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    Letters Archive - 2003

No Help for Wildlife

Friday August 29, 2003  Kanata Kourier Standard

Written by:  Donna DuBreuil

A Kanata resident found to her great dismay the other evening that there was no help available for an injured baby raccoon that had been hit by a car. Calls to the Ottawa Humane Society, the City of Ottawa and a veterinary clinic told her it was an “offence” to try to help the animal – all they could do was euthanize it regardless of its injuries because of new regulations by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

It is sad enough that the Tory Government and its Ministry of Natural Resources have created such an inhumane environment in this province but is worse still that the City and organizations supposedly concerned about animal welfare have not challenged the absurd regulations and fear-mongering that the MNR uses to support its bloated budget in the name of rabies control.  Particularly when such inhumane regulations are unprecedented in North America.

If, as the saying goes, “you can judge a society by the way it treats its animals”, Ottawa has fallen very short of the mark.

Donna DuBreuil
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre

Re: Fawn hit by car renews calls for Wildlife Centre

Thursday July 31, 2003  Nepean This Week  

Written by:  Linda Steele

I was heartbroken to read Derek Dunn's story on July 18th regarding the poor fawn that was struck by a car and the fact that there was no facility to take it to in Ottawa for treatment and rehabilitation. This is yet another example of why we need our Ottawa Carleton Wildlife Centre reopened as soon as possible.

In the Ottawa community there exists a number of dedicated wildlife rehabilitators and volunteers who would be ready and willing to once again work at the Centre.  The Centre was a wonderful model to other cities and its closure has resulted in the deaths of many orphaned and injured animals.

The public has never been given a satisfactory answer as to why the animals at the Centre were seized by the Ministry of Natural Resources last fall and the Centre subsequently closed down.

I think that it is disgraceful that a city, such as Ottawa, blessed with an abundance of beautiful green spaces and wildlife does not have a place to care for its injured wild animals.

Linda Steele

We need the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre

25th June 2003.
To: Ottawa City Councillors and our MPP Norm Sterling
From: Christine Lowrie  

On Monday 23rd June we found a squirrel in our backyard. Not an uncommon occurrence. This time though, the squirrel was in distress, appearing to have a seizure, possibly close to death, we weren't sure.

It was terrible. We felt helpless. In the past we would have phoned the wildlife centre and be given advice by competent and confident volunteers.  

I called the City Information Line and received a voicemail message telling me that all staff were busy with so much work to do, and that I should call again in an off-peak period. Not too helpful!  

There are a lot of people who care about our wildlife. What can they do? A sorry state of affairs.  

There is a website. It is not enough. Totally inadequate.  

I found on the web that you (the city) have a 'Keen to be Green' program.

It states- "As the City of Ottawa grows, habitat for urban wildlife diminishes. This development can lead to human wildlife discord but the impact can be diminished if certain practices are followed."  

Surely one of the 'practices' should be support of the 'wildlife centre'. They played such an important role in rescuing animals and also in educating the public so helping to reduce the 'discord'.  

Who is doing it now? Noone. As I've already mentioned, even your information line is overloaded.  

To quote Alex Munter- "This is a basic matter of common sense," says Coun. Alex Munter. "There was a need that generated the service and the need has not gone away."  

I gather that we had one of the best wildlife response services in North America until the Ministry of Natural Resources decided to take over.  

Why are we giving in to this dictatorial provincial government? There is a lot of information around the MNR interference- Richard Patten sums it up-

Ottawa Centre MPP Richard Patten says the ministry's actions are based on "dubious and shaky research assumptions" that have left the city void of a crucial service."  

Last year the centre rescued 1000 animals. I don't know how many phone calls they took giving information. Is the city now going to deal with this? It doesn't sound like a very efficient use of funds.

Did I hear today that the city is giving somewhere up in the millions of dollars for the Congress Centre?

Please do all you can to re-instate the Ottawa/Carleton Wildlife Centre.

The squirrel died.  

Thank you.  

