A man who sparked international outrage by shooting dozens of Whistler sled dogs in a mass cull in 2010 will not go to jail.
Crown prosecutor Nicole Gregoire told North Vancouver provincial court Judge Steven Merrick on Thursday jail wasn't needed for Robert Fawcett, a former employee of the sled dog tour company Outdoor Adventures, noting he has already become a pariah, suffered intense media scrutiny and feels extreme remorse for his actions.
Instead, Gregoire asked for three years probation, combined with 200 hours of community work service and a $5,000 fine.
Animal rights advocates sobbed and gasped in a packed North Vancouver courtroom Thursday morning as a Crown prosecutor described in graphic detail how about 50 Whistler sled dogs were killed.
Fawcett was sentenced after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary pain and suffering to nine of the dogs that were culled in a two-day period after a slump in the business following the 2010 Whistler Olympics.
The case set off an international media firestorm when details of the case became public after Fawcett filed a claim with WorkSafe BC for post-traumatic stress disorder connected to the dog cull.
Fawcett later told another employee of the tour company, "'Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong,'" said Gregoire.
Reading from an agreed statement of facts, Gregoire outlined how Fawcett euthanized the dogs by shooting them with a .22 rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun, after he felt he had run out of options to either find them homes or continue to care for them. Fawcett decided to use a gun to kill the dogs after a veterinarian refused to euthanize that many dogs.
Fawcett later said he never imagined the scene would be as "horrific" as it was.
In court, Gregoire described graphic details of the dog cull, including Fawcett chasing panicked dogs and wrestling them to the ground, dogs biting him and several dogs that did not die after being shot the first time but suffered terrible, painful wounds.
In those cases, experts who later examined the dogs' bodies concluded nine of them had remained alive until Fawcett either shot them again, or in one case used a knife to slice a dog's throat because he had no bullets left, said Gregoire.
Experts concluded one dog probably lived as long as 20 minutes before succumbing to its injuries.
As the details of how the nine dogs had suffered were read aloud, one woman shouted at Fawcett from the public gallery, "You could have stopped anytime," prompting a warning from the judge.
Later, outside the courtroom, Jan Carroll described Fawcett's actions as "intolerable."
In court, however, Gregoire stressed Fawcett was being sentenced for causing nine dogs to suffer - "Not 100. Not 300."
Shooting the other sled dogs was a "lawful business decision . . . whether the public or the court likes it or not," she said.
In court Thursday, Gregoire described the dire financial situation of the sled dog company and its inability to care for its large pack of sled dogs leading up to the cull.
The animal cruelty head of the SPCA later told investigators "It would have acted if it had known the dogs were going to be slaughtered," said Gregoire.
But defence lawyer Greg Diamond told Merrick that Fawcett knew the SPCA would not be able to adopt the dogs.
He eventually agreed to shoot them himself because "he felt he could do it compassionately. He didn't want that burden placed on anyone else," said Diamond. "He clearly failed to recognize the potential for things going horribly wrong."
Since the cull, Diamond said Fawcett has suffered nightmares and flashbacks.
Fawcett's family has also been subject to "horrible, graphic death threats" and had to go into hiding for their own safety, said Diamond.
Diamond said Fawcett has been treated for being suicidal and still has "dark and fearful times."
On Thursday, someone in the court hallway called him a "murderer," said Diamond.
"He already feels like a murderer," said the lawyer.
Diamond said Fawcett has told him "I will never stop feeling guilty" for the suffering experienced by the dogs that day, adding, "A part of me died with those dogs."