Media Release

Panago Pizza selling plant-based pizzas to benefit two animal charities in B.C.

Panago Pizza team members deliver plant-based pizzas to the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary.

VANCOUVER, November 25, 2022 – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) and the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary are teaming up to help animals now and in the future with the generous support of Panago Pizza! On Giving Tuesday, November 29th, customers can get a $10 large plant-based pizza from any Panago location in BC using code: PLANT10. $1 from every plant-based pizza purchased will be donated toward the two charities.

Panago offers 5 plant-based pizza recipes and continues to grow their plant-based choices as part of their long-term commitment to sustainability. Visit to learn more.

This year, the support of donations toward animals is needed more than ever. Nonprofits are struggling to meet the needs of the animals they help. Diane Marsh from the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary explains that costs of hay have doubled and vet visits have increased by almost 40%; they “have risen dramatically due to the fires, floods and supply chain issues.”

The Happy Herd will use funds raised this Giving Tuesday to cover essential supplies to keep the animals in their care healthy and safe; animals like Mousse, a goat whom they rescued this year at just one week old. Mousse arrived at the Happy Herd quite ill having been rejected by his mother. He has since flourished and lives his life with Linus the sheep and Pickles the pig.

Mousse the goat at the Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary in April 2022.

Funds raised will also help to cover the VHS’s essential programs and advocacy work. This includes helping to decrease the demand for industrial animal agriculture by supporting a shift toward increased plant-based options in municipal concession stands, schools, long-term care homes, and more.

Funds will also help programs such as the VHS’s McVitie Fund, which offers financial assistance for urgent veterinary care to hundreds of animals from low-income households each year, helping animals like Copper the dog to get the care they need while staying with their loving families and preventing surrenders to the already-overburdened shelter and rescue system.

Left: Copper the dog at the veterinarian; Copper needed emergency surgery to remove bladder stones in order to save his life. Right: Copper after receiving assistance through the Vancouver Humane Society’s McVitie Fund and recovering from surgery.

“The rising costs of living mean that the McVitie Fund is assisting a rapidly growing number of people every year,” said VHS Communications Director Chantelle Archambault. “More than 580 animals have already received help through the program in 2022—twice as many as in all of 2021!”

The first $6,000 in donations to support animals in need will be doubled by generous local partners. Members of the community can donate through the Vancouver Humane Society’s website at

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SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society

For more information, contact Chantelle Archambault: 604-416-2903,

Related links:


British Columbia permanently restricts second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides 

A win for wildlife!

B.C. permanently restricts second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, marking an important first step in protecting wildlife and pets.

Learn more
Take action
Report prohibited poisons

B.C.’s provincial government has announced that it is moving ahead with regulatory changes that will restrict the sale and use of some of the deadliest rodent poisons. As of January 21, 2023, second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) will be prohibited, with exemptions for sectors that have been deemed ‘essential services’. 

The government’s decision follows a temporary, partial ban that has been in place since July 2021, along with a public consultation around proposed permanent changes. During this period, more than 2,500 British Columbians signed the Vancouver Humane Society’s petition in support of a comprehensive rodenticide ban. The VHS and more than 1,300 individuals participated in the public consultation; the VHS also submitted a report in support of a comprehensive rodenticide ban. 

Despite widespread feedback in support of further restrictions and a full ban, the Province announced its decision to move forward with its initially proposed changes. Concerns remain that gaps in the regulations will continue to pose a risk to animals. 

In addition to the exemptions that will allow SGARs to continue being used in many circumstances, many other dangerous poisons will still be allowed under the updated regulations, including first-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (FGARs) and neurotoxins. There are also concerns that enforcement is more difficult without consistent and comprehensive regulations. 

Despite concerns, the decision to significantly restrict the use of SGARs is an important step in the right direction. The VHS and animal allies will continue to advocate for further action to protect animals from encountering these and other inhumane poisons.  

The VHS recommends that the government’s partial ban be a starting point in a much-needed move away from deadly and inhumane rodent poisons and toward humane alternatives and preventative approaches for dealing with human-rodent conflicts.  

