By Jenn Watt
Published Sept. 12, 2017
Local dogsled tour providers Hank DeBruin and Tanya McCready-DeBruin have been trying to head off unwarranted criticism following the release of a film called Sled Dogs, which is highly critical of the dogsledding industry.
In December, the Echo wrote a story about the film and spoke with filmmaker Fern Levitt, who said the notion that huskies are a breed that likes to pull sleds is inaccurate. She told the Echo that “if you’re using animals to make money, you’re compromising. Then it becomes a money-making operation. You’re compromising the needs of your animals.”
Her film has had financial consequences for many in the industry and specifically the Iditarod dogsled race, which Hank DeBruin has competed a few times.
For the DeBruins, the film and its allegations are deeply hurtful – so much so that they invited the newspaper to see how the dogs are kept.
Our article this week is a look inside the indoor kennels occupied by some 144 bouncy Siberian huskies, which run tours throughout the winter in the Highlands.
Winterdance is part of an industry that draws visitors to the area during the winter with dogsled tours, which are so popular that Hank and Tanya have to schedule one day off a week just to make sure everyone gets a proper break.
The family and the staff are rightly horrified to think they would be lumped in with the worst examples of animal treatment that are featured in Sled Dogs.
Painting an entire industry as cruel and careless because of the actions of some members is unfair and potentially damaging.
According to local veterinarian Laurie Brown, who has been caring for the dogs since 1999, “they’re treasured ... cared for … in great condition … and joyously happy” – a claim I was able to see for myself while visiting their kennels.
While the DeBruins are upset by the image the film has put into the public sphere about their life’s passion, Tanya said they’re going to use it as an opportunity to talk about dogsled tours and their canine family.
Dogsledding might not be for everyone, but you cannot deny the love and caring the DeBruins and their staff have for the dogs. Perhaps with time, examples like Winterdance will help to balance the message.
It does no good to generalize. Industries, and people, should be judged on their individual actions.