Ontario SPCA responds to allegations of animal cruelty at Toronto dog sledding company

These screenshots from a video uploaded to Facebook on Jan. 28, 2018, show two dogs in Ontario living in what the uploader calls a “sickening environment.” Photos from Dylan Blake/Facebook.

Yahoo Canada News has received the following update:

The Ontario SPCA says orders were issued to provide adequate insulated shelter, clean potable water and appropriate feed, as well as veterinarian assessments of the dogs. The owners of the animals are required by law to comply.

After seeing the veterinarian, additional orders may be issued to the owners.

“We thank the members of the public who, concerned about the welfare of the dogs, made reports to 310-SPCA,” said the release.

“Our officers continue to oversee and monitor the conditions for the dogs to ensure the concerns are corrected and the dogs have the proper care and living conditions.”

According to provincial animal welfare legislation, an animal can only be lawfully removed from its owner when:

  1. A veterinarian has examined the animal and has advised the officer in writing that the health and well-being of the animal necessitates its removal.
  2. The officer has inspected the animal and has reasonable grounds for believing that the animal is in distress and the owner or custodian of the animal is not present and cannot be found promptly.
  3. An order respecting the animal has been made and the order has not been complied with.

Below is the original story:

A Toronto-based adventures company is getting a rough ride online after a couple alleged dogs were living in a “cruel and sickening environment.”

Dylan Blake and his girlfriend, Natasha Guerriero, say they went dog sledding Sunday with a group called Toronto Adventures Inc. They were both so disgusted with what they claimed to have witnessed that they decided to go public with they saw, posting videos and detailed descriptions on Facebook.

The couple’s posts quickly went viral and had more than 100,000 shares combined in less than 18 hours.

Guerriero says the company was operating in Moonstone, Ont., which is approximately 150 kilometres north of Toronto.

“Upon walking into the orientation area for the dog sledding it is apparent that in the forest there are hundreds of dogs that are chained up to a post to live in the same spot they use the washroom and sleep,” Blake wrote Sunday.

Blake claims he asked a worker whether the dogs were ever allowed to be freed from the chained outdoor environment, which restricted them to a life in cold and wet conditions. The worker said these conditions are where the 120 animals “stay all day and all night,” according to Blake.

“The dogs were extremely scared when walking up to them and some of them were sick, starving, and injured. It was shocking,” he added. “This place needs to get shut down.”

In one of the videos posted online, a dog appears to be limping with an open wound.

“One of the people working there told us not to get too close because they don’t get washed very often,” Guerriero wrote Sunday. “These dogs LIVE all day and all night with broken wooden houses and straw to keep them warm.”

Guerriero says she took her concerns to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) before sharing her post online.

“All the dogs were super skinny and were begging to just be loved,” Guerriero wrote. “This is not a type of company that should be run let alone trying to care for hundreds of dogs.”

The OSPCA confirmed to Yahoo Canada that a report was filed and they are following up on the allegations.

“The Society takes all reported concerns of animal cruelty seriously,” Melissa Kosowan, acting associate director of communications at the OSPCA, wrote via email Monday. “We want to assure the public that the protection and care of the dogs is our top priority.‎”

Kosowan confirmed that an investigation is ongoing and an update will be provided on the welfare of the dogs “as the investigation progresses.” She also urged anyone with new, first-hand information on the matter to report them to the OSPCA.

Yahoo Canada also reached out to Toronto Adventures Inc. via email but there was no immediate response. The company does not appear to be in operation on Monday or Tuesday, according to their website.

On Monday, Toronto Adventures released a statement on their Instagram page, in which they appeared to blame another company for the condition of the dogs.

“We’re very upset about what we’ve heard about the dog sledding company Windrift Adventures and are making sure they’re inspected and the dogs properly taken care of,” Toronto Adventures wrote. “We take pride in ensuring that no animals are ever mistreated for the purposes of our events or the events of companies we subcontract.”

The company says that if anyone sees the mistreatment of animals on their excursions, they should contact them right away in order to “solve the situation.” They also acknowledged at least one of the dogs may have been injured.

“We’ve been made aware that one of the dogs had a sore on his/her leg via a concerned participant in one of our events. We’ve contacted Windrift Kennels to make sure the dog is being appropriately taken care of.”