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Sled dog killer avoids jail?

A man who pleaded guilty to the slaughter of dozens of sled dogs will not spend time in prison, a judge has ruled, concluding the man had the "best interests" of the dogs at heart when he culled the pack near Whistler after a slump in business following the 2010 Olympics.

But while Judge Steve Merrick said he agreed with a psychiatrists' assessment that Robert Fawcett's actions were the result of mental instability, he noted: "(You) ought to have anticipated the possibility of the horrific circumstances that could result."

"It is beyond comprehension as to how this could have occurred," said Merrick.

The devastating aftermath from the April 2010 killing was laid bare in provincial court for the first time Thursday by Fawcett's lawyer, who described how hard it was for his client to even listen to details of killing his beloved animals again.

"I will never stop feeling guilty for the suffering that the dogs endured that day," said defence lawyer Greg Diamond, quoting his client.

"I feel like part of me died with those dogs."

Fawcett admitted in August to killing the dogs in a gruesome tableau over two days following a post-Olympic slump in sales. Court heard he felt forced into the decision when the owners of Howling Dog Tours put an "absolute freeze" on spending, except for food and the bare minimum of labour.

At that point, Fawcett was working 150 hours over two weeks to care for the animals and watching their conditions deteriorate to the point where they were fighting and killing each other in their kennel.

"In part, he accepted the burden because he felt he could do it compassionately and he did not want that burden placed on anyone else," Diamond said.

"He gained the fortitude to do it based largely on the vision the remaining dogs could have a happy life and it was for the greater good."

Fawcett huddled into himself with his arms crossed during the proceedings. Women in the gallery openly sobbed, and at one point, there was an outburst that was met with a sharp reprimand from the judge.

Fawcett pleaded guilty to one count of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals, which relates specifically to the deaths of nine dogs. More than 50 dogs were exhumed from a mass grave in May 2011 as part of a massive forensic investigation by the B.C. SPCA. Court heard most of the dogs that were shot did not suffer.

Animal euthanasia is legal in Canada.





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