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YOUR HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED!

THE FUTURE OF WILDLIFE REHABILITATION IN ONTARIO IS AT STAKE

Re: Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) Registry Number PB04E6022
 

Ontario residents:

» Click for sign-on letter
» Click for tip sheet and contact info
» Click for an outline of the issues, and problems with proposed regulations

Non-Ontario residents:

» Click for out-of-province sign-on letter
» Click for out-of-province tip sheet and contact info

EBR Posting:

» EBR Posting - Enhanced wildlife rehabilitation program

Proposed regulations:

» Proposed conditions of a wildlife custodian authorization
» Proposed wildlife custodian policy and procedure

A Broken Promise:

In spite of the McGuinty Liberal’s promise to address the wildlife rehabilitation crisis created by the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry has quietly posted new regulations that will, in fact, make the current crisis even worse and eliminate what little help is left for wildlife in Ontario.  Click here for an outline of the issues and problems with proposed regulations.

A province-wide Coalition has been formed to send a strong message of protest to the Premier. Given the short time available, a sign-on letter has been prepared that we hope you will be willing to sign and send to Premier McGuinty.

Here’s how you can help:

Click for sign-on letter and follow these instructions:

  • Make copies of the attached letter and get as many supporters as possible to forward their copy to Premier McGuinty with a copy to David Ramsay as Minister of Natural Resources and a copy to your MPP. Remember to print your name and full address above your signature on the letter. Letters must be mailed by regular mail, not e-mail.
     
  • Remember to copy your MPP. You should type in his/her name under David Ramsay’s so that it appears on their copies as well. While not essential, it will help if you add a note to your MPP’s copy along the lines of “I’ll be calling your office in a few days to see how you intend to take this issue forward as it is not only an important one to this community but there needs to be assurance that the government we elect has the integrity to honour its commitments”. A quick phone call to the MPP’s constituency assistant a few days later will ensure that they understand that you want to know where they stand on this issue.  It does not matter if your MPP is a Liberal or not, it will still receive political attention.

CONTACTS:

Premier Dalton McGuinty
Government of Ontario
Rm. 281, Main Legislative Bldg.
Toronto, ON M7A 1A4

Hon. David Ramsay
Minister of Natural Resources
6630-99 Wellesley St. W., 6th Floor, Whitney Block
Toronto, ON  M7A 1W3

Richard Patten, Lib. MPP (Ottawa Centre)
1292 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON  K1Y 3A9
Tel: (613) 722-6414

Jim Watson, Lib. MPP (Ottawa West Nepean)
201-2249 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, ON  K2B 7E9
Tel: (613) 721-8075

Philip McNeely, Lib. MPP (Ottawa Orleans)
110 Bearbrook Rd., Unit 6
Gloucester, ON  K1B 5R2
Tel: (613) 834-8679

Madeleine Meilleur Lib. MPP (Ottawa Vanier)
237 Montreal Road
Vanier,  ON  K1L 6C7
Tel: (613) 744-4484

John Baird, Con. MPP (Nepean Carleton)
119-301 Moodie Drive
Nepean, ON  K2H 9C4
Tel: (613) 828-2020

Norman Sterling, Con. MPP (Lanark Carleton)
130 Lansdowne Ave., Unit 5
Carleton Place, ON  K7C 2T7
Tel: (613) 253-1171

Note:  If you are not in one of the above ridings or are unsure of your MPP, you can call 1-800-268-8758 to inquire or check www.gov.on.ca - go to "contact us", then "contact your MPP" link.        

Please Act!! - Orphaned Wildlife are depending on us to take the time to sign and mail these letters.


! Challenging unworkable wildlife rehabilitation regulations

Response to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Proposal: "Enhanced Wildlife Rehabilitation Program" – EBR Registry Number PB04E6022 – has been swift and blunt from wildlife rehabilitators, animal welfare organizations and members of the public across Ontario.

Press releases and letters to the editor from southwestern Ontario, Toronto and eastern Ontario state:

London: ‘Volunteer Wildlife Custodians Fighting Mad’ – “the proposals are completely unacceptable for custodians and the wildlife for whom they provide care” and “the regulations, if enacted, will likely result in all responsible wildlife custodians returning their authorizations to the Ministry and withdrawing this valuable public service”.