A growing number of B.C. communities have gone above and beyond the partial ban. To date, more than 20 B.C. municipalities have banned rodenticides on municipal property, including Whistler, which recently adopted a policy to ban FGARs and SGARs.

Take action: Support going beyond the partial ban

You can help to protect wildlife and pets by encouraging your community, local businesses, strata and others to follow the lead of communities that have banned rodenticides and utilize humane alternatives. 

Use the tips and talking points below to reach out and engage with decision-makers

1. Watch for signs of poisons.

Keep an eye out for bait boxes in and around your community, which indicate a rodent management program is in use. Note: Not every bait box contains rodenticides. Bait boxes can also contain snap traps. Look for a label that indicates the bait box’s contents. 

2. Reach out to property owners or managers.

Reach out to the decision-maker in charge of the building and inquire about what rodent/”pest” control products are in use at the location.

3. Share information and alternatives.

If rodenticides (or other inhumane products like glue traps) are in use, offer to share more information and alternatives:

Rodenticides are highly toxic poisons that cause a slow and painful death for the rodents who consume them and can severely injure or kill any scavengers, predators or pets who encounter the poisoned rodents or the poisons directly. This includes anticoagulant poisons (including first-generation products) and other rodenticides, such as neurotoxins like Bromethalin.  

Effective and sustainable alternative solutions exist to address human-rodent conflicts, including high quality snap traps, captive bolt traps, and rodent contraceptives. The most effective long-term solutions include: 

- Exclusion techniques: rodent-proofing buildings and fixing structural flaws and access points; 

- Preventative measures: addressing attractants such as garbage, compost, fallen bird seed and fruit, leaky plumbing; 

- Habitat modification: making the environment around buildings less hospitable for rodents by cutting back bushes and grasses, storing items away from buildings and off of the ground. 

4. Share contact information for humane wildlife management companies.

Share contact information for humane rodent control companies (e.g. Humane Solutions) or encourage the decision-maker to speak with their current company about replacing rodenticides with humane alternative approaches. 

Suspect SGARs are being used in a prohibited location? 

If you suspect SGARs are being used in prohibited locations, report them to the B.C. Conservation Officer Service’s RAPP line via the “Report All Poachers and Polluters” (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277, or through the online reporting form

Some examples of prohibited and non-prohibited locations include: 

Examples of prohibited locationsExamples of exempt locations
*SGARs are not allowed here 
– Residential buildings such as apartments 
– Office buildings 
– Parks 
– Schools 
– Non-food retail shops 
*SGARs can still be used by licensed “pest control” companies here 
– Hospitals 
– Supportive housing and shelters 
– Agricultural operations 
– Grocery stores 
– Restaurants 
– Landfills and recycling facilities  

See page 12 of this PDF for the full list of exempt locations where SGARs are allowed to continue being used. If a SGAR is being used at a location not on the list, it is not in compliance with the ban. Watch the video below for tips on documenting and reporting prohibited rodenticides.  

How to report banned rodent poisons in British Columbia

The Province of British Columbia recently introduced new restrictions on the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs). To report the use of prohibited rodenticides (Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone, or Difethialone) in non-exempt locations, go to For updates on wildlife poison restrictions in B.C., visit

Media Release

Province makes permanent changes to regulations on rodent poisons, but gaps leave animals at risk

VANCOUVER, November 1, 2022 – The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) applauds the Province of British Columbia’s move to address rodenticide poisoning of wildlife and pets, but raises concerns that gaps continue to leave animals at risk. The Province announced on Friday that it is moving ahead with regulatory changes around the sale and use of some of the deadliest rodent poisons.

In May 2022, about halfway through an 18-month B.C.-wide partial ban on second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs), the Province released an intentions paper proposing permanent restrictions.

The VHS noted that the proposed regulations, like the temporary ban, would still allow other types of rodent poisons and would permit the use of SGARs in many exempt locations, including those with frequent wildlife activity like garbage dumps. Non-target animals who eat poisoned rodents, such as owls and domestic cats, are at risk of secondary poisoning.

Following an online comment period which saw widespread support for increasing restrictions, the Province announced its decision to move forward with its initially proposed changes.