Christine Lowrie

Huge budget for war on rabies is unjustified  

Thursday, May 29, 2003,  The Ottawa Citizen

Written by: Donna DuBreuil 

Re: Ontario goes to war on rabies, May 25.

This Citizen article tries to justify the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources' faltering campaign to depict raccoon rabies as a "killer" disease.

The facts tell a very different story. In spite of the prevalence of this disease as it has moved up the eastern seaboard of the United States for the past 30 years, no human has ever died of raccoon rabies.

Given the thousands of positive-tested animal cases in very densely human-populated areas, some now believe this indicates that humans may not even contract raccoon rabies.

Ontario has had fewer than 120 positive animal cases of raccoon rabies since the disease entered the province three years ago. And taxpayers have every right to expect this disease to be under control, given the millions of tax dollars spent annually in this province since the early 1990s to do this.

Ohio has had better success using an oral rabies vaccine: It cost less and did not require the killing thousands of healthy animals as in Ontario.

The MNR's fear-mongering is all about the major threat to its $2-million annual budget for its raccoon rabies program in the face of declining cases of raccoon rabies and increasing competition for government funds from serious human-risk diseases such as West Nile virus, SARS and Mad Cow disease.

Since no one has ever died of raccoon rabies, we need to insist that the Ontario government re-evaluate its tactics and its spending to control it.

Donna DuBreuil, Ottawa
Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre

International Fund for Animal Welfare letter to Premier Eves

May 8 2003

The Honourable Ernie Eves
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building
Queen's Park
Toronto, ON  M7A 1A1
Fax: 1-416-325-7578

Dear Premier Eves,

On behalf of the 50,000 members of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, I am writing to you with great concern regarding the mishandling of the 34 raccoons, 4 skunks and 1 fox seized from the Ottawa Carleton Wildlife Centre last September. We demand that you do a full investigation into this case that has resulted in two of the animals dying, one being relocated to a zoo and, most shockingly, the rest of the animals being released in a “rabies hot zone” tens of kilometres away from the initial sites where they were found. 

In July 2002 the Ministry of Natural Resources instituted a new Ontario-wide 1km restriction on the release of all rehabilitated animals in Ontario.  However, in a press release dated May 2 2003 the Ministry admits that the surviving animals taken from Ottawa  have been released in suitable, natural habitat on Crown land in southeastern Ontario”.  The Ministry seems incapable of following their own regulations and restrictions.  If any other wildlife rehabilitator in Ontario broke this restriction it would result in the immediate confiscation of their permit.  Furthermore, how can the Ministry possibly defend the long distance relocation of animals initially from a county with no record of rabies to a county with several reported cases of rabies and an active depopulation program? 

Prior to the animals being released an Ottawa judge commented that it would be in the best interest of the animals to be returned for a brief four-week period of rehabilitation at the OCWC. Experts were worried that these animals would be unable to survive in the wild as the raccoons were housed separately and in cages one-third the size required under international standards for wildlife rehabilitation.  Without proper caging and environmental enrichment the musculature and skeletal development of an animal could be compromised and jeopardize its ability to survive in the wild.  Furthermore, no responsible wildlife rehabilitator would allow an animal to become so tame that it would be unreleasable. It is obvious that the Ministry does not understand that fundamentals of wildlife rehabilitation.  To release the animals as they were was both inhumane and irresponsible  

The Ontario Government must provide a humane example of the treatment of wildlife in Ontario.  MNR staff are making a mockery of their own rules and regulations and are an embarrassment to the Ontario Government. 

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a non-profit, global animal welfare organisation.  We are staffed by more than 200 experienced campaigners, educators, legal and communications experts, and internationally acclaimed scientists working from offices in 13 countries around the world, with a solid base of two million supporters.


Kim Elmslie

Emergency Relief Representative

Note: A copy of the letter with a cover page requesting parties to follow-up with the Tory government was sent to all Ontario party leaders, MNR critics as well as the Liberal party candidates for the OCWC riding.

