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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


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.


Media Release

Partnership between charities and plant-based businesses helps farm animals on Giving Tuesday

Vancouver – A unique partnership between two charities and 26 plant-based businesses in Metro Vancouver is raising funds to help farm animals on Giving Tuesday, December 3rd. Giving Tuesday, which follows Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is the biggest charitable giving day of the year.

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) and The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary have partnered with a variety of local businesses offering vegan, vegetarian or cruelty-free products and services to raise $15,000. The money will be used to help rescued farm animals at the sanctuary and to support VHS’s Veg Outreach program, which promotes a plant-based diet and cruelty-free living.

The 26 businesses participating are offering a percentage of sales on Giving Tuesday or direct donations to support the campaign. VHS and The Happy Herd are encouraging the public to support the businesses or to make direct donations. Funds will be split between the two charities.

“It’s a great way to help farm animals right now and in the future,” said VHS development coordinator Claire Yarnold.  “We’re grateful to these generous businesses who want to make a better world for farm animals.”

Diane Marsh, co-founder of The Happy Herd, said: “It is truly amazing that so many companies and individuals can come together to help us help these wonderful animals who give so much love in return.”

Donations to the campaign can be made by calling 604 266 9744 or by visiting the campaign web page.


Media Release

Most Canadians are against rodeo so why is it being celebrated at the Grey Cup?

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling on the Canadian Football League (CFL) to cancel a rodeo being held as part of this year’s Grey Cup Festival in Calgary.  The call comes as a new poll shows that a majority of Canadians are opposed to rodeo. The poll, by Research Co., found that almost three-in-five Canadians (59%) are opposed to using animals in rodeos, with only 34 per cent in favour.  Even in Alberta, 49 per cent of residents oppose rodeo, according to the poll.

“The Grey Cup Festival is a national event, supposedly representing Canadian culture and values,” said VHS spokesperson Peter Fricker, “So why is the CFL including a rodeo, which most Canadians oppose?”

Fricker added that the public outrage at the deaths of six horses at this year’s Calgary Stampede and the Stampede’s long history of controversy over animal deaths and cruelty made it hard to understand why the CFL would associate itself with rodeo.

“It seems tone-deaf for the CFL to link Canadian football to rodeo at the league’s premiere event,” he said.

VHS has launched a campaign asking the public to urge the CFL to drop the rodeo from its Grey Cup plans.


Media Release

Vancouver Humane Society calls on CFL to drop rodeo from Grey Cup celebrations

Vancouver – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling on the Canadian Football League (CFL) to drop plans to hold a rodeo as part of this year’s Grey Cup Festival in Calgary.

“After the public outrage at the deaths of six horses at this year’s Calgary Stampede and the Stampede’s long history of controversy over animal deaths and cruelty, it’s hard to understand why the CFL would associate itself with rodeo,” said VHS spokesman Peter Fricker.

Fricker pointed to polling that shows a majority of Canadians (63%) are opposed to rodeo, as are virtually all animal welfare organizations.

“As the Grey Cup is a national event, including a rodeo is clearly unrepresentative of Canadian values and interests,” Fricker said.  “People in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, where CFL attendance has been in decline, have little interest in rodeos.”  He noted that Vancouver banned rodeos in 2006.

Fricker said the CFL should look to the example of the National Basketball Association and the Toronto Raptors, which marketed family-friendly entertainment to a diverse and inclusive audience that represented modern Canadian values.

“It seems tone-deaf for the CFL to link Canadian football to rodeo at the league’s premiere event,” he said.

VHS has launched a campaign asking the public to urge the CFL to drop the rodeo from its Grey Cup plans.


Media Release

Chuckwagon race is a national disgrace says Vancouver Humane Society


The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is calling on the Calgary Stampede to cancel next year’s chuckwagon race after three more horses died in the event on the last day of the Stampede. A total of six horses have died in this year’s event.

A horse died in the race last year and more than 65 chuckwagon horses have died at the Stampede since 1986.

“This is a national disgrace,” said VHS spokesman Peter Fricker. “Horses die virtually every year in this event. The chuckwagon race clearly puts horses at undue risk of injury and death.”

VHS is calling on the Stampede to cancel the race and set up a panel of independent experts to review the event to determine if it can be made safer. Fricker said companies that sponsor the race should withdraw their support until this happens.

VHS says the Stampede rodeo should also eliminate calf-roping and steer-wrestling, which it says cause the animals fear, pain and stress for the sake of entertainment.