VHS Campaign Director Emily Pickett responded, “The B.C. government’s decision to significantly restrict the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides is an important step in the right direction. However, there are concerns about gaps in the regulations that were raised by the Vancouver Humane Society and many other respondents during the online comment period.”

More than 1,300 private individuals submitted responses through the B.C. government’s online consultation form, “almost all” of whom expressed support for “a total ban on use of rodenticides in B.C.” or “restriction [on their use] to the greatest extent possible”, according a government report.

The public consultation also included a response from the VHS, which reported 2,582 resident signatures supporting a comprehensive ban on all rodenticides and a significant decrease in exemptions. Another organization, Rodenticide Free BC, reported a petition signed by 4,841 British Columbians in support of a ban on all rodenticides.

In addition to concerns about exempt locations and other dangerous poisons that will still be permitted, the VHS raised red flags that the updated regulations may amount to a complicated patchwork of rules for different locations and rodenticide products, making enforcement difficult. Evidence of suspected SGAR use in prohibited locations was routinely found during the temporary ban.

“If you walk through your community, you’ll see lots of black bait boxes around. We’ve seen reports of bait boxes being mislabeled or unlabeled, so the public has no way of really knowing what’s in them,” said Pickett. “Follow-up on reported complaints was inconsistent and slow, suggesting that there aren’t enough resources allocated to effectively enforce a partial ban.”

The VHS recommends that the government’s partial ban be a starting point in a much-needed move away from deadly and inhumane rodent poisons and toward humane alternatives and preventative approaches for dealing with human-rodent conflicts.

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SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society

For more information, contact Chantelle Archambault: 604-416-2903,

Related links:


5 reasons to skip fireworks this Halloween & 3 steps to protect animals

Many people have enjoyed the brief thrill that fireworks bring; but that brief moment of joy for some has serious consequences for others.

Take action now
Tips for keeping pets calm

Here are five ways that fireworks harm animals, humans, and the environment we share.

1. Companion animals like dogs, cats, and horses suffer.

We love our companion animals and we would do anything to keep them safe. Many pet guardians know the toll that fireworks take on anxious animals, whose hearing is far more sensitive than our own. In a recent study, approximately 23% of the dogs were reported to be fearful of noises, with the highest frequency of fear from fireworks.

This fear response can bring with it tragic consequences. You might remember a number of sad cases that made it into the news in recent years. In 2016, a 10-year-old dog named Maggie was off-leash at the unfenced Trout Lake dog park during the afternoon when someone set off fireworks. Scared and disoriented, Maggie took off running and was hit by a Skytrain. In 2019, a cat named Spot had to be euthanized after becoming frightened by garden fireworks and seriously injured in the UK. Just this year, a horse named Navar suffered a compound fracture after being spooked by fireworks in Nova Scotia and was euthanized. In June, a dog named Jupiter escaped her backyard and lost her life during a Canada Day fireworks display.

2. Birds panic and flee, causing them harm and death.

When fireworks are set off, birds are frightened from their nest and take flight en masse. This shocking animation shows the “explosive movements” before and after fireworks were lit to ring in the new year in the Netherlands.

Birds aren’t equipped to fly at night, when fireworks displays are typically held, which puts them at a major risk of flying into objects such as trees, vehicles, and buildings. The most infamous case of mass bird deaths occurred in Arkansas, when New Year’s fireworks caused the deaths of about 5,000 birds.

3. Wild animals become frightened and abandon their young.

Wild animals experience fear and disorientation in response to fireworks, which can cause them to flee into dangerous locations like roadways. Wildlife rescue organizations report that loud and startling fireworks displays cause animals to abandon their young in their nests and dens.

4. Humans experience weapons-related PTSD.

Non-human animals are not the only ones who experience panic due to loud and bright fireworks. Humans who experience weapons-related PTSD, such as veterans and refugees from war zones, can be triggered by the explosive sounds. People with sensory processing disorders and some neurodivergent folks can also have difficulties with fireworks.

5. Harmful substances are released into the environment.

When fireworks are set off, the chemical reactions that create fireworks’ trademark light and sound effects release harmful substances into the environment that harm humans, animals, and the environment.

Greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen are released into the air, contributing to climate change. Particulate matter from the smoke can cause breathing difficulties to those with respiratory problems.

