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Burmese python seized from Chilliwack home by B.C. conservation officers

Burmese python seized from Chilliwack home by B.C. conservation officers

The snake, one of the largest in the world, is illegal to possess in British Columbia

“Conservation officers have seized a nearly three-metre-long Burmese python from a home in Chilliwack.”

While this particular species of snake is illegal to keep in B.C., MANY other wild and exotic species are, in fact, legal to keep as pets. But wild and exotic animals, whether wild-caught or captive-bred, retain their complex social, physiological and behavioural needs that they would have in the wild. As a result, they can experience significant suffering when kept as pets.

The VHS has been calling on the B.C. government for better protections for wild and exotic animals. Add your name in support!

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Vancouver Humane Society responds to red panda breeding program: “Not about conservation”

Paprika the red panda meets her mate at the Greater Vancouver Zoo | CBC News

The Greater Vancouver Zoo is trying to breed more red pandas, however the Vancouver Humane Society said the program keeps mammals in captivity, while not immediately benefiting animals in the wild.

The Vancouver Humane Society has weighed in on the planned breeding of red pandas at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in a new article from the CBC.

The breeding is part of a “Species Survival Plan”, a program by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) which maintains captive animal populations at AZA facilities. Zoo officials comment that captive bred red pandas could be reintroduced back into the wild “if needed”.

However, the program does not immediately benefit animals in the wild.

Chantelle Archambault, Communications Director for the Vancouver Humane Society, said the organization is disappointed to see the zoo bringing in another red panda for breeding. 

“We know the program brings a lot of financial benefit to the zoo, but the cost of that is there’s more animals who will spend their entire lives in captivity in a foreign and unfamiliar environment that can’t meet all their needs,” said Archambault. 

“Breeding exotic animals halfway around the world to be kept in a zoo their whole life is not about conservation,” she said. 

The two red pandas born at the Greater Vancouver Zoo in June 2022, Maple and Mei Mei, have since been moved to other zoos in Canada.

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Greater Vancouver Zoo plans to breed red pandas again

New red panda, ‘Paprika,’ arrives at Greater Vancouver Zoo

A new red panda has arrived at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. Named “Paprika,” the new critter is being brought in as a partner for another red panda, Arun.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo is once again planning to breed red pandas a continent away from their native habitat. Without a reintroduction plan in place, they will spend their entire lives in captivity.

“‘This important introduction is a part of our species survival plan for Red Pandas and will hopefully lead to future little Red Panda cubs! (we hope ??),’ the zoo said on Facebook.”

The two red pandas born at the zoo in 2022, Maple and Mei Mei, were moved to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Manitoba and Zoo de Granby in Quebec.

Captivity and conservation are not the same thing. Here are a few questions to ask to find out if a conservation program helps wildlife.

  1. Does it make a tangible difference for animals in the wild?
  2. Does it protect natural habitats and/or address the threats species face in the wild?
  3. Does it support the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native wildlife in their natural habitats?
  4. If captive breeding occurs, is there a plan in place to reintroduce animals into their native habitats when they are old enough to survive in the wild?

The Vancouver Humane Society is calling for meaningful changes to prevent the suffering of animals in captivity.

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Follow up: Speaking up for wild animals in captivity

Over the past few years, the VHS has called for changes to B.C.’s regulations on wild animals in captivity. All B.C. residents can help by raising this issue with their MLA in a call or meeting.

You don’t need to be an expert to make an impact. Instead, what’s important is that they hear why this issue matters to you. You can ask them to raise the issue, along with the VHS’s recommendations, with the B.C. Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship.

Provincial decision-makers have previously noted that the regulations for animals in captivity are due for review, without a timeline for action. The VHS has provided clear recommendations for how the regulations need to be updated to better protect animal welfare, but action continues to be delayed and animals continue to suffer as a result.

The VHS will continue to advocate for wild and exotic animals in captivity.

Can you help by engaging with your MLA on to help protect animals? To find your MLA’s contact information, head to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia website and enter your postal code.

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Short on time? Use the quick email tool to send a message to your MLA today!

Wild and exotic animals in captivity

B.C.’s outdated wild and exotic animal captivity regulations allow for many species to be kept as pets or in captive facilities, despite the difficulty in meeting their complex physical and psychological needs. Numerous incidents in recent years at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, including the escape of wolves from the zoo in the summer of 2022 which tragically resulted in the death of one wolf, reiterate the urgent need for updating the province’s regulations.

Recommendations on animals in captivity
“Think about the worst thing you think could happen to an animal in Canada … I guarantee that what’s out there is a thousand times worse.”
Rob Laidlaw, Zoocheck founder
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The VHS was recently joined by Zoocheck founder Rob Laidlaw to share his decades of experience advocating for the well-being of animals. Read or listen to the discussion on the VHS’s exclusive podcast, The Informed Animal Ally.

Learn more about captivity laws & practices

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Podcast: Captivity laws and practices in Canada

Wild and exotic animals in captivity are confined to spaces thousands of times smaller than their natural home ranges.

Deprived of the ability to exhibit their natural behaviours, many can be seen pacing, licking the bars of their cage, huddling in corners, and languishing in boredom. In this month’s episode of The Informed Animal Ally’s series on animal cruelty, animal advocate, award-winning writer, and Zoocheck founder Rob Laidlaw joins the Vancouver Humane Society’s Amy Morris and Chantelle Archambault to discuss the issues wild animals face in captivity and what can be done to help them.

Take quick action for animals in captivity

Note: This written interview has been edited for length.

Founder of Zoocheck

Rob has spent more than 40 years working to protect the interests and well-being of animals in Canada and around the world. He is a chartered biologist, founder of the wildlife protection organization Zoocheck, an award-winning author and a winner of the Frederic A. McGrand Lifetime Achievement Award for substantial contributions to animal welfare in Canada.

History of animal advocacy

Amy: Could you share a little bit of your background working with the wildlife and what drew you to this?

Rob: It’s a bit of a long story, but I’ll try to give you the abbreviated version.

When I was a child in public school, I was always the kid that read every book in the library on animals, on conservation, on nature, and all related subject matter. That was sort of the first manifestation of my interest in animals. That dates back as far as I can remember.

I also did something else. I started writing letters. I’d read in some of these books and other materials about these organizations, most of them in Europe, like Beauty Without Cruelty and Compassion in World Farming; some of the groups that have been around for decades and decades. I would write away to them for information about animal issues. I did this for a number of years and continued reading. My interest in animals grew and grew and grew, and I’m also very interested in science.

Then I went to see The Animals Film, which was done by a producer out of New York City. It was the first time on film where you had basically a cataloging of images of what humans do to animals, and some of it was absolutely horrific stuff. And if you remember that, you know when that film started showing the internet wasn’t available, so you couldn’t just get on the internet and see all the stuff that you do today. Animals and farms and laboratories and circuses and all those things. This was all new to people and people actually vomited and left the theater that I saw this in. It had a really profound effect on people.

At the end of this film, they had a group called the Northern Animal Liberation League. It’s a UK group that assembled large groups of people, and they would take photos. That kind of action is in the news just recently here in Canada. I thought that was a very compelling call to action for me.

So when I left the theater, I thought, Okay, I know all this stuff. I’ve been writing about it. I’ve read all these books since I was a kid. I’ve got this good base of knowledge, but that doesn’t help. I’ve got to do something.

So I started looking around for something to do, and there were no advocacy groups, except a few very that had been around for many years where the discussion was at the level of, are we gonna have popcorn at the next fundraiser? It wasn’t about issues.

So I started doing my own investigations into animal abuse, not knowing where they would lead. I did a number of different things. I found a few people; we got a lot of exposes in the newspaper.

And then a fellow came up in the early eighties. He was somebody who had done very large mass events for the peace movement throughout the United States, and he had become interested in animals and he was setting up this organization for one purpose: to one year from that point where he held the first meeting in Toronto, to set up and carry out this very large protest for the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. And it was geared towards protesting the use of animals in certain kinds of psychological research.

We built that organization up in Toronto from nothing to 9,000 members in eight months. We had 300 people a month coming for meetings. We ended up doing rallies with 1,000 or 2,000 people.

In 1984, I came across a zoo in Ontario about two hours from Toronto. It was what you would now call a roadside zoo. I didn’t know those things existed, and I had actually bought the propaganda about zoos. I had a discomfort with them, but I thought generally speaking, they were positives. I didn’t know any better.

I visited this zoo and it was horrendous. The animals were living in excrement, literally a metre or two deep. They had been on it so long and they had compacted it into a concrete-like consistency. The cages looked like they had been banged up by a bunch of kids over the weekend who got scrap materials from the dump. It was a horror story.

I inquired at the admission booth when I left about one particular animal, which was a juvenile black bear that was chained by the neck in a small cage. And I said, “Why is that bear in that circumstance?” And they said, “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just temporary. He’s going down the road to another facility.” Well, I said, “Okay, great.” At least it’s temporary.

I visited the zoo he was going to after I left, and it was worse.

And I thought, I really have to do something about this. I don’t care how long it takes, I’m gonna do it.

I thought naively that what I saw at both those facilities were anomalous. Maybe it had been a situation where thousands of people went there, but everybody thought everybody else had complained when nobody had complained. It was that kind of maybe a weird scenario where it somehow, Didn’t get on the radar of the right people.

I was wrong. I found out that places like that were completely unregulated. Nobody knew what was in them. Nobody knew how many there were or anything else.