Toronto: ‘Wildlife Rehabilitators unfairly and negatively targeted by the Minister’ – “the negative attitude and disregard for rehabilitators is evidenced by the Ministry’s lack of consultation with the broader rehabilitation community”.

Ottawa: ‘Wildlife Rehabilitation Crisis Spreads Across Ontario’ – “The McGuinty Liberals have broken their election promise to develop a new and improved working relationship between government and community volunteers on behalf of restoring progressive wildlife rehabilitation services” and “it is clear that these proposed regulations are intended to eliminate help for wildlife”.

The Proposal Issues:

1) Release Restriction: The proposed 1 km – 5 km release restriction for orphaned wildlife eliminates humane and responsible wildlife rehabilitation. While it is fully accepted that adult wildlife should be returned to their familiar home territory, orphaned wildlife have no established territory as they are still within the nest or den when rescued. The majority of these orphans have resulted from the adult mother having been trapped and relocated, killed on a busy road or otherwise compromised because of extensive development. Putting young animals, after months of rehabilitative care, back into these situations would be irresponsible, giving them no chance of survival and would be severely and rightfully criticized by residents because of the impossible situation faced by the animals and the predictable human/wildlife conflicts it would also produce.

The unrealistic release restrictions also mean that single orphans would have to be raised alone in violation of international and humane standards, creating habituated “pets”, dependent on humans, the utter antithesis to proper wildlife rehabilitation.

The release restrictions also effectively eliminate the critical final phase of wildlife rehabilitation, since many species such as squirrels require a “soft” release, i.e. transitional care by way of a supplemental food source and a temporary nesting box in a tree on the volunteer’s property until the animals can adapt to being fully on their own.  “Soft” release also ensures the use of private property where the animals are wanted so there is no conflict with residents.

What is Required? Ontario must simply adopt standards governing wildlife rehabilitation care and release that pretty much prevail throughout North America: Orphaned wildlife should be raised with others of their own species, to learn proper conspecific social behaviours, and the group should then be released in appropriate natural areas, with transitional care for those species that require it, generally within the city or county of origin.

2) Elimination of Foster Families: The proposed elimination of foster families will mean drastically-reduced help for wildlife at a time when development and loss of habitat is creating more demand. It also fails to recognize that there are already way too few wildlife rehabilitation programs in Ontario, given the huge commitment of time and money required on the part of community volunteers, to respond to public demand. The elimination of foster families will also mean that there will be no care available for very young, eyes-closed, orphans requiring over-night feedings.

3) Acceptance Restriction: The restriction that forces wildlife rehabilitators to turn away orphaned raccoons, foxes, skunks and bats unless they have been found within 50 km. of their facility fails to recognize the exceedingly small number of rehabilitation facilities and the fact that they are sporadically spread across Ontario. As frequently occurs, someone finding a baby raccoon beside a dead mother on a highway on their way home from a cottage would be very unlikely to find any assistance within that area. Thus, a compassionate public will be forced to provide care for these animals, putting the animals, themselves and their pets at greater risk than would be the case for experienced and properly resourced wildlife rehabilitators. 

4) Reporting and Monitoring: The proposed new requirements will not only place an onerous and unnecessary additional burden on wildlife rehabilitators but they are offensive in that they treat community volunteers in the same manner as they would those who are intent on breaking the law by poaching or hunting out of season. Requirements to have “unique temporary markers” placed on animals, a map of a volunteer’s property delineating dwelling and rehabilitation areas and the use of a “witness” to accompany Ministry inspectors shows the distrust and disrespect of this Ministry for wildlife rehabilitation.

Wildlife rehabilitation services cannot survive under the aegis of the Ministry of Natural Resources. It is a question of such fundamental differences in mandate, culture and philosophy that there can be no compatibility. The mandate of the MNR is that of a regulatory agency concerned with the harvesting of wildlife, its funding received from licence revenue from that activity. It holds solely a population level view of wildlife while wildlife rehabilitation places value on individual animals that make up populations. The fact that an increasing number of the public view wildlife in broader conservation terms than does the Ministry and in that a majority of the public support wildlife rehabilitation means that the Ontario government will soon be forced to address this reality by reflecting community values and changing public opinion.