Don’t let bureaucrats rob us of our natural treasures

May 21, 2003, The Ottawa Citizen
Written by: Peter Joyce

Re: ‘Animal lover’ worries sick squirrel will die if no one steps in to help, May 15.

Could there be a reader in Ottawa who picked up the Citizen and did not shed a tear for the sight of a dying squirrel in a young girl’s arms?

Have we sunk to such depths of degradation that we can allow petty bureaucracy to rob us of our most treasured resource?  What Ottawa resident has not revelled in the sight of a fellow creature, albeit more furred than we are, bounding about our fair city?

We have known since last autumn that our protector of animals, the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre, has been closed down by needless red tape.

I intend to lobby my politicians to take action.  It is incumbent upon every resident to do the same thing.

Peter Joyce,

Mr. Sterling,

Written: May 8, 2003 by Adele Brand, Surrey, U.K.

I wish to voice my outrage at the appalling treatment of vulnerable animals unjustly seized by the MNR.    

If it was inexplicable to suddenly remove vaccinated raccoons from an area without rabies, it was heinous to keep sentient creatures in cages so small and lacking in stimulation that most zoos would not have tolerated them. But even that has been overshadowed by the release of these animals into an area where rabies is present and the MNR is currently killing all raccoons. Why? What was the motive behind releasing the raccoons there?    

Here in Europe, rabies has been largely eliminated through oral vaccine baits. The Texas Department of Health announced in January this year it would drop over one million oral vaccines. There are ways to control this disease without alienating yourselves from the public and flagrantly disregarding animal welfare.    

The MNR would appear to have been misleading the public over the whole issue. How can I therefore trust the MNR on any topic?  From assurances that the wolf population is stable without scientific proof, to the unquestionable bias towards sport hunting in the management of Ontario's wildlife, your department is simply losing its credibility.    

I strongly urge you to rediscover compassion in your treatment of wildlife. In the short-term, a public inquiry into the MNR's handling on this situation must take place. In the long-term, measures that ensure this tragedy is never repeated must be created and heeded. You have seriously tainted my opinion of your province.  

I look forward to your response.  

Yours sincerely,

Adele Brand
Chaldon, Surrey, U.K.

Dear Premier Eves:

Written: April 29, 2003 by Eric Snyder

I was very pleased to hear that you made an appearance on CFRA yesterday morning, April 28th, and commited publically to resolving the situation concerning the rehab of the animals seized from the Ottawa Carleton Wildlife Centre last year.  But, I was just a little surprised to hear that you said that this was the first that you've heard about this issue, since, in response to an earlier email I had sent to your attention, you personally signed a letter to me on April 11, 2003 in which you stated "...I appreciate having this matter brought to my personal attention."    

Although you had forwarded my e-mail on to Minister Jerry J. Ouellette, the Ministry still has these animals in captivity at the Codrington Research Centre in substandard cages.  I am quite honestly baffled by the wide latitude given to the bureaucrats in MNR by your government to seemingly do as they please.  They seem to have an endless budget of taxpayers money for legal expenses to aggressively defend their actions in court.  Last week, Ontario Court Justice Jolicoeur, in his deliberation on this case, stated that returning the animals to the OCWC for a brief period of rehabilitation "would be in the best interest of the animals". He also questioned why the MNR was so opposed to having these animals receive rehabilitation before their release. But, although he verbally expressed these views, he was unable, legally, to have the animals returned to the Wildlife Centre.  It seems that a political solution will be required.    

I do hope you will quickly get all the facts on this issue before you, do the right thing, and insist that the animals unnecessarily seized by OMNR be returned to the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre for a brief period of rehab so they can be returned to the wild.     

With due respect, MNR's actions continue to be an issue that will not go away here in Eastern Ontario.  There is no cost to having these animals returned, rehabbed and responsibly released.  But there could be a big benefit in terms of public opinion and restoring public trust in government in our region.  With a provincial election growing closer, voters in this region will look more kindly on your party if you step in, take control of a bureaucracy seemingly without control, and have these animals treated properly.

Eric Snyder
Barrhaven, Ontario

Please don't just sit back and do nothing...