My initial estimate of trying to tackle this and deal with it was 18 months. It’s 38 years later now.

I never ever dreamed that it would go beyond roadside zoos in Ontario. Now there’s been projects right across the country in the United States, in Europe, Japan, Pakistan, lots of different activities and an expansion into other areas; particularly in Canada into wildlife management issues.

I’m very stubborn. You know, I’m not an Einstein. I don’t have the money of Bill Gates, but the one thing I think I do have in me is tenacity. I’m gonna stick with this until it’s done. And I can honestly say that from that point way back in the old days, that the landscape of wildlife in captivity issues in Canada is now profoundly different.

I’m not saying it’s all because of me or people I’ve been associated with, but we’ve been there the whole time and we’ve had a finger sort of in most of those pieces of the pie doing things and in helping to do things that are effective. So I think that it was probably a good thing to have that trait in me to never give up.

The other thing that goes along with it is I hate to lose. I remember in the early days many of the zoo people would say, “This won’t change. You’ll be gone long before anything ever changes.” And I thought, No, that’s not the case at all. You’ve got to go into these things believing you can win.

It’s been a long, interesting journey. I’ve met a lot of fantastic people, great activists, seeing what’s going on all over the world. I’m not stopping any time soon.

Animal captivity in Canada

Amy: You mentioned like a few different ways that you’ve encountered wildlife and worked on issues such as roadside zoos, and zoos and aquariums in general. What are some of the other ways that wildlife are kept in captivity in Canada and for what reasons?

Rob: Wildlife are kept for a variety of reasons, but there’s a few that that I encounter most frequently. There are other uses of wild animals that I don’t encounter that frequently.

  • Bait industry
  • Research
  • Circuses
  • Novelty acts
  • Public display
  • Exotic pets
  • Mobile zoos
  • Sanctuaries & rescues
  • Government facilities
  • Specialist exhibits

Bait industry

Rob: One example being the bait industry. You know, there is a huge number of animals that are wild species that are used in the bait industry for fishing.

Research

Rob: There are wild animals that are in some laboratories and wild animals that are in a variety of activities, or businesses, or industries.

Entertainment

Rob: But where I encounter them the most is in entertainment.

By entertainment, I would include not only, traditional things that people would think of as entertainment, like circuses and novelty acts, but I would also include public display facilities as well. There’s a big chunk of wildlife that are held and used by entertainment institutions, businesses, and individuals.

Exotic pets

Rob: There are also very significant numbers keeping animals for personal amusement as exotic pets. A lot of people don’t realize that if they have a bird in their house or if they have a reptile in their house, that’s a wild animal. That’s not a domesticated animal. I would say the same for probably the vast majority of fishes as well.

If you include all the individuals that that represents, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and invertebrates, you have huge numbers of wild animals that are here in Canada.

We have a [wildlife trade] industry here in Canada that’s risen in the last 15 years or so quite considerably due to the fact that everybody can have a laptop. You can build a website in a couple of hours and you can acquire wild animals, whether large or small in a few hours as well, sometimes for next to nothing.

Mobile zoos

Rob: And that’s the educational programs in mobile zoos. That’s a whole industry that often has arisen from a hobby or somebody keeping animals for personal amusement into a part-time business. There are some full-time professional businesses that do this as well.

We didn’t see much of that 25 years ago. It hardly existed at all. But now, in Southern Ontario alone, we know of 85.

There’s more across the country. So that’s somewhere else where that we see wild animals in captivity.

Sanctuaries & rescues

Rob: There are other types of facilities that are not public display facilities, namely sanctuaries and rescue centers. There are a number of them that keep wildlife in captivity.

Government facilities

Rob: In Canada, there are some government facilities that keep seals and other animals, small numbers of them for various reasons.

Specialist exhibits

Rob: There are insect zoos in various parts of the country and a lot of these specialist types of exhibits.

When you look at what’s out there in Canada in terms of wild animals in captivity, it’s largely off the radar of most people and generally most policy makers too. But the numbers out there are not inconsequential. If you include exotic pets, there are probably millions of individuals out there that need help.

Needs of animals in captivity

African penguins huddle around the door of their small enclosure at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Amy: When you say help, what are the biggest challenges with housing wildlife and exotic wildlife, and what are some examples of animals in Canada that are suffering right now under the current laws that we have?

Rob: The first part of your question, what are the problems with with animals? What do they face? It’s difficult to pinpoint one problem because they exist on a continuum from rather minor to very serious.

Usually when you encounter an animal, it’s facing a lot of problems. But I tried to a number of years ago, figure out a way of articulating what animals need; to get people to understand when they’re looking at an animal, what’s deficient in that animal’s life, regardless of the context in which that animal is.

It was partially spurred on by me writing kids’ books. I had to go out and talk to children for the first time in my life. That started in 2009 and I had to be able to tell them, even if they were four or five years old, what do these animals need? What are they going through?

They understood that they needed food, water, shelter. You know, the basic biological needs, the things that they were doing, eating breakfast. They could relate to those things. Even if they were four or five years old, they would get it. But I thought, Okay, what about all those other quality of life areas that are vital to the health and welfare of animals?

I came up with four, and I think they’re scientifically defensible. What I ask people to do when they think of animals in captivity is, think of these four things, understanding, of course, that they need those other things that allow them to function biologically.

Those four things are:

  • Space
  • Freedom
  • Social context
  • Activity/stimulation

Space

Rob: I think that when you look at animals in captivity, wildlife in captivity but also animals in other situations, whether it’s agriculture or laboratories or whatever you see, that they are typically inhabiting spaces that are orders of magnitude smaller than the smallest home ranges that species would ever experience in the wild.

So sometimes that can be hundreds, thousands, millions, or tens of millions of times smaller than what that animal would experience in the wild.

I’ll give you an example. If you look at polar bears, which are the widest ranging terrestrial carnivore on the planet, they can inhabit territories ranging up to about 599,000 square kilometres. Pretty much equivalent to the entire province of Manitoba. If they’re pack ice bears and the pack ice floats around, that’s basically the space the more nomadic individuals inhabit at the lower end of the scale.

The Beaufort Sea Coastal Bears, some of them have home ranges measuring about 2,000-2,400 square kilometres.

The biggest polar bear exhibit in the world is more than 4 million times smaller than the smallest known home for polar bears in the wild.

If you look right across the continuum of species, from mammals to birds, to reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates, all of them, you see that typically that animals are experiencing this massive, massive compression from what they should be in, into something that by comparison is microscopically small.

I think that space is an underrated aspect of captivity. A lot of people will say, “Well, if the space is is high quality or if you enrich the environment or this or that, then you can mitigate the lack of space.” But I say, No, you can’t, because once you reach a certain threshold, it doesn’t matter.

It’s like if you put somebody in an eight foot by 10 foot cell in a prison for the rest of their life. You can pretty up that cell as much as you want. You can put pictures on the walls, you can give them a tv, a new book every day, you can do lots of things. It’s going to make a difference, but at some point it doesn’t make a meaningful difference because the space is just too small.

That, I think, is the case for animals, that you reach a threshold beyond which enrichment and other things that you can do to try to alleviate what that animal is going through don’t make a meaningful difference.

Space, or lack of space, also creates social conflict in many animals. It leads to health issues in many animals. It leads to a whole variety of things that are detrimental to the health and welfare, both physical and psychological, of that animal. So I think space is something that should always be looked at. So many other problems stem from lack of space.

There’s three questions that you ask when you look at space.

  1. Number one, is there enough space for the animal to express normal movements and behaviors? So normal species-typical movements and behaviors. I guarantee you go into any zoo in Canada or pretty much any zoo in Canada, and you’re going to find examples where, no, they can’t do that.
  2. The second question you ask is, is there enough space for animals to feel safe and secure? And there are a variety of stressors on animals; that can be visitors watching them; it can be noise; it can be construction; it can be other animals within the enclosure. You can go in zoos and other situations across Canada where animals don’t have enough space to feel safe and secure. They’re either moving away, sticking their heads in corners away from the visitor viewing stations, or they’re acting out aggressively because they feel stressed. And there’s other manifestations of it depending on the species.
  3. The third question you ask is, what are the consequences of not providing enough space? And we see that manifested through the roof. You know, we see pacing behaviors and other stereotypical behaviors, and many people recognize them, but they may not see, you know, looping and other kinds of locomotory stereotypies, or they may not recognize oral stereotypies. There’s the whole suite of these kinds of aberrant behaviors that manifest in captivity, and they’re linked obviously to space and lack of complexity.

But there are all kinds of other things that animals experience that are detrimental. It can be obesity, it can be loss of fitness. Over generations, it can be loss of culture. There are so many detrimental consequences to animals when they don’t have enough space. And if you know what to look for, you can walk in anywhere and see what those consequences are.

Freedom

Rob: The second one is freedom. I don’t mean we kick them all out into the wild and say, “Here you go, you’ve been in captivity your whole life, off you go. Have fun.”

What I mean is freedom of choice. And this is something that’s articulated and certainly in the academic literature, in the zoo world, that animals have to be given freedom of choice. We are included in there. It’s the way that we make a meaningful contribution to the quality of our own lives.

You know, we take away choice for people in prison. It’s a punishment. Or we give choice; often parents will do this with kids: if you’re good, we’re going to let you choose what to do.

