For Immediate Release
Alta Vista Animal Hospital

Veterinarians do not want to euthanize healthy wildlife

OTTAWA, June 10, 2004 – Staff at the Alta Vista Animal Hospital (AVAH) want to make it clear to the public that they do not want to euthanize healthy wildlife.

Under current wildlife regulations, members of the public who find orphaned wildlife have two equally unfortunate legal options.  They can leave the animal to die or they can take it to an animal shelter or veterinarian for euthanasia.  When faced with these choices, many compassionate people are choosing to attempt to raise the wild animal themselves.  This situation is of great concern to the veterinary community.

A recent media release stated that the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) is forced by provincial law to euthanize sick, injured and orphaned wild animals. Urging that animals not be brought into the shelter, Bruce Roney, executive director of the OHS indicated that healthy wildlife will be turned away and referred to a veterinarian.  “Our message to the public is if there are juveniles and people are picking them up, then take them to your vet, because it’s not our job to do that for the public”.

However, area veterinarians do not believe in euthanizing these healthy animals either. Dr. Dan Rodgers, a veterinarian at AVAH, stressed that “Animal care professionals work hard to save animals.  Having to turn away compassionate people looking for help for an orphaned baby squirrel or rabbit or being expected to euthanize these healthy animals is having a devastating impact on our staff”.   Dr. Shannon Gowland at AVAH states, “We have parents with their children bringing wildlife to our clinic, asking for our help.  These concerned citizens see raising these animals themselves as the only available alternative to euthanasia.  But wild animals should not be raised by untrained members of the public since there are potentially serious risks involved for the animals and for the people trying to save them.  This places veterinarians in a very difficult situation.” 

New regulations imposed by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources that make it impossible to provide responsible or humane help for wildlife has meant the elimination of many wildlife rehabilitation programs across the province. Nowhere has the loss been felt as much as in eastern Ontario with the closure of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre (OCWC) after 15 years in operation. The Centre cared for upwards of 1,200 orphaned and injured wild mammals and assisted close to 6,000 area residents in resolving wildlife problems each year.  A network of wildlife experts, veterinarians and highly trained volunteers worked as a team to provide medical care, rehabilitation and release services for these animals.

Alta Vista Animal Hospital and several other area clinics provided professional assistance to the Centre in what was a unique community partnership that greatly benefited wildlife and the public seeking help on their behalf.  “It is very difficult, after years of having had such a progressive service for wildlife in eastern Ontario, to now have to turn animals and people away”, says Dr. Rodgers.

While in Opposition, the Liberal government made a commitment to review the regulations restricting wildlife rehabilitation.  Petitions have been presented from over 9,000 residents in 260 communities across the province urging changes that would allow the return of a humane wildlife response. “Veterinarians can effectively provide help for injured or orphaned wild animals by working as a team with  experienced, licensed rehabilitators who use accepted standards for the care and release of wildlife”, states Dr. Gowland.  “The current Ministry of Natural Resources regulations must be changed so that we can bring back our Wildlife Centre and provide responsible care for the wild animals who desperately need our help.”

Contact: Dr. Dan Rodgers
             Alta Vista Animal Hospital
            (613) 731-6851 (business)
            (613) 737-0315 (home)

            Dr. Shannon Gowland
            Alta Vista Animal Hospital
            (613) 731-6851 (business)
            (613) 327-6884 (cell)