The Hypocrisy of Targeting Wildlife Rehabilitation: What exposes the very transparent deception in the Ministry’s professed concern about “protecting public health and the health of wildlife populations” is that only wildlife rehabilitation is targeted. The Ministry ignores or does nothing to enforce restrictions on wildlife removal companies or homeowners who annually trap and relocate tens of thousands of adult animals without any regard for the state of their health. Particularly, when minimal public education efforts by the Ministry (long recommended by rehabilitators) such as posting notices in stores selling traps about the legal restrictions on relocation could make a huge impact in deterring the practice. It would also substantially reduce the numbers of orphaned wildlife needing rehabilitation in the first instance, given that 60-70% of orphaned wildlife are “created” orphans by the trapping and relocation of the adult.

Compared to the tens of thousands of adult animals relocated, there is an extremely small number of orphaned wildlife that are rehabilitated and released in Ontario each year. In fact, so infinitesimally small that wildlife rehabilitation serves only as a symbolic gesture that has little impact on the environment. It does, however, provide an important outlet and educational benefit for the growing number of people who recognize it is our substantial impact on the environment that has caused the need in the first place.

Furthermore, there are no disease concerns with respect to rehabilitated orphaned wildlife. As the Ministry well knows, disease concerns are eliminated by the fact that orphaned wildlife are cared for under close observation by experienced rehabilitators, they are regularly tested and treated for parasites, they are vaccinated against diseases, they are regularly seen by veterinarians and they are kept beyond disease incubation periods. This ensures that the healthy young vaccinated animals that are released actually provide a disease barrier and contribute to the health of the general wildlife population.

What this is Really All About: The public is no longer fooled with respect to the MNR agenda. It is increasingly clear that the regressive and unwarranted regulations imposed on wildlife rehabilitation in Ontario are due to the fact that the Ministry and its partners cannot attract multi-millions of tax dollars for rabies research, testing and operations unless they can maintain a high degree of public fear that raccoon rabies is a significant disease threat when, in fact, it is the lowest public health risk in North America. Wildlife rehabilitation and its promotion of respect and understanding for wildlife represents an impediment to creating this climate of irrational fear. It is, therefore, a significant threat to rabies funding programs, particularly at a time of increased competition from what are serious government spending priorities. 

Abuse of the EBR Process: In July 2002, the MNR abused the EBR process by posting  changes to wildlife rehabilitation regulations on the basis of intentionally misrepresented information while fabricating a non-existent “emergency” to deny public input.

Now, in spite of two years of strong public protest during which time the Ontario Liberals, while in Opposition, presented petitions from over 9,000 residents in 260 communities in the province demanding changes to those regulations, the changes now proposed by the McGuinty Liberals, in fact, make matters worse. Perhaps that is why they have been quietly posted just ten days before Christmas with little time for public comment, without any prior consultation with the majority of wildlife rehabilitators in the province and with parliament conveniently recessed until March 2005 so there would be no political opposition to this highly contentious issue.

The posting suggests that wildlife rehabilitators in Ontario have been consulted with respect to these proposed changes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Ontario Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Network (OWREN) has never been given the mandate by its members to speak on their behalf with respect to policy matters. In fact, wildlife rehabilitators from across the province formed the Ontario Wildlife Coalition a year ago to challenge the unethical and opportunistic attempt by the MNR to co-opt and so transparently manipulate a not-for-profit organization for a government ministry’s self-serving purposes.

As for the Rabies Advisory Council having been consulted with respect to this EBR, it should be noted that it is hardly an independent body. Its members are drawn from federal and provincial government ministries or the academic community whose budgets rely on rabies funding and who have benefited significantly from the extraordinary amount of public funds that has been allocated to the lowest public health risk disease in North America.