Choice is very important. And when you look at animals, they’re just like us. They wake up in the morning and they make micro choices. Do I walk around that rock? Do I go up that hill? Do I go this way? They make thousands of these micro choices every day

And they make mid-level choices and they make very serious major choices. Like an elephant matriarch during a drought that is leading her family to water because she has that historical memory of the terrain and where water is seasonally. She’s deciding, Okay, I’m going to take my family this way because that’s giving us the best chance of survival.

These choices are how animals enhance the quality of their lives. So when they’re in captivity, you need to give them choice.

A lot of people talk about, well, we give them choice through enrichment. We give them puzzle feeders or this or that or the other thing. That’s all great. But I think that they look at providing choice through enrichment in the wrong way because the way I look at it is that if you need to artificially enrich an animal’s environment, then that automatically means that animal’s environment is deficient.

This ability to make choices is critically important to animals. And you can walk into zoos, you can walk into all kinds of other situations in Canada and see thousands, hundreds of thousands of animals that have very restricted abilities or opportunities to make choices, or in some cases, none at all.

Social context

Rob: The third is social context.

There’s a lot of animals that are not in the proper social context. You get animals that are alone when they should be with a partner, or a family, or a herd, or a troupe, or a pod, but they’re alone. That’s an insidious form of torture, especially if you’ve got animals that are hyper social like primates or parrots or other animals where they basically spend their entire lives in contact with others of their own kind.

Proper social context is important, and it’s just as important for animals that like to be alone, not to be in groups. It does work the other way. We’ve seen animals where there’s a lot of inter individual aggression.

Like Marineland here in Ontario has a bear exhibit that is about a half an acre in size. In the old days, three decades ago, they had more than 60 bears in this one exhibit. I think they’ve got 15 now, but that was an example where you’ve got way too many animals in there.

Ideally, you might have five bears in there. I’m being very generous, I would say not even one because it’s not big enough.

Activity/stimulation

Rob: And finally, and I’ve alluded to it in terms of my comments about complexity of environment.

When I’m talking to young kids, I’ll get a kid up out of the audience to stand up. I say, “What do you do in the morning?” He goes, “Well, I get up and my clothes are there and I get dressed.” And I say, “And so for the rest of the day, you just sort of stand by the bed and wait until it’s time to go to bed. Is that what you do?” And they go, “No, no. I go and get breakfast, and I check my computer to see if my friends have contacted me and I watch tv. And then I walked to school.”

I’m illustrating the fact that even though these are young kids that are not able to go out in the world and do everything that they want to do, they are doing things. They wake up, they do things from the time they get out bed until the time they go to bed.

And when I compare that to animals, animals do that too. Even ones that are often considered sedentary animals, like some of the tortoises, they’re actually super active animals. Kids get it.

So that fourth thing that all animals need is activity and stimulation.

So the kids, I have them shout out at the end, Okay, what are the four things that I’ll need? Number one, space. Number two, freedom. Number three, family (I use that with kids as the social context). And then the last one is things to do.

Animals’ needs are not being met in Canada

Rob: So I think that when people go out and look at animals, whether it’s in the circus, the zoo, the pet store, in people’s homes, and pretty much everywhere else, think of those four things, space, freedom, social context, and stimulation and activity. And I think that if people are honest with themselves, most times they’ll find deficiencies.

And sometimes it’s horrendous. Just to give an idea, some of the more extreme things I’ve seen, I’ve seen animals that have frozen to death in zoos in the winter time. They’re frozen solid, lying in a shelter box.

I’ve seen animals fed restaurant waste and that’s it.

I’ve seen animals that have never been given potable water. It’s just filthy, disgusting water that they’re given.

I’ve seen animals that are in small cages that are furnished, but the furnishings haven’t been changed in decades. So they’re biologically and behaviorally useless for those animals. They have no relevance whatsoever.

I’ve seen animals that have been mishandled by people.

I’ve seen animals that have been mutilated, so they’ve been defanged or declawed or had other procedures done that are not in their best interest.

It goes on and on and on. What I often tell people is, “Think about the worst thing that you could think that could happen to an animal in Canada, in a zoo or in some other kind of context. I guarantee that what’s out there is a thousand times worse.”

I don’t want to paint totally apocalyptic vision of what’s out there. It’s not good. But there are rays of light out there too, and people that are doing good things. Even some people in the zoo community have good motivations and are trying to mitigate current concerns and improve things. And some of them would really like to see aspects of all of these industries move in a different direction.

Alternatives for animals in captivity

Chantelle: That was such a helpful discussion of all the things animals need. You mentioned some good examples as well. I want to circle back to that for a minute because we know there are unreleasable, orphaned and injured native wildlife.

Hopefully we’ll one day transition into a new phase where we’re not bringing new animals into permanent captivity for entertainment. But there will still be captive wildlife who are already in captivity.

What would that model look like in an ideal world? Is there a good and safe way to house those animals?

Rob: If there were to be a shift in the zoo industry, for instance, that meant that their live collection plans were changing, and believe it or not, some are, but if there were this sort of wholesale change in collection planning and they decided they had to move certain animals out, the reality is that there’s too many of them.

When most people talk about good homes, they typically think of sanctuaries. Those homes don’t exist for most species. And when you look at numbers that are out there, there’s not enough spaces. So what we’re faced with is a situation where if there is a massive change in the zoo industry or even in the mobiles industry or or other areas, we’re faced with all of these animals that have nowhere to go.

So how do we deal? I think that there’s a number of things we have to do.

Address current problems

Rob: We have to work with some people in those industries to get people on board with mitigating some of the more serious problems faced by animals that are currently kept. Many of them agree are problems.

Move to suitable homes where possible

Rob: You also do want to see if there are alternative options for at least some of those animals. Maybe it’s 2%, 5%, 10%, maybe it’s more. But there are opportunities for some animals to go elsewhere.

There are some animals that could be placed in sanctuaries.

There are some animals that could be placed in a different kind of zoo, a regional zoo that is focused on that particular species. There are specialist centres throughout North America. There are quite a number of large enclosure wolf and bear centres that conceivably could take some animals.

There are private individuals who maintain animals, not as pets, but for other purposes, usually conservation that keeps them at a standard that far exceeds most zoos.

There are new facilities opening up. In fact, I spoke about the newest whale sanctuary this morning. It was the Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary in Iceland. There are people out there that are looking at these types of things for all kinds of animals.

There are opportunities we offer to move big cats. When zoos closed down, we did that last year. There was 15 lions and tigers. We said, “We understand that, you may have challenges in finding placement opportunities for these animals.” So we said we’ll move them because we have contacts in US sanctuaries. We’ve done that with other animals as well.

Repatriation

Rob: Another option that I think is worth exploring is repatriation of animals to the wild. And I know that in the past zoo people used to really sort of jump on that saying it’s ridiculous. But when you think about it, are not the release programs that zoos either promulgate or support doing the same thing? They’re taking animals from captivity and trying to release them into the wild for conservation purposes. There’s nothing that says you can’t do that for welfare purposes, and there has been a long history of it.

This morning when I was talking about whales and dolphins, I mentioned the Into the Blue project, which was more than two decades ago, and other releases that seemed to work out quite well. There have been long term captive elephants released successfully back to the wild. There have benn lions and tigers that have never had the pads of their feet touch grass that have been released.

There are huge challenges in doing it, and it’s not an option for every animal, but I think that repatriation, if not to truly wild settings, to sort of game reserve type settings might be an option for animals.

I have a children’s book called Five Elephants, and I talk about this elephant called Thandora that lived for 18 years in the South African. The other elephant she was with died. The zoo decided they had to do the right thing and they repatriated Thandora to a 18,000 acre reserve. It wasn’t the true wild; Thandora couldn’t migrate. But it was a vast amount of space with all of the other indigenous wildlife and opportunities for Thandora to do what she wanted.

So I think there are probably a lot more of those kinds of opportunities for animals than most people think.

Euthanasia

Rob: The fourth option is euthanasia. I know people don’t like to hear that, but that is a reality. If there are no other options, if you can’t improve and enhance the conditions of that animal in the zoo or wherever it is, or if you can’t repatriate it, or if all those options have been exhausted, then the right thing to do as euthanasia because, at least in my view, I find it inconceivable that anyone could walk away and leave an animal in some of the circumstances I’ve seen where it’s fighting every day against the cold to survive, to get enough calories to maintain its body weight, that it’s in a situation of mind-numbing boredom for days or weeks or months or years, basically a living death.

I don’t think that’s an ethical thing to do to leave animals in those situations. So I think euthanasia should always be sort of in the back there as well, when all other options have been exhausted.

But I think there are things that can be done.

Just to sort of bring it back the first one though, because these other options, placement opportunities, repatriation, it may involve good numbers of animals. It may not.

Preventing future suffering

Rob: But the real sad fact of the matter is that we’ve got to do the best we can where animals are now: prevent their breeding, prevent their importation, make sure that we stop the problem with this group of animals and we don’t just let it continue on into the future.

That, to me as an advocate for animals, is what I try to keep in mind all the time. That we do the best we can for these animals that are here. But maybe we can’t help them or maybe we can’t help them the way that we want.

But we have to have our eyes on the goal, which is: let’s stop the process that put all these animals into that position in the first place. That is the first priority when we’re approaching these kinds of things.

Let’s stop the system. Let’s make that systemic change. Let’s not just deal with the fallout or the symptoms.

Exotic animal laws in Canada

Amy: That’s a good transition into the talking about laws. What kind of laws are in place for wildlife, whether they be imported or already in captivity, and what ideas do you have for new laws or improving existing?

