was replaced by a new animal welfare enforcement system led by a Chief Animal Welfare Inspector, investigated Windrift Adventures.

A month later, the OSPCA ordered the company to provide isolated shelter, clean water, proper food, and veterinary care to dogs located at its Moonstone, Ontario site in the township of ‘Oro-Medonte, after a complaint was filed by two people.

Natasha Guerriero and Dylan Blake of Whitby, Ont., said they went dog sledding and then took videos of the animals.

The videos, which the couple posted on Facebook, show dozens of dogs chained up in the snow, with one dog limping with an open wound apparent on one of its front legs.

The couple booked their outing through a company called Toronto Adventures Inc., Guerriero said.

The tour operator has since severed ties with Windrift Adventures, and a staff member said Toronto Adventures received death threats following the incident.

At the time, the OSPCA said the owner of the dogs must comply with orders or the animals could be seized. He then said that three dogs needed veterinary care and that Windrift Adventures was complying with orders.

“We love our dogs,” says Windrift

On its website, Windrift Adventures says its kennel houses 225 dogs.

“We love our dogs and we love the sport of dog sledding. We love introducing people to the sport and teaching them what dog sledding has to offer,” the website states.

“There is no other way to enjoy what nature has to offer than to race down the trail on the back of a dog team!”

Fern Levitt, Toronto-based documentary filmmaker and director of Sled dogsa 2016 opinion documentary, said keeping dogs chained creates “tremendous stress” and she is grateful that all abused dogs have been rescued.

“The industry is rife with abuse,” Levitt said.

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