Founded in 2003, Bearhill Husky is a family business based in the village of Sinettä in Rovaniemi. Values such as responsible and sound dog care, respect towards animals, and sustainable development have been foundational to the company’s operations since its early days. Image: José-Carlos García-Rosell.
The first Finnish set of criteria for assessing the welfare of sled dogs in tourism companies has been published. The criteria are part of the Finnish Green Activities ecolabel. Designed to promote responsible tourism, the animal welfare criteria for sled dogs will take effect immediately and the goal is to award the first certificates during autumn 2021.
The objective of Finland and Lapland is to continue to develop a profile as a model country for responsible tourism. However, until recently the role – and particularly the welfare – of animals working in the tourism industry has remained to a certain degree unnoticed.
Dog sledding tours are attractive to both Finnish and international travellers visiting Lapland. The sector has accommodated a wide range of entrepreneurs with different positions towards animal welfare. Entrepreneurs who are committed to developing more responsible tourism practices view the criteria as a desired step forward.
– The sled dog welfare criteria exceed the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (currently under reformation), which is a great thing. The certificate enables us to pay attention to more specific questions related to the welfare of sled dogs, says Valentjin Beets, a representative of Bearhill Husky.
These specific questions include, for example, keeping sled dogs active during the summer months, the retirement of sled dogs, and what is referred to as unplanned litters. In addition, the criteria take employee status and wellbeing into consideration.
Researchers from the University of Lapland’s Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI) have been making efforts for several years to have animal welfare included as part of the development and implementation of responsible tourism services. A significant part of the work has been done within the project “Animals and Responsible Tourism”, which was funded by Business Finland and implemented during 2016–2018. The set of animal welfare criteria for sled dogs, which was developed jointly with tourism businesses and non-governmental organisations, was a natural next step to build upon the work done in that project.
Applying for the Green Activities ecolabel
Companies that meet the criteria can apply for the Green Activities ecolabel, which is a third party verified label, awarded on the basis of an application and on-site audits. The Green Activities ecolabel, which is developed and administered by Going Green Oy, is based on the international Green Key environmental program. Going Green Oy is the organization responsible for administering both the Green Activities and Green Key ecolabels.
– The Green Activities ecolabel enables tourism companies offering sled dog rides to take better account of animal welfare and makes the good work of companies visible to tourists as well, says Heidi Heinonen, Green Activities Program Director at Going Green Oy.
The goal is to award the first ecolabels during autumn of this year. In addition, a comparable set of animal welfare criteria for the purpose of reindeer tourism is being developed in collaboration with key stakeholders.
José-Carlos García-Rosell, Senior Lecturer and Adjunct Professor at the University of Lapland
+358 40 484 4190, jgarcia(at)ulapland.fi
Valentjin Beets, Bearhill Husky
+358 40 779 0898, info(at)bearhillhusky.com
Mari Mero, Account Manager at Going Green Oy
+358 50 566 8733, mari(at)greenkey.fi