Rob: Well, in Canada, we have this reputation as being a law abiding nation. I think that in some respects that’s true, but in other respects it’s not.

When it comes to animals, we’re not really big on laws for animals in Canada with regard to imports. There is sort of a loose network of laws.

Federal laws around exotic animals

Rob: You have regulations that govern the import of, for example, turtles or some primates through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. A lot of people might be surprised with that because their primary mandate is to deal with food safety; but they issue permits for the importation of certain kinds of animals that people keep as pets and for other reasons.

So you’ve got that, you’ve got the Migratory Birds Convention Act, but what most people look at when they look federally at laws regarding animals and the import of particularly wild animals is the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), a convention that Canada is a signatory to.

So in order to deliver Canadian obligations under cites, they have a federal act called the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. It delivers on our CITES obligations and controls the import of CITES listed species.

Now, CITES listed species are those species that are endangered or could be endangered by trade. So if it’s pollution or something else, CITES may not kick in. You’ve got a limited number of species that are covered by CITES, so that has some implications for the importation of certain animals. Although, as with most treaties and and laws, there are exemptions.

Provincial laws around exotic animals

Rob: But most of the responsibility for dealing with captive wildlife has been delegated to the provinces.

In Ontario, we have our Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, and those inspectors will look at zoos and they’re supposed to be working on regulations for zoos because it is a provincial responsibility.

In British Columbia, you have the Controlled Alien Species Regulation under the Wildlife Act because kept the wildlife is a provincial jurisdiction.

So what we have in Canada is this mishmash of laws, some commonalities, a lot of inconsistencies from province to province and in the territories.

Municipal laws around exotic animals

Rob: There is then also a lower level being the municipal level, or sometimes regional governments deal with this too.

When you look at those bylaws, there are some commonalities right across the country, but there’s tremendous inconsistencies because the people who are writing them generally don’t have the necessary expertise to actually write them. And I don’t mean in terms of the legalese and laying out procedures for enforcement. I’m talking about the animals themselves and the needs of the animals. What should they require? If they go into standards for housing and things like that, they don’t have the expertise.

I know so many animal control officials that actually work on these issues, and they look at the prohibited lists or positive lists of animals, and I’ve had many of them say to me, I have no idea what all these mean. You’ve got all these municipalities and all these people who lack the necessary training to develop the laws that affect these animals.

Criminal Code of Canada

Rob: The only other things that I haven’t mentioned are the Criminal Code of Canada, but that’s not really, in most cases, a useful tool for trying to deal with animal cruelty. It’s not set up as something to be beneficial to animals. The criminal code is identifying behavior that is inappropriate to society.

Most people feel that some behaviors like dragging your dog behind your car until your dog’s dead are just not acceptable. That’s more what the Criminal Code would deal with, rather than with any kind of institutional or commercial mass cruelties, whether it’s zoos or the meat industry.

It’s really challenging when there is this mishmash of laws to try to do something. We’ve had enormous challenges over the years in trying to get these laws noticed, get them interpreted in a reasonable scientific way, and then getting them enforced.

We always say that half the battle is getting a law in place and the next half of the battle is getting it enforced. That really been the case here in Canada. But it’s a mess.

In India when you look at wildlife and captivity and public display facilities, they have the Central Zoo Authority. Public display facilities and zoos comes through them. In the UK you have the Zoo Licensing Act, and in other jurisdictions you have other things that just say, Okay, this is the agency that deals with this issue and these are the standards and these are the rules.

We don’t have anything like that in Canada.

That’s why we have people who have big cats in Alberta that are not supposed to be there, and then they’re found out, they drive over to Ontario, they end up in a municipality where there’s a bylaw against that. So they move to the next municipality and then the next, and you know, we have all this inter provincial movement and within provinces as well, because our laws are such a mess.

That’s why I’m hopeful about the Jane Goodall Act because that I think would move the needle in the right direction quite.

Chantelle: It’s become a theme with our podcast is that it’s such a patchwork whenever there’s animal laws in Canada, whether it’s provincial or federal or municipal.

Who is left out in exotic animal laws?

Rob: I should mention one other thing that’s an important point. Most of our laws don’t help all the animals. So if you look at municipal bylaws, many of them have a prohibited list.

Your local municipal bylaw might say can’t have that tiger. So you might be in trouble if you have it. Or if you haven’t got it, you’re thinking of getting it, then it may make you think, I’m not going to get this because this is going to be a big problem. My municipality doesn’t allow it.

But when you look at municipal bylaws across the country, and when you look at many provincial laws as well, you notice something very peculiar.

And that is that they are mammal centric; that there are very few birds, very few reptiles, typically no amphibians, and typically no invertebrates listed yet. When you look at the numbers of species, there’s about 6,000 species of mammals, but there’s more than 10,000 species of birds, 12,000 species of reptiles, 8,000 species of amphibians, 30,000 documented species of fish, and who knows how many invertebrates.

Most of the animals that exist today, many that could end up in a commercial operation in someone’s home as a pet, in a circus or in a zoo. They don’t even show up in these laws. That is a massive deficit.

Most people think that if you have an anti cruelty law or if you have a law controlling exotic animals, it’s all good, but it only deals with a very small number of animals, a very small number of species. It does not represent the diversity that exists out there in the world, or that exists in the industries and people that exploit these animals.

There are over 7,000 species documented in live wildlife trade, much of it for the pet trade. That’s a huge number. Most of those are not represented in any laws.

It’s a very challenging situation here in Canada.

I’ll just finish that answer by saying with regard to zoos, every province in Canada has something. It’s either a policy or something in regulation or a law that addresses some aspect of it. A lot of them are not very good, but it’s something.

In Ontario, we have nothing. Anybody can go out and buy spitting cobras and black mambas and tigers and zebras and aardvarks and whatever else. You want to think up and open a zoo, and there’s no license required. You don’t need any expertise. You don’t need any mentoring. You don’t need any professional affiliations. You don’t need any relevant experience.

There’s no mandated standards for caging for any kind of animal, and there’s no convenient way for the province or anybody else to close the zoo. So the worst in the country is here in Ontario in terms of controls or regulation of this sector of animals.

What you can do to help animals in captivity

Chantelle: Before we wrap up, what would you suggest that our listeners can do to advocate for wildlife in captivity?

Rob: Well, number one, get political. We have a very tiny number of people in this country that are getting political for animals.

The reality is the big changes that we all want to see happen will come politically. We can work on a lot of things and make things happen, but those big societal changes that we want to see have to come through politics.

And I would say to people that if you’ve got an interest in trying to help any issue, it could be animals, it could be poverty relief, it could be affordable housing, the environment. You’ve got an issue that you’re concerned about.

Understand how the systems that govern your life work. Anybody can learn how the system works, and that to me is the first step in understanding what you can do about it.

And everybody has different capacity. Some people may be able to drop everything in their life andbe a full-time activist doing this 24 hours a day. Other people, maybe not so much. Maybe they’re restricted to one hour a week.

But I think the first step once you’ve identified an issue is understanding the system and how what you want done could actually happen within the context of that system.

I can tell you absolutely 100% certainty people can actually change things. And I use ourselves as an example. A lot of the things that that we’ve tackled over the years we’ve started at from the ground up against opposition with very deep pockets and we win.

We have a pro-democracy advocate here in Ontario. He would say, “If you don’t know the rules of the game, you can’t play.”

This is something that we’re moving into. We’re going to be putting together very soon, uh, an advocacy program so that people have more information about how they learn, what they should learn, and how they can affect change.

Because honestly, people can do it. You can really do it.

Contact your MLA about animals in captivity

Next episode

Watch out for the next episode of The Informed Animal Ally on November 28 about animals used in research.

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News/Blog

Update: Speaking up for sled dogs and wild animals in captivity

Update

This action has now ended. Thank you to the 518 advocates who used the quick action to ask their MLA to speak up for animals in captivity and sled dogs. Please see the Current Campaigns page for more ways you can help wild animals in captivity and animals used in entertainment.

This summer, the VHS ramped up calls for changes to B.C.’s regulations on two key animal welfare issues: sled dogs and wild animals in captivity. All B.C. residents can help by raising these two animal welfare issues with their MLA in a call or meeting.

You don’t need to be an expert on either of these topics to make an impact. Instead, what’s important is that they hear why these issues matter to you. You can ask them to raise the issues, along with the VHS’s recommendations, with the relevant B.C. Ministers.

Provincial decision-makers have previously noted that the regulations for both issues are due for review, without a timeline for action. The VHS has provided clear recommendations for how the regulations need to be updated to better protect animal welfare, but action continues to be delayed and animals continue to suffer as a result.

As MLAs return to parliament this fall, the VHS will continue to advocate for wild and exotic animals in captivity and sled dogs in the commercial sled dog industry.

Can you help by engaging with your MLA on these animal welfare issues? To find your MLA’s contact information, head to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia website and enter your postal code.

Find my MLA

Short on time? Use the quick email tool to send a message to your MLA today!

This action has now ended.

518 people used this tool to call on their MLA to speak up for animals. Thank you for taking action.

See more campaigns

Commercial sled dog industry

Under B.C.’s current sled dog regulations, sled dogs can be tethered for lengthy periods of time and sled dog tour companies are allowed to shoot surplus dogs, so long as the operator has made reasonable efforts to try to rehome the sled dog.

