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The World is a Stage

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Would you do something that costs nothing? Would you help Authorized Wildlife Custodians like me, Donna Attridge and Ute Stepson from Tillsonburg, and others across the province, who help wildlife?

We are volunteers under the Ministry of Natural Resource’s and Forestry (MNRF), who give us lots of rules and regulations and nothing else, including respect or thanks for all the time, effort and big bucks to rescue, rehabilitate and release orphaned or injured wildlife.

Many rehabbers over the years have quit because of the problems with the MNRF. One big problem is that we have no right of appeal. That means the MNRF can say or do anything they wish to us and if we don’t do it they could fine us or take away our authorization. We don’t really know what they can do, because we don’t seem to operate on the same rules or policies but more on what our representatives decide to do. Problem is there is no set up in the MNRF for us to appeal the decision.

If you are a hunter and buy a licence for $20-$30 to kill animals and they say or do something to you, you have the right to appeal the decisions within the MNRF. Not us, we are authorized to save animals and there is no structure in the MNRF to appeal. We would have to hire a lawyer and go to court.

Example: An OSPCA officer recently called the MNRF, as they were needed to confiscate animals from a home in London and there was a six-month-old, big, fully-loaded skunk there. The MNRF did not respond. The officer called me. I sent an email to my rep noting that I would help by picking it up and bringing back to my facility, Skunk Haven. The next day I did that. Late afternoon with skunk safely here, I read an email written - before the skunk was seen by anyone - that I was to put it down.

I asked for time to try an assess the skunk. No email was returned, so I had the weekend to try and get it to adjust to a new person and environment. It acted strangely for a skunk who had been in a home with at least one person, presumable more, as well as other animals. More info then came in that made me realize why it was not responding as I thought. It had been kept in a small bathroom, in a cat carry cage and let out to run about the bathroom. It had to use its cage for its bathroom as well. He was terrified.

A dog or cat being moved to a new environment can take 6-8 weeks to start acting more normal. After four days Pacer had progressed a bit. He was eating a better diet, been dewormed and allowed me to give little pets/scratches. If I attempted anything more, especially in daylight, I was in the sights of the skunk's firing mechanism! I moved very slowly. There were things I need to examine on him but being fully loaded precluded taking the chance.

I received another email to put Pacer down. I was still uncertain as to whether the skunk could be eventually be released or become an educational animal, which were the only alternatives to euthanasia. I wasn’t given enough time and felt I must comply to the directive, but asked if I could offer a veterinarian from National Wildlife Centre the opportunity of examining Pacer before euthanasia, and necropsy after, so something could at least be learned from his death.

Waiting for that reply allowed Pacer the 24 hours he needed to show a change. He came out of his cage on his own, to me in daylight to have his food! Part of his yellow and orange stripe was turning white which signifies a physical or stress chance toward normal! I immediately contacted my rep to ask if we could use him for education. I contacted a rehabber who was very willing to spend the money to descent, neuter and spend a lot of time working with Pacer so that he could live and have a purpose in life. The MNRF would need to do nothing but issue a permit, and look at a page of educational gigs the animal would do at the end of the next year. 'No. Put him down.'

There were reasons of course, criteria the rehabbers had never seen or heard of before. In my opinion, not theirs, only mine, they did not apply to Pacer being an educational animal. But because I had no right to appeal this decision, not complying would risk a fine or loss of my authorization. So after one week of being rescued, Pacer was killed humanely at a veterinarians.

I asked for the rules and policies involved, understanding that there would be much more to consider depending on the species, the rehabber and situations but I was denied the basic information.

Word got out about Pacer and suddenly CBC News and the Globe and Mail are interested in the plight of rehabbers with the MNRF. Questions are being asked which I hope will lead to talks, that will allow us to work together with respect. To do so we have to get the MNRF to listen. To do that we could use that free present from you to help us. The more people who ask them to listen and help us, the better chance we have to make it happen. If you wish you can refer to this article.

So if you could send one email to all the following or phone Ernie Hardeman ernie.hardeman@pc.ola.org 519-537-5222; Minister of MNRF Katherine McGarry, 519-623-5852 minister.mnr@ontario.ca; and Premier Wynne kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org it would be greatly appreciated and slow down the compassion fatigue! Thank you. 

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