The debris from fireworks can pollute our waterways, harming or killing fish, waterfowl, and other aquatic animals who rely on this habitat for food, shelter, and survival.

Three ways you can help

1. Learn your municipality’s regulations.

Does your municipality have a bylaw prohibiting fireworks? You can learn about various municipal bylaws around fireworks in this article or on your municipality’s website.

Learn about firework bylaws

2. Contact your Mayor and Council

The City of Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver have banned the purchase and use of fireworks by consumers. If your municipality still allows consumer fireworks to be purchased and/or used, you can encourage them to follow this lead! Find contact information for your local decision-makers on your municipality’s website. Consider this template as a guide for your ask:


I am writing to express my concern about the use of fireworks in our municipality. 

Fireworks are harmful to the environment, animals, and humans. The loud sounds from fireworks cause pets to become frightened and flee their homes; cause wildlife to panic and run into roadways or fly into buildings; and trigger panic responses in individuals with weapons-related PTSD. The debris from fireworks harms our environment and pollutes our waterways.

Other municipalities have taken steps to address these concerns. For instance, Banff and Canmore have introduced sound-free fireworks displays, while Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver have banned the sale and use of consumer fireworks. I implore you to follow their lead by introducing a bylaw to address the serious impacts of fireworks.

I look forward to your response.

3. Share how fireworks impact you and your animal family members.

The more people learn about the serious consequences of fireworks, the more we can spread thoughtfulness and compassion in our celebrations. Please share your story below so that the VHS may share it in the future.

Thank you for protecting animals and opting for a fireworks-free celebration.

Is your companion animal afraid of fireworks?

Check out these tips for helping your dog or cat to keep calm during stressful fireworks displays.


Podcast: Wildlife cruelty laws and rodent poisons

Wild animals think, feel, play, grow together, have families, and help maintain a healthy and harmonious environment; yet many human activities put wildlife at unnecessary risk of suffering.

In this month’s episode of The Informed Animal Ally’s series on animal cruelty, Wild Animal Welfare Specialist Erin Ryan from the BC SPCA joins the Vancouver Humane Society’s Amy Morris and Chantelle Archambault to discuss wildlife stewardship, feeding, poisons, and more.

Note: This written interview has been edited for length.

Wild Animal Welfare Specialist

Erin is a member of the Syilx nation and holds a BSc in applied biology and an MSc in Applied Animal Biology from the University of British Columbia. She works as a Wild Animal Welfare Specialist with the BC SPCA’s Science and Policy division, focusing on wildlife welfare, including urban wildlife and rodent control.

Wildlife and Indigenous ways of knowing

A caribou looks at the camera.

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

Erin: I think a big influence to the work that I’m doing now is my grandfather [who was a biologist and the first indigenous MP]. Even though many people remember him as a politician, he really thought of himself as a scientist.

I remember growing up, in the forested gully of their backyard, learning all about the plants and animals that grew all around us. And of course, a lot of our approaches to how we handled wildlife encounters in that backyard are kind of what I’m advocating for people to do today.

Amy: Your family has had a really interesting history of bringing an Indigenous perspective into federal decision making. Can you share some of your learnings on the relationship between wildlife and Indigenous communities as it relates to Indigenous laws and ways of knowing?

Erin: I think the main difference that I’ve seen, looking at my world of wild animal welfare, is so many of our laws and systems are built into this perspective of wildlife management; that is our job to manage the populations and to manage the environment. Whereas the values that were instilled in me from a young age and a lot of traditional Indigenous values are more about stewardship.

If we’re good stewards of the land, good stewards of the animals, we are taking care of them, but they’re also taking care of us. There’s much more this sense of reciprocity and that we’re sharing this system together. We don’t have dominion over the animals and need to control the environment.

Amy: Yeah. That’s certainly something that I think there’s a lot of space for moving towards and having more of in the world that we live in.

I’m curious. I know there’s been some consultation from the B.C. provincial government that resulted in a bill, Bill 14. And a big part of that brings into legislation, more collaboration and acknowledgement of Indigenous communities’ role in maintaining our wild populations. So I’m curious to hear if you have any thoughts on that.