Recommendations on sled dogs

Wild and exotic animals in captivity

Meanwhile, B.C.’s outdated wild and exotic animal captivity regulations allow for many species to be kept as pets or in captive facilities, despite the difficulty in meeting their complex physical and psychological needs. Numerous incidents in recent years at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, including the escape of wolves from the zoo this summer which tragically resulted in the death of one wolf, reiterate the urgent need for updating the province’s regulations.

Recommendations on animals in captivity
“Think about the worst thing you think could happen to an animal in Canada … I guarantee that what’s out there is a thousand times worse.”
Rob Laidlaw, Zoocheck founder
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The VHS was recently joined by Zoocheck founder Rob Laidlaw to share his decades of experience advocating for the well-being of animals. Read or listen to the discussion on the VHS’s exclusive podcast, The Informed Animal Ally.

Learn more about captivity laws & practices

Categories
Opinion Editorial

Wolf escapes highlight horrific issues plaguing Greater Vancouver Zoo

Article originally published in The Daily Hive.

Take action for animals in captivity

Animal lovers in B.C. are mourning the loss of Chia, a wolf who escaped from her enclosure at the Greater Vancouver Zoo Tuesday. Chia was tragically found dead on the side of the road yesterday.

Officials believe that Chia was hit by a car. And it’s known that animals raised in zoos for permanent captivity lack the survival skills of their wild counterparts. They do not recognize the dangers posed by cars on the road and are far more likely to associate human activity with food.

Chia’s sad ending is a devastating reminder of the concerns associated with keeping wild animals in captivity. Though zoo supporters will often claim that zoos breed animals in captivity for conservation purposes, captive-bred animals raised in unnatural zoo environments are not equipped to survive in the wild. And their survival in captivity, as it stands, can hardly be called living.

Walk through the zoo and you’ll see well-worn paths where animals like Hana the tiger spend their days pacing alongside the fences of their enclosures—as physically close to the free outside world as they’ll likely ever get. You’ll see a barren, concrete indoor pool where hippos Haben and Hazina can be found floating listlessly throughout the cold winter months. You’ll see giraffes repeatedly licking the bars of their enclosure. Abnormal, purposeless behaviours like this are common in captive animals who are unable to express their natural behaviours.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo has been aware of many animal welfare issues in their facility for years. The most recent report on conditions at the zoo, commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) and prepared by Zoocheck, raised alarms about a number of concerns.

Among them were concerns about the wolf enclosure’s small size and lack of complexity or enrichment. It was also recommended that the zoo stop breeding the wolves; yet young wolves including one-year old Tempest, who was also missing for several days, and six new cubs continue to be raised at the zoo for the entertainment of the public.

Unfortunately, the same issues raised in the report persist year after year, causing continued suffering to the many animals who are kept in captivity at the zoo.

High-profile incidents resulting in heightened public scrutiny of the zoo

In 2019, a 2-year-old child was bitten by a black bear after being able to enter an “unauthorized area.” The toddler had to be airlifted to hospital.

In 2020, the public raised concerns about an emaciated moose named Oakleaf, prompting an investigation by the BC SPCA. Oakleaf was then euthanized.

In 2021, a zoo employee was bitten when a jaguar climbed up a feeding chute. Rather than addressing the behavioural needs of this natural hunter and climber, the zoo welded bars to the bottom of the chute.

Just this year, the VHS filed a cruelty complaint with the BC SPCA after obtaining video footage of animals engaging in repetitive behaviours and in small, barren enclosures.

When will enough be enough?

This week’s tragic incident is the latest in a pattern of concerning incidents at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. But the series of high-profile cases that make it into the news are just the tip of the iceberg when compared with the monotonous, day-to-day suffering of the wild species confined to enclosures thousands of times smaller than their natural habitats.

If the Greater Vancouver Zoo refuses to make significant changes for the well-being of the animals they keep, a change must be made for them. That’s why the VHS is imploring provincial decision-makers to immediately address the outdated regulations around keeping, breeding, and transport of wild and exotic animals. Concerned citizens are encouraged to contact their MLAs now to protect wild animals from suffering in captivity.

How many more animals must we see put at risk, come to harm, and suffering at the zoo before change is made? For the sake of Chia and Tempest, Haben and Hazina, Hana and Oakleaf, and all the other wild animals who have not had their needs met in captivity, let’s hope we’ve reached our limit.

Categories
Media Release

One wolf lost life, another still missing after escape from Greater Vancouver Zoo

VANCOUVER, August 18, 2022 – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Chia, one of the wolves who had escaped from the Greater Vancouver Zoo earlier this week, and is concerned about the well-being of the remaining wolf, Tempest, who is still missing.

This is another instance of an animal kept in captivity at the Greater Vancouver Zoo suffering, alongside several other incidents in recent years. Since 2019 alone, a child was bitten by a black bear, the public raised concerns about an emaciated moose who was then euthanized, and an employee was bitten by a jaguar. The Zoo was also the subject of a cruelty complaint submitted by the VHS earlier this year due to evidence of animals engaging in repetitive behaviours and in small, barren enclosures.

These situations reiterate the lack of adequate safety and protection of the animals at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, says VHS Campaign Director Emily Pickett.

“How many times are we going to have to see animals harmed, put at risk and suffering all for the sake of public entertainment?” Pickett asked.

The VHS has been calling on the Zoo to address the issues highlighted by these recent incidents and long-standing issues outlined in their previous reports. Zoo management did not respond to attempts to engage with them around the VHS’s and Zoocheck’s most recent report in 2019.

Since then, issues have continued to persist.

The VHS is calling on the provincial government to address the outdated regulations around wild and exotic animals in captivity. Specifically, the VHS is asking concerned citizens to get in touch with their MLAs this summer to let them know that the welfare of captive wild animals is a priority; legislative and regulatory change is needed.

– ends –

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society

For more information, contact Emily Pickett: 604-416-2903, emily@vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca

Related links:
https://vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/

Categories
News/Blog

Call on your B.C. MLA to act for sled dogs and wild animals in captivity

Speak up for sled dogs & wild animals in captivity

The government has so far been inactive on the VHS’s recommendations to improve laws for sled dogs and wild animals in captivity. Will you ask your MLA to speak up to change the laws? Take action now!

Sled dogs & wild animals in captivity need your help

Wild, exotic animals confined in captivity and dogs suffering in the commercial sled dog industry are two issues that the provincial government has acknowledged are on their ‘to-do list’; but action continues to be delayed and animals suffer in the meantime.

Here’s where YOU come in! By contacting your B.C. MLA, you can help ensure these crucial animal welfare issues are acknowledged as a priority for the provincial government.

You don’t need to be an expert on either of these topics. Instead, what’s important is that they hear why these issues matter to you; what your concerns are; and that you want them to raise the issues, along with the VHS’s recommendations, with the relevant B.C. Ministers.

The VHS put together a step-by-step guide to help engage your MLA and is here to support you along the way. Sign up to receive your MLA engagement guide and get in touch with your MLA today!

Sign up below to get your MLA engagement guide

Ask your MLA to speak up for:

1) Wild and exotic animals in captivity

Wild and exotic animals (animals not native to B.C.) kept in captivity have complex needs that aren’t being met in cages and tanks and that are crucial for their physical and mental well-being.

In captivity, these animals are are cut off from exploring new territory with engaging sights and smells. They are often kept alone or in unnatural social groups, with the inability to escape from other animals they don’t get along with. They are also unable to engage in many behaviours that are natural to them, including hunting. As a result, captive wild and exotic animals often show signs of stress, boredom, and even aggression.

Many wild and exotic animals are legally kept in captivity throughout B.C., including:

  • kept in zoos and aquariums with enclosures a fraction of the size of their natural home range
  • kept in poor conditions by animal rental agencies for use in TV, film and events
  • suffering as a result of inadequate housing, nutrition and care when kept as pets

The VHS has been documenting the conditions of animals at the Greater Vancouver Zoo and Vancouver Aquarium for years.

The video below illustrates the need for changes to B.C.’s rules around wild and exotic animals in captivity.

No Title

Wild and exotic animals are suffering in captivity in British Columbia as a result of outdated regulations. Learn more and take action: https://vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca/?p=26184

2) Sled dogs in commercial sled dog tourism industry

In the commercial sled dog tourism industry are often kept chained outdoors for prolonged periods of time, with little opportunity to exhibit natural behaviours or socialize. When they can no longer be used by the industry, they are subjected to inhumane methods of euthanasia.

Undercover investigations and whistleblowers have shared evidence of:

  • dogs pacing repetitively
  • dogs chained in barren yards with access to dog houses that provide little protection from the heat and cold
  • stories of dogs being euthanized inhumanely, including by gunshot

In fact, B.C.’s current Sled Dog Standards of Care allow for sled dogs to be tethered or caged for prolonged periods of time, as they are only required to be released once a day and there are no requirements for how long. Sled dog tour companies are permitted to shoot surplus sled dogs, so long as the operator has made reasonable efforts to try to rehome the sled dog.

The video below, from B.C.-based tour companies, highlights the need to update the province’s sled dog regulations.

Unable to meet or speak with your MLA, but still want to take action?

Get in touch with VHS at info@vancouverhumanesociety.bc.ca for a quick way to call on your MLA to take action on these issues.

