CALGARY—Fifteen people were arrested in Canmore this morning for breaking into sled dog kennels east of the city, in a protest connected to the occupation of a Hutterite turkey farm earlier this year.
At around 8:20 a.m. on Saturday morning, Canmore RCMP responded to reports of roughly 30 people protesting the treatment of the dogs at Mad Dogs & Englishmen Sled Dog Expeditions. Upon arriving, RCMP found 15 people — 14 adults and one youth — had cut the locks to the building and broken in.
This group of 15 protesters have since been charged with breaking and entering to commit mischief.
The protest is another self-organized “liberation lockdown” event in the same vein as a similar protest at a Hutterite turkey farm near Fort MacLeod earlier this fall. Dozens of protesters occupied the turkey barns at Jumbo Valley Hutterite Colony to call for an end to commercial poultry farming.
That turkey farm protest sparked Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s government to consider tougher trespassing penalties so protesters incur larger fines for protesting on agricultural land. Kenney called the turkey farm demonstration an “illegal invasion of private property.”
According Trev Miller, who said he was a spokesperson for the protests, they organized on Saturday at two other sled dog businesses as well. Miller said the group also held a “disruption” at Howling Dog Tours and demonstrated outside Snow Owl Sled Dog Tours.
Miller added that protesters entered the kennels with cameras to take pictures of the conditions dogs were living in but had no intention of causing any damage to the facility or of releasing the animals. He argued that just like livestock, these dogs aren’t living under any protections.
“Our goal here today is to bring public awareness to conditions that a lot of people just aren’t familiar with,” Miller said in an interview on Saturday.
“All of these animals are exploited individuals. They spend 24 hours, sometimes days in a row, on tethers as short as five-feet long. And they’re used for these processes until they’re no longer profitable, and then they’re put down.”
In an emailed statement, Howling Dog Tours owner Rich Bittner praised the work his staff does to ensure their animals’ health and well-being are maintained. Bittner added the protesters’ activity threatened the health and wellness of their dogs and accused the protesters of “pushing their values” on others.
“In recent months, we have had regular inspections from the SPCA and Government of Alberta; as well, our veterinary team performed a health check and looked at each and every dog in great detail. Howling Dog Tours not only meets all regulatory requirements but exceeds them in many ways,” Bittner said via email.
Mad Dogs & Englishmen staff did not respond to an interview request by publication time.
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All of the accused have been released, RCMP said, and will appear in Canmore Provincial Court on Jan. 15. Canmore RCMP aren’t releasing the names of the accused at this time.
“We would love to be able to take every dog with us and give it a loving home like every animal deserves. However, at this point, our goal is just to bring awareness to what these animals are suffering through every day,” Miller said.