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February 7, 2007

!  Ontario wildlife rehabilitation regulations deny humane care - your letters needed!

Click to send letter  (see instructions below)

Orphaned baby raccoonsA 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 approved 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 to view new regulations (EBR PB04E6022).
Click here for an outline of the issues and problems with proposed regulations.

The Ontario Wildlife Coalition is spearheading a campaign to urge Premier Dalton McGuinty to honour his promise to "reinstate progressive wildlife rehabilitation services in Ontario".  As the Sign-On letter outlines, the unwarranted regulations imposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources has eliminated most help for orphaned and injured wildlife in the process.

Your help is needed to change this desperate situation.  While it is frustrating to have to continue to apply political pressure and to contend with broken political promises, we must remember that wildlife has no other voice but ours. Please take a few minutes to complete the following Sign-On letter.

Click to send letter  and follow these instructions:

  • Make four copies and mail a copy to
    1) Premier Dalton McGuinty
    2) Hon. John Tory, Leader of the Official Opposition
    3) Hon. Howard Hampton, Leader of the New Democratic Party
    4) your M.P.P. at the address below. 

    If you are unsure of who your M.P.P. is, call 1-800-268-8758 or check www.gov.on.ca - scroll down the left column to "Contacts", then "Members of Parliament" link.  OR click here to go directly to the MPP page.
     
  • Remember to print your name and full address below your signature on the letter
     
  • Remember to copy your MPP.
     
  • Letters must be mailed by regular mail, not email.
     
  • Please ask family and friends to also send letters.

Please Act!! - Your effort will make a difference to the thousands of wild animals, many of them just weeks okd, that desperately need our help.

Contacts:

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

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

Hon. John Tory,
Leader of the Official Opposition
Government of Ontario
Rm. 381, Main Legislative Bldg.
Toronto, ON  M7A 1A8

Mr. Richard Patten, Lib. MPP
Ottawa Centre
204 - 411 Roosevelt Ave.
Ottawa ON K2A 3X9
Tel: (613) 722-6414

Hon. Howard Hampton,
Leader of the New Democratic Party
Government of Ontario
Rm 114, Main Legislative Building
Toronto ON M7A 1A4

Hon. Robert Runciman, MPP
Leeds-Grenville
243 Perth Street
Brockville, ON K6V 5E7

Ms. Lisa MacLeod, MPP
Nepean-Carleton
10 Green Street
Barrhaven, Ontario
K2G 3Z6
Tel: (613) 823-2116

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

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

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


! Challenging unworkable wildlife rehabilitation regulations

The McGuinty Liberals promised, prior to their election in 2003, to “reinstate progressive wildlife rehabilitation services in Ontario and to develop a new and improved working relationship between government and community volunteers in this regard”.

In spite of these promises and thousands of submissions from wildlife rehabilitators and members of the public across Ontario, the regulations announced by the Ministry of Natural Resources in October 2005 will perpetuate the on-going crisis that has made it impossible to provide humane and responsible help for most orphaned and injured wild mammals in Ontario.

In fact, under the McGuinty government, things have been made much worse for orphaned wildlife and for the public seeking help on their behalf. Here is why:

1) Unworkable Release Restrictions: The Ministry’s proposed 15-kilometer release restriction for rehabilitated orphans is arbitrary and unworkable and is not based on any proven science.

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.

Wildlife rehabilitators have consistently stated that the single most important minimal requirement for responsible rehabilitation is that orphaned animals be raised with others of their own species to learn proper conspecific social behaviours and that these animals be released in appropriate natural areas, with transitional care for those species who require it, generally within the city or county-of-origin.

The Ministry well knows that a 15-km. release restriction for orphans ignores the fact that most large cities, where the majority of orphaned wildlife is found, have boundaries that stretch to 90 kilometers or more. The highly developed and busy inner core of these areas makes up to 30-40 kms. and has limited natural habitat that is a suitable distance from human development and traffic for responsible release.

Furthermore, the 15-km. release restriction eliminates the vital role played by volunteers with suitable property who agree to provide the critical transitional care required by young animals as part of their release. The 15-km. release restriction also means that single animals would have to be raised alone, creating habituated “pets”, dependent on humans, which is the utter antithesis to responsible and humane wildlife rehabilitation.

The Ministry has ignored the previous successful release practices that have never produced any human health concern in Ontario. It has ignored the successful practice in 22 U.S. states where the majority allow for “flexible release options for rehabilitatated orphans, whether that is within county-of-origin release or within suitable habitat”.

The effect of the regulations is to create a climate in which the Ministry can maintain coercive control over rehabilitators by forcing them to refuse to take orphaned wildlife because they cannot rehabilitate them humanely, to raise and release young wildlife where they will have little chance of survival or to lie to Ministry officials about their activities in order to care for baby wild animals humanely.

2) Inconsistent Application of Standards: The unfettered authority given to MNR area supervisors, including the approval, denial or cancellation of authorizations without any appeal process or recourse available to the rehabilitator, will eliminate equitable treatment of wildlife rehabilitators and produce an inconsistent application of standards across the province, resulting in a coercive and unfair system.

There are currently gross inconsistencies in the application of the regulations between the different Ministry offices. Some districts have been only too happy to “look the other way” telling select rehabilitators that they “don’t have the resources to enforce the regulations” while other districts have carried out high-handed harassment campaigns against rehabilitators and required absolute adherence to the regulations.

Why, when there is an increasing public demand for government transparency and accountability at all levels has such an obviously flawed and potentially corrupt system been put in place?

It is essential that the Ministry of Natural Resources reverse this policy and establish a centralized and transparent custodial authorization process that ensures equitable treatment of wildlife rehabilitators and consistent application of the standards across the province.