Erin: So what this bill is essentially doing is the short term amendments to the Wildlife Act. Of course, the Wildlife Act is maybe one of those canonical pieces of legislation that were originally built on a very Western perspective about how we need to manage and control animals and legislate and enforce.

At the time the Wildlife Act was initially built, our government wasn’t thinking anything towards reconciliation or towards incorporating Indigenous perspectives. And I think seeing these changes really reflects that changing relationship and seeing more of government to government work. What it kind of allows for is it gives Indigenous title and right more sovereignty, the right to govern themselves as they always have since time immemorial.

It also incorporates systems for incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing, and not just relying on traditional Western science to dictate how we approach wildlife management in the province.

Amy: I think everything that I’ve heard and learned about sustainability of wildlife is that the focus needs to be on observing, of paying attention and taking time and not making sudden decisions that could affect a whole ecosystem based on, you know, one test or one experiment. So from your perspective, how does Indigenous wildlife stewardship compare with colonial laws?

Erin: Again, I think it’s much more that perspective of stewardship versus management. So there is a lot of this inherent traditional knowledge that goes to our approaches with wildlife.

And I think even before there was a word within Western science for the One Health, One Welfare approach, that was largely how Indigenous people lived. It was knowing that the way the health of the land was interconnected to the health of the animals and to the health of the people and that we all share the system.

If one of us suffers, we all suffer. But if we take good care of each other, then we all can thrive.

“If one of us suffers, we all suffer. But if we take good care of each other, then we all can thrive.”
Erin Ryan on The Informed Animal Ally

Wildlife protection laws in Canada, British Columbia, and municipalities

A Douglas squirrel climbs a tree.

Chantelle: Backing up a little bit, we’ve been talking about colonial laws and you mentioned the Wildlife Act. When it comes to colonial laws, we have the three levels of legislation to consider: federal, provincial, and municipal. Could you give a little bit of background for our listeners on what protections are in place for wildlife at those three levels?

Erin: For sure. So at the federal level, this largely looks at species that are particularly endangered or considered at risk or perhaps part of threatened habitats. It also provides protection to animals in protected areas like national parks or national nature reserves and things like that. One of the primary pieces of federal legislation that I deal with is the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. Because it tends to be that all these migratory birds are not just present, as we know, in one locality or one province; they tend to move throughout the landscape.

At the provincial level, we see the B.C. Wildlife Act, and that helps to fill in some of the gaps of how wildlife is managed at a provincial level. So this piece of legislation and at the provincial level is where we see things like hunting and trapping regulations; we see species limits, bag limits; it defines allowable hunting regions. It also prescribes a few more pieces of legislation for things like wildlife feeding. So the B.C. Wildlife Act prohibits the feeding of dangerous wildlife like bears and wolves and cougars, but it does leave a big gap for other animals.

And this is where municipal law can come in. So although some of those bigger, broader changes aren’t necessarily jurisdiction of the municipality, it is still really important that municipal bylaws can fill in, even more, some of those gaps.

So if we take a look at wildlife feeding, municipalities have the power to say it’s a ticketable offense to feed wildlife, and that can include all types of animals, whether it’s raccoons or squirrels or geese in parks, in ways that are unhealthy and harmful. And unfortunately, even though it might feel good or catch a nice photo, we know that wildlife feeding rarely results in a good outcome and the people who suffer are the animals.

Laws around spirit bears in B.C.

A spirit bear looks at the camera from in the woods.

Amy: I was wondering, for me as a person reviewing legislation, it can be really overwhelming sometimes to think about the thousands, maybe tens of thousands of species that there are, and the way that the law tries to make different categories and rules around not just individual species, but geographic areas. And I thought if we could take a couple individual species of animals and maybe chat through. How it looks; what laws apply; and what some outcomes are for individual animals.

One that comes to mind for many people is the spirit bear, or the white variation of the black bear, and how laws have been developed to protect that bear. I’m curious what you know about that.

Erin: I have heard that there have been some changes incorporating Indigenous laws. So I know that although the province sets black bear hunting levels across different regions and different seasons, there are some Indigenous nations that have their own laws about which types of traps are appropriate, what their hunting season is. And I think what we’re seeing is those are starting to align. And there have been pushes, for example, in changes to black bear hunting limits in order to try and protect spirit bears, because we know that this is a genetic minority and something that has incredible cultural and spiritual significance to a lot of people.

