PEMBERTON, B.C. - Safety concerns have prompted a change in venue for the case of a man charged in the slaughter of 56 sled dogs near Whistler, B.C., two years ago.
Robert Fawcett's lawyer appeared on his behalf in provincial court in Pemberton on Thursday, but the matter will be moved to North Vancouver on June 19.
Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie said there are concerns over courthouse security.
"The sheriffs will be better able to manage any concerns that might arise at their facilities in North Vancouver," he said outside the small two-storey building in Pemberton.
"I understand there have been some threatening statements made towards Mr. Fawcett since this matter became public," MacKenzie said. "Those have raised some concerns with respect to security. I don't want to overplay that but from the Crown's perspective it's an issue that can be better managed at the courthouse in North Vancouver."
As for whether protesters might be expected outside the court, MacKenzie said he can't say.
"It's not uncommon for trials to be moved from Pemberton to North Vancouver, but the courthouse here sits infrequently."
Fawcett faces one count of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to the dogs in the animal cruelty case that has drawn international attention.
Fifty-six dogs were dug up in a mass grave near Whistler after information leaked out in January 2011 through a workers compensation claim of post-traumatic stress disorder.
A Bob Fawcett also posted details on a PTSD website, describing how panicked animals were shot or had their throats slit before being dumped into the grave.
The animals had been a tourist draw during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
After the slaughter, the British Columbia government brought in new protections for sled dogs, establishing legal requirements for such things as containing animals, working conditions and euthanasia.
After the information leaked out about the cull, Fawcett and the company that bought his business, Outdoor Adventures, issued a statement in February 2011 that many of the dogs were old and sick and that efforts to have them adopted were unsuccessful.
The company said no instructions were provided to Fawcett on how to kill the dogs, but that he was known to have put down dogs humanely on previous occasions.