3) Lack of Appeal: The discretionary authority given to area supervisors and the lack of any appeal mechanism for wildlife rehabilitators to argue unreasonable decisions or, for that matter, to even be told what the decision is based on, means that rehabilitators have been stripped of their most fundamental rights, an unprecedented and fully unacceptable situation in any democratic society.

The significant financial, legal and liability responsibilities assigned by the Ministry to wildlife rehabilitators in caring for wildlife are without parallel. And, yet, wildlife rehabilitators have been denied their rights in fulfilling these responsibilities.

Sport and recreational hunters are licensed by the Ministry with far fewer responsibilities and, yet, they have access to an appeal and fair hearing process under the Fish & Wildlife Act. The Ministry is prepared to uphold democratic rights for those that kill wildlife but is not prepared to do so for those that care for wildlife. It is unconscionable that wildlife rehabilitation volunteers who take on such significant responsibility and who earn no compensation for serving wildlife and their community, should have to tolerate the elimination of their right to fair, equitable and respectful treatment under the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Wildlife Custodial Authorization holders must be granted the same rights, including the full right of appeal, as is granted to licence holders under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and Regulations.

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, thanks to pet vaccination. 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 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 put in place in October 2005 by the McGuinty Liberals, in fact, make matters worse. That is likely why there has been no consultation with the majority of wildlife rehabilitators in the province and why there will continue to be a serious lack of help for people seeking assistance on behalf of wildlife in distress in Ontario.

Summary: 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.

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.


Text of letter ... Click here to send letter using the instructions above.

Winter 2007

Orphaned baby raccoonsPremier Dalton McGuinty
Government of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario  M7A 1A4

Dear Premier McGuinty

I am writing to urge you to intervene on behalf of people like myself who are very distressed by the lack of help for orphaned and injured wildlife. Prior to the election in 2003, you made a commitment “to support reinstating progressive wildlife rehabilitation services in Ontario and to develop a new and improved working relationship between government and community volunteers in this regard”.

Despite your promises, the regulations recently imposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources  has made it impossible to provide humane and responsible help for most injured and orphaned wild mammals in Ontario and has resulted in a deteriorated, not improved, working relationship between the MNR and many of Ontario’s wildlife rehabilitators. The following recommendations represent the responsible changes needed:

Recommendation #1: Wildlife rehabilitators have consistently stated that the single most important requirement for responsible rehabilitation is that orphaned animals be raised with others of their own species to learn proper conspecific social behaviours and that these animals be released in appropriate natural areas, with transitional care for those species who require it,  generally within the city or county-of-origin. 

The Ministry’s 15-km. release restriction for orphans is arbitrary and unworkable. It ignores the fact that most large cities, where the majority of orphaned wildlife is found, have boundaries that stretch to 90 kms. or more. The highly developed and busy inner core of these areas makes up 30-40 kms. and has limited natural habitat that is a suitable distance from human development for responsible release. Furthermore, the 15-km. restriction eliminates the vital role played by volunteers with suitable property who agree to provide the transitional care required by young animals as part of their release. It also means that single animals would have to be raised alone, completely contrary to humane rehabilitation standards. 

The Ministry has ignored the previous successful release practices that have never produced any human health concern in Ontario. It has ignored the practice in 22  U.S. states where the majority allow for “flexible release options for rehabilitated orphans, whether that is within county-of-origin release or within suitable habitat”.  

Recommendation #2: That the Ministry of Natural Resources establish a centralized and transparent custodial authorization process that ensures equitable treatment of wildlife rehabilitators and consistent application of the standards across the province.

The Ministry chose not to take the opportunity to ensure the consistent application of policies.   Instead, is has given unfettered authority to area supervisors, including the approval, denial or cancellation of authorizations without any appeal process or recourse available to the rehabilitator. This will result in a coercive and unfair system.

Liberal members, while in Opposition together with Ottawa city councillors and community groups strongly challenged the unwarranted and high-handed campaigns directed at wildlife rehabilitators in eastern Ontario. They were viewed by many as having been designed to send a “chill” through the rehabilitation community to ensure silence and compliance with respect to the Ministry’s unworkable policies.

Recommendation #3:  That Wildlife Custodial Authorization holders be granted the same rights, including the full right of appeal, as is granted to license holders under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and Regulations. 

The full discretionary authority given to MNR area supervisors means that the custodian is stripped of all rights and has no avenue to challenge any unreasonable interpretation of the regulations since an appeal process does not exist.

While wildlife custodians are assigned major financial, liability and legal responsibilities and reporting requirements by the Ministry in caring for wildlife, they are provided no rights in fulfilling these responsibilities. Sport and recreational hunters are licensed with far fewer responsibilities placed on them yet have access to an appeal and fair hearing process under the Fish & Wildlife Act.

Wildlife rehabilitation volunteers who take on this significant responsibility and who earn no compensation for serving wildlife and their community should not be expected to forego their right to fair, equitable and respectful treatment under the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Conclusion: A progressive response from our government with respect to wildlife concerns is needed now. Wildlife rehabilitation promotes understanding and respect for wildlife. Please show the same kind of respect and support for wildlife rehabilitation and the public that depend on these services. It is time to reinstate essential wildlife rehabilitation as a valued and necessary community service in Ontario.

I ask that you reply to my concerns and provide assurance that our community can look forward soon to having this very unnecessary crisis resolved.

Sincerely

Signature:______________________________________________________________

Name:_________________________________________________________________

Address:_______________________________________________________________

City: _______________________________Prov:____________P/Code:____________

 

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