Amy: And I guess some areas just no hunting can occur at all for black bears. Is that right?

Erin: Indeed. In some areas.

Laws around wolves in B.C.

A wolf lies down in a forest. Wolves have been culled in B.C. since 2015.

Amy: That’s kind of a happy story, right? Seeing change and seeing more protection.

I’m wondering if we could talk a little bit about wolves, certainly not as happy of a story.

Many people know, but just in case there are some who don’t: in B.C., there is a wolf cull that has ongoing has been ongoing since 2015, where quite a large volume of wolves are being culled. Essentially killed by helicopter and other means by the province and it’s being paid for with tax dollars. And I’m curious about if you have any knowledge around how the law has come to be, that that’s allowed. What makes it okay to kill these animals in large numbers?

Erin: I think the biggest piece is that it’s become a directive from the provincial government. So whatever restrictions have been in place can potentially change. I know there was a case taken forward. Pacific Wild actually tried to bring forward a legal case that the killing methods of shooting these wolves aerially from helicopters was against the B.C. Wildlife Act.

It is challenging because it highlights some of the really horrible methods that are actually legal. So at this point in time, the use of baiting and poisons and aerial shooting are all completely within the bounds of the law.

I think we can look at this project and definitely disagree. The science all points toward habitat disturbance being the primary factor to caribou decline, which then allows wolves to access the landscape. But in that same sense of wildlife management versus wildlife stewardship, if we’re trying to manage, we’re not going to be able to shoot our way out of this problem.

We have recent evidence showing that habitat restoration of these disturbed areas can restore the landscape and can protect caribou. And if you look at what your tax dollars are paying for, really I would prefer to see my tax dollars invested in habitat restoration.

Amy: It seems to me like that would be the case of most people.

Erin: Indeed. There’s a high percentage of British Colombians, and my mentor, Dr. Dubois did some research on this area, that 95% of British Columbians didn’t agree with killing one species to save another, even if they were endangered.

Laws around pigeons in B.C.

A pigeon stands on a concrete bench in a city block.

Amy: Wow. So maybe moving on to another species.

There are a number of animals that we share our environment with that were brought to where we live. Pigeons are one that we now consider wild because they don’t want to be handled. They don’t necessarily want to be close to us anymore, but they’re all around us, especially in city environments.

And so what are the rules around pigeons and animals like that who aren’t necessarily from our area originally? Are there laws about them?

Erin: I’m so glad you chose pigeons, because I love to talk about pigeons. They’re a particularly interesting case species. So there’s such a divide in our legislation about the way we treat these animals versus the exact context and circumstances of how they came to the environment, how they exist in the environment, their effects.

But pigeons are listed in what’s called Schedule C of the B.C. Wildlife Act. And some other animals included in there, up until recently, included crows, which are native species, brown headed cowbirds, also a native species. These two have recently been moved to Schedule B. But it also includes things like bullfrogs and nutria and feral pigs and all kinds of different animals. And you can see that none of these have quite the same story as the others.

Pigeons, for example, have followed humans to so many corners of the earth. Pigeons in North America arrived really with the first settlers and have become so integrated into the environment that even if we tried, I don’t think we could ever realistically remove pigeons from the landscape. And they’ve been here for hundreds of years.

So it seems hardly fair to be treating them the same way when they’re not having that demonstrable negative impact on the environment. Versus if we look at another Schedule C species like bullfrogs, they are surprisingly voracious predators. They will eat anything that fits into their mouth, even things like ducklings. So there is still hope that we can remove the bullfrog from the landscape. And we know that they have a negative impact on the environment. They were introduced to B.C. much more recently. And yet the same legislation applies to pigeons as it does to bullfrogs.

Amy: And so does Schedule C mean that pigeons aren’t offered the same protections as other wildlife?

Erin: Exactly. So under the Schedule C species, these animals can be killed at any time of year in any number with no limits.

Limits on animal welfare legislation

An orca jumps out of the water.

