OTTAWA, May 7, 2003 – A call by the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre (OCWC) yesterday for a public inquiry into the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) mismanagement of wildlife rehabilitation in the province has taken on a new sense of urgency. 


According to an investigative report to be released this week by the Kanata Kourier-Standard, a source with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has revealed that raccoons seized from the OCWC last September have been released in the rabies hot zone in southeastern Ontario. The CFIA works closely with the MNR on rabies issues.


According to the article, to be published on Friday, the animals were released near Prescott in the township of Edwardsburgh-Cardinal. A separate report released yesterday  by the Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit confirmed three new cases of raccoon rabies during April in the same area that the MNR released the Ottawa animals last week.


“This is outrageous and defies reason,” says Donna DuBreuil, President of the OCWC. “The MNR has taken animals from Ottawa where there has never been a case of raccoon rabies, held them in quarantine in the most inhumane of circumstances to ensure they are rabies-free, just to drop them into the center of the province’s raccoon rabies hot zone.”


The MNR has also released these animals – 34 raccoons and three skunks – into an area where it is currently conducting “depopulation”, the highly controversial practice of trapping and euthanizing all raccoons in an area where the disease has been identified. Over the past three years, the MNR has killed about 7,200 raccoons and about 1,100 skunks in southeastern Ontario as part of its “depopulation” activities.


“The Ministry seized these animals in the first place reportedly to ensure that they did not have rabies even though the OCWC had vaccinated them against the disease. The Ministry then held them for a further seven months in quarantine and, in the end, released them at ground zero for rabies, where they will likely be trapped and killed. This is unconscionable,” says Debbie Lawes, an OCWC board member.  “It confirms our worse suspicions. Not only has the Ministry violated its own strictly-enforced regulation that wildlife be returned to within one kilometer of where found, in this case Ottawa, but it has acted in the most unethical manner possible,” adds Lawes.


The OCWC is pressing the government for an immediate investigation into the Ministry of Natural Resources.