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15 arrested as 'Liberation Lockdown' strikes again in Alberta
CALGARY – Protests took place at a pair of businesses offering sled dog tours near the town of Canmore on Saturday, where activists are concerned about the treatment of animals.
The demonstrators, who are affiliated with the same group of people who chained themselves together at a Hutterite colony on Sept. 2, are raising questions about the animals at two sled dog companies, Howling Dog Tours and Mad Dog & Englishmen Tours.
RCMP say they were called to the Mad Dog's kennels, east of the town, for reports that 30 people had broken into the premises in order to protest the treatment of the dogs.
Fiftteen of the protesters, which included 14 adults and one youth, were arrested and taken to the Canmore RCMP detachment.
Officials say all of the accused are facing charges of break and enter to commit mischief.
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Trev Miller, a representative of the group of protesters, said in a release the dogs are the victims.
"We're asking that inherent rights of non-human animals, including the right to live free from human exploitation on short leashes, be recognized for all individuals and that animal livestock operations be replaced with non-oppressive industries."
However, Howling Dog Tours told CTV News Calgary the health and wellbeing of its animals is paramount.
"It is disturbing that a group of people has to resort to criminal activity that lead to the health and wellness of our dogs being threatened," owner Rich Bittner wrote in a statement.
He said the company has undergone regular inspections by the Alberta SPCA and provincial government, as well as had its veterinary team perform a health check on every animal.
"Howling Dog Tours not only meets all regulatory requirements, but exceeds them in many ways," Bittner said.
"They want to tell us what to eat, what we can and can't do. We at Howling Dog Tours will not accept this. We believe the freedom to choose a lifestyle is truly Canadian--we do not believe one needs to break the law to do this."
Animal rights activists raised concerns about sled dogs over the summer, but at the time the Alberta SPCA said there was no investigation underway or charges.
The SPCA, in response to Saturday's events, issued the following statement:
As a matter of practice, The Alberta SPCA does not confirm the names of people or organizations that are or have been under investigation unless charges are laid.
In situations this year where the Alberta SPCA has received complaints about the conditions of dogs used in the sled dog industry, our Peace Officers have not found there to be distress as defined by the Animal Protection Act.
Following the protest at Jumbo Valley Turkey Farm near Fort Macleod, the UCP government boosted laws and punishments for trespassing on rural properties.
At the time of the announcement, Jason Kenney called incident at the turkey farm an illegal invasion of private property that was both "dangerous" and "harassing" to the property owners.
Alberta is the first province to enact such legislation, although Ontario is currently working on implementing similar enforcement.
Representatives of both businesses involved could not be immediately reached for comment.
None of the allegations made by the activists have been established in court.
All of the individuals arrested Saturday were released and are expected to appear in Canmore provincial court on Jan. 15, 2020.