Categories
News/Blog

Open letter: B.C.’s wild and exotic animal captivity rules due for update

VHS and residents from across B.C. and Canada call for better protections for wild and exotic animals

Last month, VHS launched a campaign seeking changes to B.C.’s rules around wild and exotic animal captivity. To date, the petition demanding immediate action to protect animals from suffering in zoos and aquariums has received more than 4,700 signatures.

VHS has now shared that petition with provincial decision-makers, along with a request for a meeting and an open letter outlining our recommendations for updating B.C.’s outdated regulations around wild and exotic animal captivity.

The open letter calls on the B.C. government to:

  • Incorporate animal welfare criteria into considerations around species suitability for captivity
  • Prevent bringing in new exotic animals into permanent captivity and prohibit captive breeding of existing captive exotic animals
  • Close loopholes in current provincial regulations that leave out many species
  • Acknowledge and act on growing body of science that indicates wild and exotic animals suffer psychologically in captivity

You can read the full letter below as a PDF, or scroll down to add your name to the growing call for change and view the open letter on this page. We will keep ministry decision-makers updated on the total number of public signatures in support of the campaign, and will keep you updated on the campaign’s progress.

By signing the petition, you call on the B.C. government to:

  • Expand the Controlled Alien Species regulation criteria to include animal welfare considerations and update the CAS list to include and prohibit the keeping, breeding and transporting of all exotic species for permanent captivity.
  • Adopt a positive list approach, which allows only those species that meet certain evidence-based suitability criteria to be kept, bred and transported.
  • No longer allow permits to be issued for the keeping, breeding and transporting of exotic animal species, including for zoos and aquariums, film and tv industry, and research and education institutions;
  • Relocate to more appropriate facilities, animals whose physical, psychological and/or social needs are not being adequately met in captivity and/or those who are not appropriate for B.C.’s climate.
  • If no suitable alternatives exist, allow exotic species currently kept in captivity to remain, but prohibit captive breeding of exotic species.
  • Restrict captive breeding of native wildlife, unless it is part of a reintroduction program into the wild.
  • Maintain records for all individual wild and exotic captive animals in facilities, including information related to origin, import/export, breeding, births, deaths, and transport history.
  • Require emergency management plans for all wild and/or exotic animals in captivity.

Call for changes to wild & exotic animal captivity rules in B.C.

Discussion & recommendations for updating B.C.’s wild and exotic animal regulations 

Summary of recommendations 

  • Expand the Controlled Alien Species regulation criteria to include animal welfare considerations and update the CAS list to include and prohibit the keeping, breeding and transporting of all exotic species for permanent captivity. If no suitable alternatives exist, allow exotic species currently kept in captivity to remain; 
  • Adopt a positive list approach, which allows only those species that meet certain evidence-based suitability criteria to be kept, bred and transported; 
  • No longer allow permits to be issued for the keeping, breeding and transporting of exotic animal species, including for zoos and aquariums, film and tv industry, and research and education institutions; 
  • Relocate to more appropriate facilities, animals whose physical, psychological and/or social needs are not being adequately met in captivity and/or those who are not appropriate for B.C.’s climate. 
  • Prohibit captive breeding of exotic species. 
  • Restrict captive breeding of native wildlife, unless it is part of a reintroduction program into the wild. 
  • Maintain records for all individual wild and exotic captive animals in facilities, including information related to origin, import/export, breeding, births, deaths, and transport history.  
  • Require emergency management plans for all wild and/or exotic animals in captivity. 

Introduction 

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is a registered charity dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. The VHS has identified that the keeping, breeding and transport of wild and exotic animals (wild animals not native to B.C.) for the purposes of permanent captivity is not in the public interest. 

Background 

Psychological impact of captivity 

Society’s understanding of how wild and exotic animals can suffer in captivity has expanded greatly over the years. Consider that around the time Canada’s first SPCA was founded in 1869, much of the focus was on the treatment of work horses, used routinely as transportation in cities at the time. Efforts were focused on preventing physical mistreatment of animals, but much less was known then about the psychological suffering of animals. Nearly 150 years later, in 2017, the Vancouver Park Board prohibited new cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) captivity and performances in city parks, citing that the display of these intelligent and social mammals was no longer ethical. This decision, along with ground-breaking federal legislation in 2019 that similarly banned cetacean captivity, acknowledged the scientific evidence that reflects how confinement in captivity causes not only physical, but also psychological suffering.  

Today, a vast body of scientific literature outlines that good welfare is about more than just an animal’s basic health and functioning, such as freedom from pain, injury or disease. Good welfare goes beyond this to consider an animal’s ability to live naturally, including engaging in important instinctual behaviours, as well as an animal’s emotional state and their ability to engage in positive experiences, such as play and social contact.  

Wild and exotic animals, whether wild-caught or captive-bred, retain their complex social, physiological and behavioural needs that they would have in the wild. Attempting to replicate their natural environment in a captive setting is incredibly challenging and failure to meet their needs can significantly compromise their welfare. 

Scientific research, including studies published since B.C. implemented the Controlled Alien Species regulation in 2009, outlines how wild and exotic animals suffer in captivity when deprived of the ability to live naturally and experience positive affective states. Captive conditions are known to elicit abnormal behaviour across a range of different species, due to an animal’s inability to cope with stressors, behavioural frustration or psychopathology.  

Stressors in captivity can include exposure to aversive sounds and smells; uncomfortable temperatures or substrates; artificial lighting; restricted movement; inability to escape from public view and from other animals; artificial social groupings; and inability to engage in instinctive behaviours. Captive animals are often kept in climates and exposed to temperatures that their species is not adapted to, which can cause distress and impact their behaviour. Studies suggest that thermal ranges are complex and can differ based on the species, developmental age, weight and number of animals being housed. This makes temperature control especially challenging for captive facilities.  

Chronic stress in captive animals can lead to health problems including weight loss, immune system changes, disease susceptibility, reproductive suppression, premature death and high infant mortality rates. For example, studies indicate that giraffes have shorter lifespans in captivity than in the wild. Cheetahs in Western captive facilities have been found to experience reproductive issues, including high infant mortality rates. They also exhibit elevated cortisol levels and are more susceptible than their wild counterparts to bacteria that causes severe gastritis. Captive penguin species are also more likely than wild penguins to experience Aspergillosis, a stress-related fungal infection.

Responses to chronic stress can also present as stereotypical behaviour, which is repetitive, purposeless and an indicator of poor psychological well-being and poor general welfare. This can include stereotypic ritualistic behaviour like pacing or head-tossing; self-directed behaviours, like feather-plucking or over-grooming; or externally directed behaviors, like aggression toward other animals. Stereotypy is a major issue for zoos and aquariums. In fact, approximately 75% of the captive giraffe population in North America exhibits oral stereotypic behaviours, including wall licking. Stereotypy is also estimated to occur in the vast majority, approximately 82%, of captive carnivores.

These behaviours, which are common in captivity but almost never take place in the wild, are often referred to as zoochosis. This chronic inability to cope with stressors and/or behavioural frustration can also lead to significant cognitive issues in captive animals. Research explains that “…these states may result in physiological stress and the release of cortisol into the circulatory system…Specifically, circulating cortisol may act upon the hippocampus in the brain, resulting in temporary amnesia and inhibition of learning or response to new experiences (e.g., enrichment or behavioral modification)…In addition, chronic exposure of the hippocampus to circulating cortisol may accelerate hippocampal degeneration, a normal ageing change associated with senile cognitive dysfunction or dementia-like syndromes which have been described in apes, canids and felids.” In the wild, the stress-response allows an animal to make decisions and escape dangerous situations, but in captivity there is little to no ability for an animal to make such choices when stressed. This chronic stress can lead to “learned helplessness”, a psychological condition whereby individuals learn that they have no control over their environment. This can result in negative behavioural and physiological consequences, including impacting brain health by compromising the functioning of the hippocampus, amygdala, neurons and serotonin, which regulate memory, emotions, movement, behaviour, and mood. 

Addressing the psychological suffering of captive wild and exotic animals is incredibly challenging, particularly when we consider that for some species the evidence of suffering can be very subtle or undetectable by humans (e.g. outside of our audible range). In addition to this, new research suggests that abnormal behaviour repertoires and the behavioural expression of stress can also vary between individuals of the same species, adding further complexity to the issue.

Government responsibility 

Public sentiment around wild and exotic animal captivity has also been shifting in recent years, with growing concern about the welfare of animals in captive environments. This is reflected in research that indicates good welfare in zoos and aquariums is valued by the general public. The same research found a high rate of willingness among zoo visitors to pay for animal welfare improvements. Another study found “dissatisfaction of zoo staff with executive management and government officials’ knowledge and leadership in promoting good animal welfare.” The study suggests that leadership in prioritizing animal welfare is also needed at the level of government ministries responsible for overseeing captive facilities. These studies highlight the government’s responsibility to address animal well-being, as instances of abnormal behaviour have been minimized by facilities holding captive animals. For example, when asked why a Steller sea lion at the Vancouver Aquarium was repetitively sucking on the substrate of their enclosure, an aquarium representative explained it as a “comforting behaviour the animals like to do after eating”, comparing it to a baby sucking their thumb.  

Locally, recent public polling data reveals that 89% of British Columbians oppose the international trade of exotic, wild animals to be kept on display in permanent captivity in zoos and aquariums. This reinforces that protecting the welfare of captive animals is indeed in the public interest and there is an expectation that the provincial government, as the regulator of wild and exotic animals in captivity in B.C., has a responsibility to prioritize this. The protection of animal welfare is a widely shared value in our society, as evidenced by its inclusion in our laws, but it’s not being consistently applied. Given the obligation under our existing laws to not knowingly harm animals; the leadership of other levels of government to respond to changing public sentiment and animal welfare considerations; and the scientific evidence outlining the harm that non-domesticated animals face as a direct result of captivity, it follows that the provincial government has the moral responsibility to better protect wild and exotic animals in captivity.    