Thursday March 27, 2003  Nepean This Week  

Written by:  Eric Snyder

Please don't just sit back and do nothing...

The 40 animals seized from the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre last year have been caged separately in the OMNR Peterborough Codrington Research facility for the past seven months.  This is cruel and inhumane treatment for sociable animals. It is crucial to get them back into the hands of experienced rehabilitators as soon as possible before they can be released into the wild.

The staff of the OCWC want them back now, but the decision to return the animals now is a political one.  The courts have been sympathetic, but there just isn't time to wait for the wheels of justice to move the next step!

Eric Snyder
Barrhaven, Ontario

Ministry used the law to save its budget, jobs

Monday March 10, 2003 The Ottawa Citizen 

Written by:  Donna DuBreuil

Re: Animal 'foster parents' fined $700, Feb. 28.

The statement by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources spokeswoman Jol-anta Kowalsk that "the law was upheld" needs a response.

Laws are simply policies:  If they are based on misrepresented facts, they need to be challenged.  The story on charges laid against the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre by the Ministry of Natural Resources demonstrates that.

The MNR expanded the raccoon rabies high-risk zone to include Ottawa on misrepresented facts. It then abused the process by filing an Environmental Bill of Rights to support the expansion that eliminated any public discussion on the basis that a delay “would result in a danger to the health or safety of the public by increasing the risk of contracting rabies”. How discreditable and insulting given that no one in North America has ever died of raccoon rabies and the few remaining cases at the time of the expansion had moved even further away from Ottawa.

The thousands of positive-tested animals in densely populated areas in the U.S. prompted some, even within the MNR, to question whether humans can contract raccoon rabies.

The real story here is not about protecting public health. It is about the MNR trying to save its jobs and $2-million annual budget in the face of dramatically declining rabies cases and increasing competition for government funds from serious human-risk diseases like West Nile. Using the law and animals as pawns to achieve this is simply unacceptable.

Donna DuBreuil

Editor's note:  Ms. DuBreuil, president of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre, was fined for refussing to surrender animals to the MNR officers last summer.

Fur Flies

Wednesday March 05, 2003 The Ottawa Citizen 

Written by: Brian Newman

Re: Animal 'foster parents' fined $700, Feb. 28.

The fine issued to two animal protectors who did their best to save some innocent lives is a shameful mark on our so-called justice system. I suggest that some group or business set up collection boxes so the public can donate to pay the $700 fine these two good people received. I think donations in pennies should be requested as this terrible judgment should be paid in our most trivial currency. The pennies would also signify just how many people object to the judgment.

While this letter can be considered my two cents worth, I will be more than happy to donate pennies to the fund.

Any injustice needs a strong public outcry. If not, injustice tends to become a habit of those who think they can get away with it.

Brian Newman,

Letter of the Day

Monday, March 3, 2003 The Ottawa Sun

Written by: Peter Joyce

I CORRESPOND with people throughout the length and breadth of our glorious country. One of my greatest prides is telling them about the wide variety of wildlife that live within our city limits. They envy us for the natural blessing that has been bestowed upon us. They think that Ottawa is truly a special place in which to live. So do I.

I was very worried when the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre was forced to close down at the end of last year due to bureaucratic meddling by the Ministry of Natural Resources and lack of support by municipal politicians. I am even more worried now that mating season has begun, and spring birthing will follow close at hand. The centre performed a vital role in our region. To whom will our furred friends turn now when they need assistance?

Shame on the bureaucrats and politicians for terminating an essential service. Shame on us for allowing it to happen. It is not too late to reverse the situation, though. We need the centre to reopen, and the sooner the better. I for one plan to write to my municipal councillor, my MPP and the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Editor Comment: (A sad example of politics taking over--and not just on the government side)

Wildlife Centre's warning comes true

Monday March 03, 2003  The Ottawa Citizen

Written by: Kim Elmslie

Re: We're about to become 'killing municipality', Feb. 26.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has done a spectacularly pitiful job of taking care of Ottawa's wildlife. This article raises the threat of exactly the result advocates for the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre warned us about when they were forced to shut their doors: Because there is no authority on safely and effectively dealing with wildlife in the city, thousands of animals will suffer needlessly.

