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Media Release

VHS joins Humane Canada as associate member

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is pleased to announce that it has become an associate member of Humane Canada™, Canada’s federation of humane societies and SPCAs.

VHS is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. Since 1984, the society has encouraged individuals, organizations, and governments to take responsibility for the welfare and rights of domestic animals and wildlife influenced by human activities. VHS also provides funding for veterinary assistance for people and their pets who are in need.

 “We are thrilled to become an associate member of Humane Canada,” says Amy Morris, VHS’s Executive Director. “We know that the best changes for animals happen through communication and collaboration and Humane Canada uniquely convenes the animal protection sector in Canada. Now we can be assured that our local advocacy and programs will have a bigger impact!”

“We are excited to welcome Vancouver Humane Society as a new associate,” says Barbara Cartwright, CEO of Humane Canada. “This demonstrates the trust that animal welfare groups put in our organization, and it also means we can do more together as we work to develop a more humane country for all animals.”

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Media Release

Undercover video shows dogs chained, pacing at Whistler sled dog kennel

Vancouver – Video taken by animal advocates and provided to the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) allegedly shows sled dogs being held in cages and on chains in a barren yard at a kennel operated by Blackcomb Dogsled, a Whistler-based sled dog tour company.

The dogs in the video, seen here, are showing stereotypic behaviour, which is a purposeless repetitive action indicating psychological suffering. The dogs can be seen pacing back and forth in cages and repeatedly running in circles around the posts they are chained to.

“No dog should have to live like this,” said VHS projects and communications director Peter Fricker. “The dogs in the video are being denied the freedom to engage in normal behaviours, including socializing with other dogs or with human companions.”

VHS is launching a campaign calling on the B.C. government to update the provincial Sled Dog Standards of Care Regulation to conform to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations, which states that: “Tethering of dogs (i.e., chains or ropes used to tie the dog to an immoveable object such as a stake or building) is not allowable as a method of confining a dog to a primary enclosure, nor as the only means of containment.” 

The Kennel Code also requires that: “Dogs are housed in such a way as to allow them to display natural behaviours, to socialize with or without other species of animals and humans, as appropriate, and to protect public safety.”

Fricker said the conditions shown in the video are not uncommon in sled dog operations across Canada and are not illegal. “These conditions are deplorable, yet there is nothing in the law to protect sled dogs from being treated this way.” He said VHS is urging the public to boycott sled dog tours.

B.C.’s Sled Dog Standards of Care Regulation, introduced after the infamous 2010 killing of 56 sled dogs in Whistler, still allows dogs to be tethered for up to 23 hours a day. The standards also allow sled dog tour companies in B.C. to shoot surplus sled dogs, provided the operator has “made reasonable efforts to rehome the sled dog, but those efforts have been unsuccessful” and the operator follows certain guidelines.

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Contact Peter Fricker: 604 603 5401

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Media Release

Have you experienced the loss of a pet due to surrender or seizure?

Humane society researching how animal service agencies can help at-risk populations

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) wants to hear from people who have experienced the loss of a pet due to surrender or seizure by an animal service agency. VHS is researching ways animal service agencies can better serve at-risk communities, including addressing cases in which people have had to give up a pet or have had the animal removed from their care.

“Unfortunately, the current way that animal services operate is not necessarily sensitive to trauma that people may have experienced, which can be triggered by fear, judgment, and stigma that often occurs when services are provided to at-risk communities,” explained Celeste Morales, VHS’s Lead Researcher. “Through this research we hope to hear from people who have gone through the surrender or seizure of their pet in order to understand how animal service agencies can better provide services to those in similar situations, and to provide tools to support these agencies in combatting the cycle of re-traumatization.”

The research project, titled ‘Taking a Trauma-Informed, Decolonized Approach to Address Animal Neglect Within At-Risk Canadian Populations,’ is in partnership with Thompson Rivers University. The project, which is being funded by the Government of British Columbia, aims to improve the ways services are delivered in the animal services sector.

“If you have experience with the loss of a pet through surrender or seizure, we invite you to be a part of this project,” said Morales. “Your participation would include a one-hour interview and you will receive a one-time payment of $50 CAD for your time.”

To learn more about the project, visit: https://vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/participate-in-research/. Those interested in participating in this study or who have questions about the research can contact VHS’s Lead Researcher Celeste Morales at celeste@vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca or at 236-521-7742.

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Media Release

New project launched to help homeless women and their pets

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has joined with the North Shore Crisis Services Society (NSCSS) to launch the first partnership of its kind in a project designed to help women and pets in crisis.

The project, funded in part by a $30,000 grant from PetSmart Charities® of Canada and a $9,000 grant from North Shore Community Foundation, will help homeless and loosely housed women who face barriers to accessing housing and support because they have pets. Many support facilities do not have the knowledge or capacity to address the animal health issues that come with housing pets.

The project will provide funding for preventative and urgent veterinary costs for pets, ensuring they are in good health and not a risk to human health. This could include medical treatments; flea, tick and deworming treatment; vaccinations and health checks.