Zoonosis concerns 

The Covid-19 pandemic also put a spotlight on the wildlife trade and its connection to infectious disease risk. In fact, research indicates that 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic (transmitted from non-human animals to humans). The international trade of animals, including for captive facilities, increases the risk of disease spread. Factors that increase the risk of disease spread include more animal species; higher risk species; more animal numbers; more human contact; greater geographic ranges; movement from less encountered areas; species we know less about; mixing of species (in transit, upon arrival); less structure/scrutiny. These factors directly relate to captive facilities like the Greater Vancouver Zoo and Vancouver Aquarium, where large numbers of animals, from a variety of species and geographic ranges that would otherwise not occur in such proximity to each other are kept.  

Covid-19 cases or evidence of exposure has been confirmed in a number of captive species, including tigers, lions, puma, snow leopards, Canada lynx, jaguars, Asian small-clawed otters, gorillas, mink, white-tailed deer, ferrets, binturongs, fishing cats, coatimundi, spotted hyenas, and hippopotamus.

Local context 

The VHS has monitored the issue of wild and exotic animal captivity in B.C. for many years, dating back to 1997, with the first report about the Greater Vancouver Zoo published by VHS and Zoocheck. Subsequent reports were published in 2003, 2008, and most recently in 2019. Common recurring issues throughout the reports include observed abnormal behaviour by animals; inappropriate housing of social species; enclosure conditions; water-logging and dampness of outdoor exhibits; lack of enrichment; and breeding practices. Recurring recommendations have included ending the keeping of exotic species; providing more enclosure space and complexity; improved enrichment; housing according to social needs; and ending captive breeding.  

The VHS has also advocated over the years for changes at the Vancouver Aquarium, including supporting a move away from cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) captivity. Through a report, “A Crumbling Case for Cetacean Captivity”, claims that cetacean captivity resulted in substantive conservation research and education benefits was critically assessed. The report concluded that the output of captive cetacean research papers was relatively low and a citation analysis largely suggested that impacts were not substantive. The educational benefit of captive cetaceans was also not substantiated. The report went on to note that stated goals of conservation and education made by zoos, marine parks and aquariums can be achieved, and in many instances are being achieved, in other ways that do not require the keeping of live cetaceans in captivity. It’s also worth noting that in terms of research on captive animals, they can respond quite differently to a range of experiments than a wild, free-living counterpart would. This reinforces the importance of prioritizing field research and the conservation benefits of studying species in the wild. 

The VHS has encouraged both facilities to transition toward a sanctuary model, focused on rescue, rehabilitation and release programs for injured and orphaned native wildlife and to assist and support conservation efforts of native, wild populations. 

Provincial definitions and regulation of wild and exotic species 

The keeping, breeding and transport of wild and exotic animals is governed under British Columbia’s Wildlife Act and its regulations.  

Under the Wildlife Act, the definition of “wildlife” includes raptors, threatened species, endangered species, game and other species of vertebrates prescribed by regulation, and for the purposes of a number of specific sections, also includes fish. The definition of “game” includes big game, small game, game birds and fur bearing animals, and other species prescribed as game. The Designation and Exemption Regulation lists several schedules of species, noting that Schedule A are prescribed as wildlife for the purposes of the definition of “wildlife” in section 1 of the Wildlife Act. Schedule B lists animals that may be captured or killed only for the specific purpose of protecting property unless an open season is designated by regulation. Schedule C lists animals that can be captured or killed anywhere and at any time in B.C. A hunting licence is not needed to hunt or kill Schedule C animals, unless a person is hunting the following species on their property or they are damaging the person’s property: crows, black-billed magpie, and brown-headed cowbird. Schedule D lists threatened species, with sea otters as the only species currently listed. Schedule E lists endangered species, including the Vancouver Island marmot, burrowing owl and American white pelican. Under the Wildlife Act Permit Regulation, a permit can be issued to possess and transport live wildlife.

Under this framework, the definition of “wildlife” excludes exotic animals, a number of species of which are designated as “controlled alien species” under a separate regulation by the Wildlife Act. Section 6.4 of the Wildlife Act states that the minister can designate a non-native species that poses a risk to the health or safety of any person or poses a risk to property, wildlife or wildlife habitat as a controlled alien species. The minister may by regulation prohibit and impose requirements in relation to the possession, breeding, release, selling and transporting of a controlled alien species. B.C.’s Controlled Alien Species Regulation currently designates more than 1,000 exotic species as controlled alien species, prohibiting that they be kept, bred or transported without a CAS permit. Permits are allowed for accredited or equivalent zoos and aquariums; certified research and educational institutions; film and tv production companies; rescue facilities; and prohibited animals passing through the province in transit. Private individuals still have sunset permits and if they want to transfer ownership to another person, can apply for permit. 

Bill S-241 

Recently proposed federal legislation, Bill S-241 (Jane Goodall Act), aims to improve protections for captive animals across Canada. The bill prohibits owning, breeding, importing/exporting and interprovincial transport, and possessing reproductive materials for a wide range of species, including big cats, bears, wolves, seals, sea lions, walruses, certain monkeys, and dangerous reptiles, such as crocodiles and giant pythons. It provides exceptions for existing individual animals currently in captivity; for those in need of rehabilitation; for the purpose of conducting non-harmful scientific research or in the best interest of the animal, with regard to individual welfare and conservation of the species.   

Bill S-241 also prohibits the captivity of the listed species for entertainment purposes; phases out captivity of elephants; and restricts captivity of great apes to specific organizations for the purpose of conservation and research only. It also identifies seven organizations that have been deemed in the bill to be eligible animal care organizations, including the Vancouver Aquarium but no other facilities in B.C.  

It outlines a number of factors to be considered when adding or removing a species from the list of designated animals subject to the prohibitions and references consultation with representatives of groups whose objective includes the promotion of animal welfare. Considerations listed include whether the biological and ecological needs of individual animals to live a good life can be met in captivity, specifically their ability to engage in natural behaviour; their intelligence, emotions, social requirements, physical size, lifestyle and potential use in performances of species; the public safety risk they pose; and the evidence of harm to animals of the species in captivity, including stereotypies, health problems in captivity, shorter lifespans and increased infant mortality rates. 

The bill allows the Minister to issue permits authorizing eligible animal care organizations to keep designated animals; conduct non-harmful scientific research; breed; import; transport between eligible animal care organizations; transport/export for relocation to natural habitat; export to an animal care organization outside of Canada that is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums or the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries or that would be considered an eligible animal care organization if located in Canada. The bill requires organizations to apply for designation as an eligible animal care organization. Organizations are expected to administer the highest professionally recognized standards and best practices of animal care; have procedures that protect whistleblowers; refrain from activities that misrepresent or degrade captive animals, including through performance for entertainment purposes; and acquire animals in a manner that doesn’t threaten species populations. The Minister may prescribe standards and best practices of animal care, if professionals in animal science, veterinary medicine and animal care, and groups whose objective includes promotion of animal welfare have been consulted and if the standards account for the best available science and information. 

Issues 

Gaps in provincial regulations 

B.C.’s existing regulations related to the keeping, breeding, display and transport of exotic species are not comprehensive, leaving out many exotic species that are not subject to permits under regulations, because they are not considered “wildlife” as per the Act’s definition, or are not on the CAS list. For example, exotic species including, but not limited to, zebras, kangaroos, serval cats, ball pythons, and wallabies can still legally be kept by anyone in B.C. where there are no municipal restrictions. 

The CAS regulation currently prohibits only species that pose the greatest threat to public health and safety and does not consider animal welfare or a species’ suitability for captivity. The CAS regulation has not been significantly updated since it was created in 2009. Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence, as outlined in this document, pointing to how exotic animals suffer in captivity, along with shifting public sentiment, reflects the need for B.C.’s regulations to be updated. 

Controlled alien species permits and reliance on Canada’s Accredited Zoos & Aquariums accreditation  

Currently, the B.C. government issues permits to zoos and aquariums for possessing, breeding and transporting prohibited controlled alien species, requiring that they be either accredited by Canada’s Accredited Zoos & Aquariums (CAZA), or able to provide proof to the satisfaction of the director of meeting or exceeding the accreditation standards set by CAZA in order to receive a permit. In reviewing the B.C. government’s permit application, the only supporting documentation required is certification of insurance. Any other information pertaining to species welfare and care, enclosure details, safety standards and collection/breeding plan is available upon request and shared by CAZA on the facility’s behalf.

This heavy reliance on and downloading of responsibility to ensure high standards to a private, industry association is problematic for ensuring oversight and transparency around captive facility operations.  

A review of CAZA’s organizational structure, as outlined in the 2021 Accreditation Process Guide, illustrates how the organization is a private zoo and aquarium industry association that represents the interests of its members and that CAZA accreditation is not, on its own, an indicator of best practices and high animal care standards. CAZA’s organizational structure, including the Board of Directors, Accreditation Commission, Visiting Committee, Accreditation Appeal Panel, and Ethics and Compliance Committee, are comprised of CAZA members, with the exception of a veterinarian, permitted to be on the Visiting Committee and Accreditation Commission (as a non-voting member). The criteria for serving as an Accreditation Inspector requires that individuals are CAZA members (veterinarians may be an exception) and that individuals are currently employed at an accredited institution, with no exception noted for veterinarians.

