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Whistler sled dogs laid to rest video

The 56 Whistler sled dogs were laid to rest Friday in a peaceful place shaded by tall pine trees in the South Okanagan.

Around 150 people and several dogs, big and small, attended the gathering of the community to pay tribute to the animals at the BC SPCA Pet Cemetery.

Many who were there said it was a fitting final chapter in the sad saga that began with the April 2010 slaughter of the animals owned by the Whistler-based Howling Dog Tours.

"It brings closure personally for myself, because I felt like they were my dogs, because I followed the story," said Nicole Jenson of Chilliwack, who read a heartfelt poem, "In Memory of the Whistler Sled Dogs," at the gathering.

The discovery of the mass killing  in 2011 sparked international outrage and launched the largest animal cruelty  investigation in BC SPCA history.

Last year, the SPCA prepared a file for Crown counsel with more than a thousand pages of evidence  against Bob Fawcett, the former general manger of Howling Dog Tours. He pleaded guilty to the charges in August and will be sentenced later this month.

The remains of the animals have been  treated with utmost respect throughout the entire process, The cemetery near Penticton was chosen because of the beauty of the area and the fact it touched the hearts of people all over the province, said Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer with the BC SPCA.

At Friday's ceremony on a cool November day, Moriarty made a pledge and commitment to the dogs of Whistler.

"We will never give up our fight against those who inflict violence and suffering on innocent animals. We could not save you, but we could be your voice, demanding justice for these unspeakable crimes.

We do this in your memory and we carry you forever in our hearts," she said.

Moriarty and her team were asked to come forward by Craig Daniell, chief executive officer of the SPCA, to place 56 stones, one for each of the Whistler dogs, at the burial site.

The public was then invited to place a stone and to offer their own silent remembrance at the grave.

Some left stuffed animals, while others carefully placed bouquets of flowers near a grave marker that read "In loving memory of the Whistler sled dogs, we will never forget, run free."

Many just kneeled for a moment by the marker, or touched it as tears ran down their cheeks.

A closing dedication was read, which in part said. : "Into the freedom of wind and sunshine we let you go. Into the dance of the stars and the planets we let you go."

The brief ceremony ended with a moment of silence . Several people bowed their heads or cradled their dogs in their arms.

Arlene Dunstan-Adams, who came with her dog Bullseye, was glad she mad the trip from Penticton to the cemetery on White Lake Road.

"The ceremony was beautiful and it gave justice to what happened," she said. "And it shows everyone how much the SPCA really cares."

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