“Women with companion animals have more difficulty finding housing,” said VHS executive director Amy Morris. “By ensuring their pets are in good health this project will allow homeless women to meet the requirements of housing and support social service agencies with concerns about taking in animals.”

Morris said that, under the partnership, NSCSS’s eligible clients would be able to apply to VHS for funding to pay for veterinary care and other support for their pets. VHS expects the project will add more partners in the coming months, offering more help to homeless women and their animals.

Laura Reynolds, Executive Director at NSCSS said: “North Shore Crisis Services Society provides safe and secure housing to abused women and their children. Pets can often be used as a means of control by an abusive partner, and we are grateful for this opportunity to partner with VHS to enhance our support for women, their children and their pets.”

“Far too often women living in unsafe situations face barriers when searching for pet-friendly transitional housing,” said Dani LaGiglia, regional relationship manager at PetSmart Charities of Canada. “We are proud to support these efforts that ensure women and pets in Vancouver can transition to safety together.”

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Media Release

Has COVID-19 made life harder for pets and their guardians?

Research project will examine the impact of the pandemic on people and their pets to learn how they can be helped to deal with future disasters

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) and Dalhousie University are launching a joint research project to identify hardships faced by people and their pets as a result of COVID-19 and to find ways to protect them in the event of similar emergencies in future.

“Anecdotally, we know the pandemic has made life difficult for both people and their animals,” said VHS executive director Amy Morris. “People are struggling to pay vet bills. Veterinary services have been under strain. People are being faced with the decision of having to give up or euthanize their four-legged companions, who are serving as their mental health supports. We want to prevent this from happening in future.”

Morris said research has shown that the human-animal bond is important to the health of both people and their animal companions. The joint research project will examine how the pandemic has affected that bond and what measures could be taken to make it more resilient. This could include improving access to social, health and veterinary services for pet owners in crisis.

Dr. Haorui Wu, Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at Dalhousie University, said the research could lead to better support for people and their animals facing adversity. “Healthy human-animal bonds play a vital role in strengthening the resilience capacities of pet guardians and their animals, to prepare for, respond to, adapt to, and recover from extreme events.”

The project is being funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Engage Grants.

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Media Release

Vancouver Humane Society calls for investigation into animal care at Greater Vancouver Zoo

Call follows euthanization of moose and allegations of poor animal care

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) says disturbing images of an emaciated moose at the Greater Vancouver Zoo and allegations of poor animal care should be investigated by the BC SPCA.

The moose, which has now been euthanized by the zoo, appeared to be emaciated in photos posted online by a zoo visitor. Subsequent media reports included allegations of poor animal care by an individual claiming to be a former zoo employee.

“The photos of the moose were very disturbing,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker, “but equally troubling are allegations that animals at the zoo have not been receiving adequate care and that a number have recently died.” He said the zoo should publicly report all animal deaths.

Fricker said the allegations should be investigated by the BC SPCA using independent veterinary experts rather than veterinarians paid by the zoo.

VHS is encouraging the former zoo employee to make a confidential report to the BC SPCA.

VHS recently released a report that called on the zoo to improve conditions for its animals, stating undersized and barren enclosures are preventing animals from engaging in natural behaviours.

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Media Release

Thought-provoking billboard urges Vancouverites to “Go Veg”

New Vancouver Humane Society ad campaign promotes kindness to all animals

Media release
July 23, 2020

Vancouver – A striking new billboard in downtown Vancouver is encouraging Vancouverites to treat farmed animals with the same compassion as other animals by transitioning to a plant-based diet. The billboard is part of The Vancouver Humane Society’s (VHS) new Go Veg campaign.

The billboard, which shows the faces of a cow and a dog with near-identical markings, states: “Animals are the same in all the ways that matter” and urges people to “Be kind to every kind.”

“Farmed animals are thinking, feeling beings, with complex emotional lives – just like the pets we open our homes and hearts to,” said VHS campaign director Emily Pickett. “They suffer greatly under today’s industrial animal agriculture system. Our Go Veg billboard calls on society to recognize that animals, regardless of the label they are given – farmed or companion – are the same in all the ways that matter.”

Pickett said that, in 2019, more than 830 million land animals were raised and slaughtered for food in Canada. “Our overconsumption of animal products has led to the rise of the industrial animal agriculture system, characterized by large numbers of animals confined in cramped, barren and unnatural environments and subject to painful procedures, lengthy transport journeys and frightening slaughter conditions.”

The billboard ad will run in select locations in Vancouver throughout the summer. In addition, VHS is running ads in 24 Vancouver condo buildings, also promoting a plant-based diet.

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Vancouver Humane Society billboard near the intersection of Georgia & Richards in Vancouver.
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Media Release

Vancouver Humane Society says horse carriage rides in Stanley Park are unsafe

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is commenting on the controversy over the traffic problem caused in Stanley Park by horse-drawn carriages. The society says the carriages not only create a risk to public safety but also compromise the horses’ welfare.