Summary: The reference by the MNR to these proposed changes as “enhancements” and the suggestion that the changes would “improve” care for wildlife is contemptuous of the public’s intelligence.  In fact, the crisis already created by this Ministry and the severe criticism it has invoked from animal professionals such as veterinarians and humane societies as well as the general public, will only be made worse by these recommendations. If these regulations are approved, they will eliminate what little help is left for wildlife in this province.

While Ontario has legislation that provides for wildlife rehabilitation, the bias against it within the MNR has created such restrictive regulations and negative attitudes that it is disallowed. Frankly, the regulations must either be changed and wildlife rehabilitation housed within a ministry that can accommodate the public values that support it, or the legislation should be rescinded. At least that way, Ontario will stand honestly in one place or the other – either as a very unprogressive province or it can join the majority of North American communities that provide the modern wildlife response demanded by the public.


Click for sign-on letter

January 2005

Premier Dalton McGuinty
Government of Ontario
Rm. 281, Main Legislative Bldg.
Toronto, ON M7A 1A4

Dear Premier McGuinty       Re: EBR Registry Number PB04E6022

I want you, as Premier, to know of my disappointment and anger with regard to the changes proposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources for the rehabilitation of orphaned and injured wildlife in Ontario. For the Minister to suggest that these changes would “improve” care for wildlife is contemptuous of the public’s intelligence.

The crisis already created by this Ministry will only be made worse by these recommendations. The proposed care and release regulations (1km and 5km restrictions) will mean that single orphans will have to be raised alone in violation of international and humane standards and, after months of care, put back into busy and inappropriate areas – effectively eliminating the critical final phase of wildlife rehabilitation, since many species require a “soft” release with transitional care provided at the release site – and eliminating any chance of survival. The proposed elimination of foster families will mean drastically-reduced help for wildlife at a time when development and loss of habitat is creating more demand. Furthermore, the reporting and monitoring conditions the MNR would impose on wildlife rehabilitators demonstrate its negative bias and disrespect for rehabilitators who volunteer their time and offer a free and much valued service to communities all over Ontario.

Ontario must adopt regulations governing wildlife rehabilitation care and release standards that prevail throughout North America: orphaned wildlife should be raised with others of their own species, to learn proper conspecific behaviours, and the group should then be released together in appropriate natural areas, generally within the city or county of origin. Otherwise, wildlife rehabilitators cannot provide an ethical, responsible service, and you will rightfully continue to receive strong criticism from hundreds of members of the public, from all walks of life, left without help each and every wildlife birthing season.

An Abuse of the EBR Process and A Broken Promise by your Government: Your government, while in Opposition, was strongly critical of the Ministry’s wildlife rehabilitation regulations, having presented petitions from over 9,000 residents in 260 communities demanding change. You promised, if elected, that you “would review these regulations, working with rehabilitators, to develop a new and improved working relationship between government and community volunteers”.  Instead, these current proposals were quietly posted just ten days before Christmas with little time for public input, without any consultation with the majority of wildlife rehabilitators in the province and with parliament conveniently recessed until March 2005 so there would be little political opposition to this highly contentious issue.

I expect the EBR process will once again be abused by MNR and that is why I am directing my comments to you. In July 2002, the Ministry posted changes to wildlife rehabilitation regulations on the basis of intentionally misrepresented information while fabricating a non-existent “emergency” to deny public input. The current EBR posting states wildlife rehabilitators have been consulted when, in fact, they certainly have not.

The public is no longer fooled with respect to the MNR agenda. Wildlife rehabilitation and its promotion of respect and understanding for wildlife undermines the fear-mongering the Ministry needs to sustain a hugely expensive and unwarranted rabies budget for the lowest public health risk in North America.  As a taxpayer, I am appalled that so much funding is being diverted from badly-needed programs to this boondoggle.

We urge you to withdraw the EBR posting, to consult with the majority of wildlife rehabilitators in Ontario and to ensure that this country’s largest province is not the only jurisdiction in North America without any progressive help for wildlife.

Sincerely

Name:_________________________________________________________________

Address:_______________________________________________________________

City: _______________________________Prov:____________P/Code:____________

Signature:______________________________________________________________

c.c. David Ramsay, Minister of Natural Resources

 

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