Should Ottawa citizens stumble upon a surprise litter of squirrels in the attic, or a nightly visit from raccoons rifling through the garbage, there is almost nothing they can do but trap and release the nuisance animal, leaving its newborn babies to die.

They could enlist the help of a for-profit animal-removal service. Since they are in the business of charging for the removal of nuisance animals, few of these operations have the animal's interest as their first priority. Removing the animal can result in a painful, slow death for it.

The Ottawa Wildlife Centre was considered among the most progressive centres of its kind in North America. A 24-hour hotline was available to answer any kind of question relating to wildlife in and around the city. This stellar service was quashed along with the centre.

Instead of taking draconian measures to contain a hypothetical rabies situation and leaving an aftermath of rubble, the MNR could have taken advantage of having within its jurisdiction a team of caring and able experts who monitored and dealt with the ever-perplexing issue of living with wildlife.

Kim Elmslie,
Emergency Relief
International Fund for Animal Welfare

Who will care for the orphaned and injured wildlife ?

Friday February 14, 2003  The Weekly Journal & The Orleans Star

Written by:  Yasmin Jackson

The loss of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre(OCWC) will have a major impact on this community. The Centre has helped thousands of residents deal with wildlife problems caused by development, and I myself have called upon them for assistance many times over the last 15 years. Most of the problems arise during spring, and as we get closer to that time, I am wondering, where will I go now when I find orphaned and injured wildlife ?

This vital volunteer service has been lost as a result of the senseless regulations - unique in North America - and gestapo-like tactics of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR). Concerned organizations have refuted the Ministry's rationale for the expansion of the high-risk zone to include Ottawa, using the MNR's own web-site map to show that the cases it portrayed in an attempt to justify the expansion, simply did not exist. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies has exposed the MNR's inhumane and costly "depopulation" program, which has slaughtered 8,000-10,000 animals over the last three years, almost all of them (99.8%) healthy.

Expanding the risk zone will create a multitude of problems and costs for our community, and the new OMNR regulations will not curtail wildlife rehabilitation. They will simply drive it underground, and the lack of control will result in significant public health risks.

The unjustified actions taken by the OMNR in confiscating the OCWC animals are appalling. These animals were rescued as small babies well before the bogus expansion of the high-risk zone; they were fully vaccinated and had been in care for months beyond any disease incubation period. Even more sickening, they are currently in a government research facility and have been isolated from one another in contravention of basic humane rehabilitation standards.

For many of us, the OMNR's abuse of power and arrogant disregard of public opinion has rocked our confidence in this Ministry, in fact, in the entire provincial government. Brian Coburn needs to collaborate with his Tory colleagues to resolve this disgraceful situation and return the animals to the Centre for proper care. This would be the first step in rebuilding the trust that has been lost. If the OMNR is so out of control that even our elected members cannot persuade the bureaucrats to do this very simple thing, then obviously we have a decision to make at the upcoming election.

Bring back the raccoons

Monday Feb. 10, 2003 The Ottawa Citizen

Written by: Ernie Parsons, Liberal MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings 

On Sept. 12, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources staff raided the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre, confiscated animals and frightened the staff.

It appeared that the ministry's agenda was to create a crisis using rabies as a pretext to extend the high-risk area into the Ottawa region. This was clearly an overreaction, given there were only six cases of raccoon rabies in the province last year.

It is incomprehensible that, even today, the government continues to hold the animals at its Codrington research facility, 240 kilometres southwest of Ottawa. It is particularly disturbing that it was confirmed the healthy raccoons are being caged separately, a practice that is indirect contravention of the standards of care prescribed by the MNR.

Wildlife experts from Canada and the United States are appalled that the healthy raccoons, social animals by nature, are not being wintered in groups. Experts tell me what the MNR is doing is unthinkable and will likely result in the animals perishing following their release into the wild.