This week, the operator of the carriage horse rides was quoted in media stating that conducting rides under a new traffic configuration in the park was an “accident waiting to happen.” 

But VHS points out that a near-disastrous incident involving a runaway carriage took place in 2016, when spooked horses left the roadway and came close to falling off the seawall.

“The horse carriages have always been an accident waiting to happen, whatever the traffic arrangement in the park,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker. “Now is the opportunity for the City to listen to local residents and prioritize safety, ensuring the increase in cycle traffic is adequately accommodated.”

Fricker said the current temporary arrangement, which provides one lane for motorists and another for cyclists might be a reasonable compromise but putting horse carriages in the mix appears unworkable. “If the new traffic pattern gives much-needed access to the park to both motorists and cyclists, it would be a shame to scrap it because of one business putting public and animal safety at risk unnecessarily.”

VHS opposes carriage horse rides in the city because of the dangers of the horses’ close proximity to traffic, the exposure to noise and pollution and long hours standing in all weather conditions.

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Media Release

Invite elephants and gorillas into your living room

Vancouver – Finding things to do for kids can be a challenge for parents in these days of social distancing. The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is offering help with a new wildlife resource guide that allows families to visit gorillas in the jungle and whales at the bottom of the sea with just a click of a mouse.

The guide, available on the society’s website, offers kids a chance to see and learn about wild animals in their natural habitats through live webcams, phone apps, quizzes and lesson plans – all without going to a zoo or aquarium.

“We’ve put the best wildlife viewing and learning resources we could find in one easy-to-use guide,” says VHS executive director Amy Morris. “Kids can learn much more about animals by seeing them in the wild instead of in cages or tanks, where their ability to engage in natural behaviours is severely limited.”

The guide has links to Canadian and international wildlife resources, allowing kids to see baby eagles hatch, orcas rub along the bottom of the sea or elephants being cared for in a sanctuary.

“We hope families using the guide will see that it’s a better and more ethical way to learn about wildlife than visiting zoos and aquariums where wild animals are bred into captivity and never released,” says Morris. “The best part of these resources is that the animals get all the enrichment they need – social time, foraging for food and so much more.”

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Media Release

Report says Greater Vancouver Zoo failing animals

Vancouver – A report commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling on the Greater Vancouver Zoo (GVZ) to improve conditions for its animals and to move away from keeping animals unsuited to B.C.’s climate.

The report, commissioned from Zoocheck, found that many animals at the zoo are living in barren, under-sized cages and enclosures that restrict them from engaging in natural behaviours. The report also says the zoo does not provide adequate behavioural enrichment for the animals. (Behavioural enrichment involves providing animals with a stimulating environment that allows natural activities such as climbing, foraging or digging and also creates physical and cognitive tasks that simulate challenges animals would find in their natural environment.) The report notes these issues were identified in previous reports but little has changed.

“Captivity is never good for animals but the Greater Vancouver Zoo could at least provide animals with enclosures that allow them enough space and stimulation to avoid enduring lives of unrelenting boredom and frustration,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker. “These problems need to be addressed urgently. In the longer term, the zoo needs to stop keeping captive animals for entertainment and move toward being a sanctuary for native wildlife.”

The report is also critical of the zoo’s giraffe enclosure, describing it as unchanged since a 2003 report described it as “barren and lacking in any stimulation for the animals to engage in natural behaviours.” The report states that giraffes are not suited to B.C.s climate and suggests the zoo consider constructing a new, larger and climate-controlled enclosure or relocating the giraffes to a more species-appropriate facility elsewhere.

The report cites the zoo’s raptor exhibit (holding kestrels, owls, hawks, etc.) as an example of an under-sized enclosure that denies natural behaviours, stating: “There was little or no ability for the birds to engage in flight.”

“It seems bizarre to have to tell the zoo that birds need to fly,” said Fricker, “but sadly that’s what they need to hear.”

The report also found that:

Reptiles in the zoo’s vivarium are being kept in “very restricted circumstances” with “minimal” space in some of the exhibits. Most of the reptiles were “inactive” and some demonstrated repetitive behaviours, indicating lack of stimulation.

The hippopotamus enclosure is “barren, lacking any vegetation and or enrichment elements” and the indoor holding facility is “small and not suitable for the permanent keeping of these animals…”

The zoo’s lone red fox should be found a companion or be rehomed to a facility that can meet its social requirements.

Squirrel monkeys and coatimundi are in small enclosure and should be moved to more appropriate accommodation.

The zoo suffers from excessive groundwater (water-logging), which has led to muddy enclosures and standing water in some areas.

The report recommends:

That the zoo develop a comprehensive environmental/behavioural enrichment program for all its animals.

That the zoo stop keeping animals that aren’t suited to B.C.’s climate and those it cannot accommodate in a way that “satisfies their physical, psychological and social needs…”.

That inadequate, undersized cages and enclosures be enlarged or removed.

The full report can be seen here.

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