More Than 100 Sled Dogs Found In Degrading Conditions

How One Whitby Couple’s Facebook Post Sparked an OSPCA Investigation

By Si Si Penaloza

Dog sledding has long been a polarizing issue among dog lovers. Enthusiasts insist that huskies love it and live for a day out on the snow. Animal rights activists see it as clearly inhumane. Regardless of your opinion on the sport of dog sledding, the images you are about to see below are clearly disconcerting. An Ontario couple were looking forward to a day of dog sledding this past Sunday, but what they say they found was a ‘heartbreaking’ scene of more than hundred dogs in degrading conditions.

Photo: CTV News  / Dylan Blake

Dylan Blake and Natasha Guerriero were taking advantage of a Groupon they received from Guerriero’s parents for Christmas. The deal was an introduction to dog sledding from Toronto Adventures Inc., offered through Windrift Kennels in Moonstone, Ont., north of Barrie. They say they discovered a disturbing scene.

Photo: CTV News

“When we got in there, there were at least 10 dogs that you could see visibly, but if you walked farther, there were at least 50 dogs that were in the same kind of atmosphere, on chains with no space to eat, sleep or go to the washroom,” Guerriero described to Global News on Monday.

“It didn’t look right.”

“It was hard to keep it in,” Blake said. “I remember looking at a dog in a hut and I was looking at it trying to make it come out and I was trying not to tear up. It was just heartbreaking, it really was.”

“They’re working dogs, we get it, but no dog should be put through that.”

Clearly distressed at the evidence of canine suffering, the couple said they couldn’t “let it go” and described in vivid detail the conditions they witnessed firsthand in an emotional post on social media. The post was accompanied by a number of jarring videos they shot on the property. It has subsequently been shared over 100,000 times and Guerriero said they have received concerned responses from people all over the world.

Facebook / Natasha Guerriero

The couple said that once they went deeper into the forest, it became evident to them that the dogs were not living in humane conditions. Guerriero said that they got down on their knees to pet the dogs and when they got up, they were covered in feces. “It was that bad.”

“I just pictured them being my dogs. If this were them, I don’t know what I would do.”

At one point, Blake said he noticed a dog nursing a wound in his arm. According to Blake, they brought it to the attention of a staffer who told them a female dog had been in heat and two males got into a fight because of it. Blake said they were told one male got loose and began biting the other male, who was still chained up.

Photo: CTV News

Guerriero said the incident sounded as though it happened a few days prior, but all three dogs were still in the same vicinity on Sunday, still growling at each other.

Blake said that they didn’t share their experience to get the dog sledding business shut down, but to raise awareness as to how the dogs at the location were being treated.

“It was just horrific,” he said. “You need a nice, safe environment for them all to stay where they’re not afraid of humans, they aren’t defecating where they’re sleeping, and they’re not freezing in the night.”

Blake said puppies were also wandering freely and older dogs were locked outside in the elements on short chains and Blake warned of their exposure to larger animals living in the forest. “You don’t know what type of animal is going to come. They can’t get away from bigger animals.”

Photo: Global News

When contacted by Global News, Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) spokesperson Melissa Kosowan said the society has been made aware of the concerns regarding the dog sled operation and it is following up accordingly. “The society takes all reported concerns of animal cruelty seriously. We want to assure the public that the protection and care of the dogs is our top priority.‎ As this is an ongoing investigation, the details we can provide are limited in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”

Photo: Facebook / Natasha Guerriero

In a breaking update today, the couple’s opening up to the media about what they experienced has also led to Toronto Adventures cutting ties with Windrift Kennels. In a statement released this afternoon, Toronto Adventures states:

“We have decided to no longer offer trips to Windrift Kennels’ dog sledding.We came to the conclusion that waiting for the pending results of the Ontario SPCA investigation of Windrift Kennels was not necessary in determining if we would continue to use Windrift Kennels for any of our future events.We respect Gina, one of the owners of Windrift Kennels, for her obvious love for animals and her determination to resist putting down any dog due to its inability to pull a sled, whether due to age, illness or injury. Nearly half the dogs at Windrift Kennels are retired dogs that no longer pull sleds and are living out their lives with Gina. We will be continuing to monitor the situation with Windrift Kennels and post any new information we’re made aware of.”

Kosowan said the OSPCA will provide regular updates regarding the welfare of the dogs as the investigation continues. If anyone has any information, they can contact the OSPCA’s animal cruelty hotline at 310-7722.