All of the confiscated animals were healthy and had been vaccinated against rabies. The vaccine had been supplied by the ministry. It is difficult to understand, given that the minister of natural resources recently stated that the animals are in good health, why the Eves government refuses to return the animals to the wildlife centre in Ottawa.

The seized animals have been in quarantine for three times the recognized incubation period for raccoon rabies to develop. If the MNR were really concerned with wildlife rehabilitation and the welfare of the animals, it would immediately release these animals to the care of the wildlife centre staff.

Ernie Parsons,
Liberal MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings

Wildlife Crisis Looming

Thursday Feb. 6, 2003  Nepean This Week  

Derek Dunn - Editor

Written by:  Eric Snyder

As Nepean This Week points out, the loss of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre will have a major impact on our community. The Centre helped thousands of residents deal with wildlife problems caused by development in a humane way. With spring rapidly approaching, people will be looking for help for orphaned and injured wildlife. Where will they go?

Concerned local organizations and residents, including Liberal MPP, Richard Patten, recently told the City of Ottawa’s Health Committee that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and its senseless regulations and bully-boy tactics are responsible for the loss of this important volunteer service.

Organizations refuted the Ministry’s rationale for the expansion of the high-risk zone to include Ottawa, using the MNR’s own web-site map to show that the cases it portrayed in an attempt to justify the expansion, simply did not exist. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies exposed the MNR’s “depopulation” program in killing 8,000-10,000 animals over the last three years – almost all (99.8%) of them healthy – as an inhumane, costly and unprecedented slaughter.

Most concerning is that MNR’s inhumane regulations, not imposed elsewhere in North America, will disallow responsible rehabilitation in this area, forcing compassionate but ill-equipped residents to care for wildlife, creating more risks for animals and people in the process.

Is this the best the Ontario Government can do?  Conservative MPP, John Baird, should do more than wring his hands and acknowledge the problem. He needs to get his Conservative caucus colleagues to get this fixed! Remember these words of Gandhi Mr. Baird --

“You can judge a society by the way it treats its animals “.  

Eric Snyder
Barrhaven, Ontario

Return the seized animals  

Wednesday, January 29, 2003  The Ottawa Citizen

Written by:  Yasmin Jackson  

I was shocked to learn that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources still has the animals it seized from the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre last summer. As the centre has pointed out, there was absolutely no justification for these animals to be taken in the first place. They were rescued as small babies from within Ottawa where there has never been a case of raccoon rabies; they had been received well before the bogus expansion of the high-risk zone; they were fully vaccinated and had been in care for months beyond any disease incubation period.

It was particularly distressing to hear that these animals are being kept in a government research facility and that they have been separated from one another in contravention of basic humane rehabilitation standards. What a disgrace.

I call on Tory MPPs in this area to do the decent thing and ensure that these animals are returned to the area wildlife rehabilitators for proper care.

Wildlife Chasing Can Spread Diseases

Thursday, January 23, 2003  The Ottawa Citizen

Written by:  Sandra Bauer

It is heartening that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is considering adjusting its regulations so that the Ottawa Carleton Wildlife Centre may be able to re-open its doors to all species in need before the spring onslaught (Wildlife centre hopes to rise 'from ashes', January 17, 2003). A significant component of the "due diligence" to which Chris Davies refers in his desire to rid the province of rabies, however, remains overdue. Under Ontario's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA) the MNR permits people to chase wildlife across the landscape for "sport": wildlife that includes species that carry rabies and other diseases. Packs of excited radio-collared dogs may be used to pursue animals across considerable distances, well beyond the 1km that wildlife rehabilitation centres are confined to when they need to transport and release injured or rehabilitated wildlife.

If the Ministry is serious about due diligence, they must amend the FWCA to disallow the recreational chasing of wildlife. If they refuse, then they must reinstate wildlife rehabilitation centres' ability to humanely relocate their animals. The Ministry of Natural Resources simply can't have it both ways.

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