Another overarching concern regarding CAZA is that the accreditation standards are vague, not species-specific, and largely outcome-based, leaving the process in terms of how to achieve them open to interpretation. Instead, prescriptive requirements can help prevent animal welfare issues from occurring in the first place, because they outline a specific process or action to follow, making them more objective and easier to enforce. For example, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) accreditation program includes more taxa-specific, in-depth animal care standards. Standards around space allocations illustrate this difference between outcome-based and prescriptive approaches. CAZA standards around space allocations, which are not taxa-specific, state that “Habitats in which animals are on public display must be of a size which enables the animal to demonstrate natural behaviours and to achieve a full range of body motion and physical movements.” While outcome-based measures can be useful, when used, they must be based on both psychological and physical metrics. Being able to physically move is not enough of a benchmark to establish the well-being of an animal in captivity. 

CAZA standards also state that member institutions must develop a clear and transparent process for identifying, communicating, and addressing animal welfare concerns, including from members of the public. It’s required that feedback to the person submitting the observation be timely. Prior to publishing of VHS’s most recent Greater Vancouver Zoo report in 2019, the author of the report made a number of attempts to engage with zoo management but received no response. VHS also shared the report with the zoo’s owner and received no response.  

Also of concern is that CAZA facility inspections occur only once every five years, with facilities notified in advance when they will be subject to an inspection. The results of these inspections are also kept confidential, preventing transparency and oversight of the accreditation process.  

Ultimately, CAZA accreditation simply indicates that minimum standards have been met that qualify an institution for CAZA membership, rather than any assurance of adequate standards for animal care and welfare.  

Recent captive facility incidents and site visits 

A series of high-profile incidents that have occurred in recent years at CAZA-accredited facilities in B.C., along with the multiple reports, photos and video evidence collected of concerning behaviours and circumstances, reinforce the issues around relying on CAZA accreditation for CAS permits. A lack of adequate facilities is also evidenced by the history of incidents and concerns outlined in various VHS reports, dating back to 1997, and discussed in the background section of this document. Since VHS’s last report was commissioned, several more high-profile incidents have occurred at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, including an incident in August 2019 in which a toddler was able to access an unauthorized area and was bitten by a black bear, resulting in the child being airlifted to hospital in serious condition. Then in the summer of 2020, photos of an emaciated-looking moose shared by a zoo visitor prompted public concern and resulted in the animal being euthanized the following day. Most recently, a WorkSafeBC report obtained by CBC News discovered that in December 2021 a zoo employee was bitten while feeding one of the zoo’s jaguars through a metal feeding chute. 

VHS visits to the Greater Vancouver Zoo in January and the Vancouver Aquarium in February of this year resulted in further documentation of ongoing animal welfare concerns. Photo and video evidence collected during these facility visits and from previous visits in recent years establishes a history of concerning situations and behaviour. This includes abnormal, purposeless, and repetitive behaviour by a number of animals, including a Steller sea lion seen repeatedly sucking on the ground of their enclosure; sea otters repeatedly pulling on the edge of their tank; a lone male lion repetitively pacing the fence that separates him from other captive lions; and giraffes licking and biting the bars of their enclosure. VHS also documented a number of inadequate enclosures, including for the two hippos at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, whose indoor enclosure is small and barren. It also appears there is only one, small indoor pool. Signage on their enclosure indicates they have been kept separated from each other since at least the summer of 2020. The African Penguin enclosure at the Vancouver Aquarium is also small and fails to provide any opportunity for the animals to escape public view. The penguins were observed spending the vast majority of the day during public viewing hours huddled together around a door in their enclosure. This evidence led VHS to submit a report to the BC SPCA and an investigation has since been opened and is underway.  

Bill S-241 gaps 

While Bill S-241 proposes a number of significant changes to the wild and exotic animal captivity industry across Canada, particularly in areas of the country where current regulations are largely non-existent, there are gaps in the bill which B.C. can address through action at the provincial level. The bill’s exceptions around owning, breeding, importing/exporting and transporting of designated animals for non-harmful scientific research or in the best interest of the animal, with regard to individual welfare and conservation of species leaves room for interpretation. Clarity is needed around what criteria will constitute legitimate non-harmful scientific research, an animal’s best interest and species conservation.  

The preamble to Bill S-241 acknowledges the shared federal and provincial jurisdiction around the subject of non-domesticated captive animals. This reality of shared jurisdiction means that, should Bill S-241 pass, the B.C. government would need to update provincial permitting for wild and exotic animals to meet or exceed the regulations outlined in Bill S-241, as the federal regulations would prevail over any weaker provincial regulations in this case. In its second reading in the Senate, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Martin Klyne, stated that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has one of the highest standards of accreditation, with only seven facilities in Canada achieving AZA accreditation. These seven facilities, which includes the Vancouver Aquarium but not the Greater Vancouver Zoo, are listed as the first eligible “animal care organizations” under bill S-241. Senator Klyne acknowledged that other organizations, including CAZA-accredited facilities, would need to improve or evolve in order to be approved as an animal care organization under the bill. This reinforces the need for improvements to B.C.’s regulations around wild and exotic animal captivity.  

While Bill S-241 extends protections to more than 800 wild animal species, thousands of other species remain unprotected under the proposed regulations, as well as under existing provincial CAS or Wildlife Act regulations. This includes species such as zebras, kangaroos, serval cats, ball pythons and wallabies. 

Recommendations 

With B.C.’s Controlled Alien Species regulations currently under review, now is the ideal time for updated regulations that are informed by society’s expanded awareness of the issues facing wild and exotic animals in captivity.  

The VHS is recommending a number of actions be taken to address the issues and gaps outlined in this briefing note: 

First, the VHS recommends that B.C.’s Controlled Alien Species Regulation be expanded to include criteria related to animal welfare considerations and, ultimately, that the possession, breeding, and transporting of all exotic species for the purpose of permanent captivity be prohibited. Crucially, this prohibition must also apply to circumstances under which the B.C. government currently issues CAS permits, including accredited zoos and aquariums, TV and film industry, and research and education institutions. 

Exemptions should be considered for existing exotic animals in B.C. In regards to possession, this includes maintaining the exemption that allows for a Rescue Centre Possession Permit for seized, abandoned or surrendered CAS animals. An exemption should also be included for the possession and transport, for the purposes of rehabilitation, of established, wild, non-native Wildlife Act species, including but not limited to grey squirrels. This exemption is not intended to include invasive species that pose serious impacts on native species and the environment. In addition, abandoned domestic European rabbits should be removed from Schedule C of the Wildlife Act, to allow for rehabilitation and rehoming without the requirement of a permit. 

In regards to transport of exotic species, an exemption should be included that allows existing exotic animals in B.C. to be relocated to more appropriate facilities if their physical, psychological and/or social needs are not being adequately met in captivity and/or those species who are particularly inappropriate for B.C.’s climate. Criteria for what constitutes a more appropriate facility should be based on the Global Federation of Sanctuaries accreditation standards or equivalent. A transport exemption should also apply for seized, abandoned or surrendered CAS animals under a Rescue Centre Possession permit. The VHS asks that the B.C. government adopt a positive list approach to the CAS regulation, which is a framework that allows only those species that meet certain evidence-based suitability criteria to be kept, bred and transported. This serves as an alternative to B.C.’s current negative listing approach, which involves restricting or banning problematic species. As outlined in a previous VHS submission regarding positive lists, the advantages include that they are short and easily understood by the public; they use an evidence-based approach, including animal welfare considerations; they are preventative and utilize the precautionary principle; and the onus is on those who wish to trade or keep exotic animals to identify animals suitable as pets. 

The VHS also asks that breeding of existing captive exotic species in B.C. be prohibited, effective immediately, so that efforts can be focused on providing the best possible care for those individual animals while ensuring no additional exotic animals are born into permanent captivity in B.C. facilities. Native wildlife must not be bred for the purpose of permanent captivity. As such, breeding of captive native wildlife should be restricted and only permitted as part of a reintroduction program into the wild, with video streaming permitted, but no physical display of the animals to the public allowed.  

The VHS’s final recommendation relates to record-keeping and emergency planning for facilities that have captive wild and exotic animals. As part of the B.C. government’s permitting process, the province should require and maintain records for all individual wild and exotic captive animals in B.C. facilities, including information related to every individual animal’s origin, import and export history, breeding history, births, deaths, and transport history. This should also include all animals owned by a facility but on loan. Similarly, emergency management plans for all wild and exotic captive animals must be required. Last year’s catastrophic flooding, heat dome and wildfires and the deaths of more than one million farmed animals as a result reiterates the growing importance of protections for animals under human care during disasters and emergencies. The area impacted in last year’s flooding of the Fraser Valley was not far from the location of the Greater Vancouver Zoo. It’s crucial that emergency planning include a feasible strategy for urgent animal evacuations to prevent the kind of mass suffering we have seen. 

While this document is focused on the context of zoos and aquariums, B.C.’s regulations also encompass the use of wild and exotic animals in other industries, such as TV and film, exotic pets, and educational and research institutions. The discussion and considerations outlined in this document should apply to all industries and use of wild and exotic animals that are subject to B.C.’s regulations.