The film titled Sled Dogs shook viewers to the core after it revealed the truth behind the commercial sled dog industry. According to this documentary, the conditions the sled dogs are kept in are inhumane, and everything the public knows about the life of these dogs, such as the royal treatments they are provided with, and how they enjoy running hundreds of miles in extreme conditions, is a big lie.
canadian sled dog kennel
On the contrary, the life of the sled dogs from Canada and Alaska is a real hell. The kennel owners push sick and injured dogs beyond their limits which very likely results in death.
Recently, after a group of animal advocates stumbled upon a mass grave of dogs, many animal organizations raised the question about what is really going on with these creatures behind closed doors.
The buried bodies and bones of the sled dogs were found last March near the Chocpaw dog kennel in Ontario, Canada. There have been rumors spreading around how this kennel would often order the killing of dogs that were not fit for sledding. The poor animals would end up dead after spending their entire life chained. The people who located the grave asked to stay anonymous, but The Dodo picked up the story about the Chocpaw kennel from an ex-employee named Chantal Dostaler. This woman recalls all the gruesome acts done to the animals during the five years she spent working there.
She decided to speak up after the stories about animal abuse and neglect in Canada and U.S reached the public.
“None of us think that the rumors are true when we get into it,” Dostaler told The Dodo. “The longer I stayed, the more secrets they taught me.”
Dostaler describes her stay at the kennel as the most horrific period of her life. The things she witnessed there hunt her even now. From being forced to bury dead dogs’ bodies after they were kept in freezers for months, to having to shoot a dog herself, this woman was ready to expose the cruelty.
Hope was one of the dogs who lived at the kennel. According to Dostaler, the dogs would spend their days chained outside no matter the weather conditions. This led for many dogs to experience different health issues and illnesses. During the last year of Dostaler’s stay at Chocpaw, Hope started feeling even worse. Dostaler told The Dodo how, “Hope’s overall personality changed. Her eyes were sunken in, she wasn’t eating or drinking … She showed signs of sickness and distress.”
Even it was more than obvious how the dog needed vet’s assistance, she never got one, as the employees were the only ones who would take care of the animals. They would often give them medicine without knowing what were the dogs really suffering from. Hope’s case was a bit different. Her condition got so severe that she had to be euthanized. And here comes the worst part. The owners refused to pay for Hope to be put down so they asked Dostaler to shoot her.
“When I shot Hope, it completely changed me,” Dostaler said. “I no longer saw this as a fair trade-off. The dogs work their whole lives, never go inside … and this is how they die?”
“I am committed to share my experience, which is ongoing as I fight for my rights, and that of the dogs, so no one else, human or dog, has to go through this,” she added. “I don’t want forgiveness — I want you to know this is legal in Ontario, Canada.”
In cases where dogs died either because of negligence, illness, mistreatment, or freezing, their bodies would be placed in freezers until the weather got warmer and the ground thawed.
Warning: Graphic image below.
The biggest issue is that the sled dogs don’t get the same protection as the rest of the animals under province’s law. The report presented by The Dodo last year says how the dog chaining, doping, and slaughter would go unnoticed since these dogs receive little to no legal protection.
Another issue is the small number of employees who are expected to take care of large groups of dogs.
When she first started working at Chocpaw, Dostaler remembers how she and a small group of employees would take care of around 400 dogs. She also recalls how she got very attached to each and every one of them and knew nearly every dog’s name. That is why she felt very bad when any of them would die or be killed after which she had to put the body in the freezer and dispose of it when spring was around the corner.
The freezer was kept in a secluded place and was under lock and key in case a tourist wandered at that part of the property. Dostaler started a personal blog where she writes of everything that was taking place at that kennel.
“When I grabbed the first dog and tried to pull him out [of the freezer] I accidentally pulled off his skin,” Dostaler wrote in her blog. “I eventually got this dog’s remains into the burial pit at which point one of my coworkers came over to the freezer and began to help me. I continued to vomit intermittently as we moved two dogs that were still frozen together into the burial pit.”
Most of the time, Dostaler and the rest of the workers were in charge of monitoring the health of the dogs who had tumors and cysts, despite lacking any medical training. All those dogs who weren’t treated properly would very soon die.
“There was a lot of pressure after the ‘Sled Dogs’ documentary to make sure the dogs looked healthy,” Dostaler said. “She [the kennel owner] was extra scared of being exposed so she got rid of all the dogs who may have looked sick. A very small number of the dogs who got shot were actually sick.”
Part of Levitt’s documentary Sled Dogs was filmed at Chocpaw.
“They take these young vulnerable kids who don’t have family and they tell them, ‘If you want us to pay you in full, you have to kill the dogs,’” Levitt told The Dodo. “They have to sit around in a circle and choose which dogs live and which dogs die.”
Dostaler claims that the sick and the old aren’t the only dogs who get killed. She shares with The Dodo the story of a female dog named Jill who had a litter of puppies in April 2017. However, those puppies weren’t planned, so they ended up being drowned.
Only one day after giving birth, Jill was again chained and left without her babies by her side.
“Some dogs do just live out their lives on the chain,” Dostaler said. “Imagine being a puppy 24/7 but living on a chain.”
Dostaler describes the dogs’ life as miserable. Everything they do is pulling tourist or being chained, an that’s it.
The devastating reality was that sooner or later, every dog who didn’t fit the sledding criteria was shot. Many could be saved and given for adoption, but the kennel refused to find them forever homes. The summer of 2017 was the time when Dostaler witnessed her first cull.
“Chocpaw has its own adoption program where people do a short interview then they come take whatever dog in the spring,” Dostaler said. “We had dogs who were sick, had seizures and had lumps, and Dog Tales Animal Sanctuary offered to take every single one from Chocpaw. But rather than take help, there was a cull.”
“Because it would be too expensive to ‘humanely’ euthanize the dogs, the employer hired someone to come and shoot them,” Dostaler wrote in her blog about the cull. “This was very traumatic for me. I can remember the sounds of the dogs, who I loved, being shot, hearing them being dumped into a big burial pit and then being instructed to bury them myself. For the next days following, we had to go check the pit and make sure no animals had tried to dig up the dead dogs.”