Amy: Are there limits to the welfare of that process? You know, what laws come into play when you talk about what’s humane?

Erin: The tricky part is that for so long, our legislation has been focused on cruelty and prevention of cruelty.

A lot of the protections that are in place are the bare minimum protection from cruelty. So at the federal level, animals are protected under the Criminal Code, which doesn’t allow animals to be willfully in distress. “Willful” is hard to prove, but this would be, you know, in the worst circumstances where we’ve seen people, for example, maliciously harming an animal.

Animals are also protected under the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. So this is the Act in which the BC SPCA has its enforcement powers to enforce cruelty legislation and bring those to Crown Council. Another tricky part with this one is that these acts generally exclude what’s considered “industry best practices”.

So for example, we know that with farm animals, a lot of circumstances that we see are not considered high welfare, but they are considered industry best practices. And for that reason, a lot of cruelty legislation wouldn’t apply.

How do rodenticides harm wildlife?

A barn owl sits in a fallen log. Owls are impacted by secondary poisoning from rodenticides.

Amy: I think that’s a really good transition actually into our next area. Because when we talk about provincial legislation and municipal bylaws, one topic that has recently been making headlines is the topic of rodenticides, or rodent poisons, because of the danger they pose to wild animals and pets.

There have recently been some changes to legislation around rodenticides, which we’ll get into later. But first, could you touch on why these poisons are so controversial and a hazard to wildlife?

Erin: Yeah. So a lot of the legislation and sort of the big momentum changes happening right now is regulating the use of what’s called second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs).

An anticoagulant is a poison which thins the blood. So it leads to bleeding and hemorrhaging. And usually death happens when the animals simply bleed out. So in sort of the early 1940s, 1950s, we developed what’s called first generation anticoagulants.

Over time, animals developed resistance to these products and there was sort of a lower toxicity. So it could take a few times of them ingesting this product before it would have its effect. For example, warfarin, we see a lot of resistance to this product. And for that reason, we looked towards developing second generation anticoagulants.

So these products were designed to be much more toxic so that rodents could be poisoned after just a single feeding. However, that also meant they’re much more toxic in the environment and they persist much more in the environment.

Animals experience what’s called direct poisoning or secondary poisoning.

Direct poisoning is what we see happening to the mice and rats. So they’re actually eating the poison and they’re experiencing the effects of the poison.

Secondary poisoning is when an animal like an owl, an eagle, a hawk, eats a poisoned rodent carcass. And when they eat enough of that, they themselves experience this sort of secondary toxicity as it builds up in their system. And unfortunately, they experience the same suffering and the same effects.

We’ve noticed pretty profound levels of poisoning. And that concern for wildlife is largely what has driven legislative changes right now. There are also non anticoagulant rodenticides, and these are poisons that work in all kinds of different ways. So for example, there is a neurotoxin bromethalin, which causes effects of the central nervous system. It causes respiratory distress and it’s also one of those rodenticides that has no antidote.

Rodent poison laws in British Columbia

A mouse sits on a small branch.

Chantelle: That was a really helpful background on what rodenticides are. Thank you. There’s been some changes around the laws, as you mentioned. And now there’s a partial ban on the second generation anticoagulant rodenticides. Could you give some details on what that partial ban entails?

Erin: So, as you mentioned, the ban is just a temporary order that affects only the second generation. So that means the first generation anticoagulants are still legal for use. And it means that the non anticoagulant rodenticides are also still legal for use, including these neurotoxins.

And the reason they targeted SGARs is to really tackle the angle of wildlife poisoning and to try and prevent that. So there’s a temporary Minister’s order in place. Although there are still some exemptions for essential services. And the hope is that there will be updates to the legislation when the order expires next year.

And I am hopeful for what’s coming out of the legislation. It’s really inspiring to see the Minister’s ordered last year. It’s not something I expected to see for a long, long time.

Amy: Yeah. It seems as if there’s some real awareness of the public value that other animals have. Maybe rats don’t have public value to the government and many entities, although they have value to us.

But that value in owls and other species, that there’s enough value that the government is recognizing that they’re willing to put financial resources into even developing policy. In so many cases, even if people care about something, the government doesn’t put resources into looking into it, just because they don’t have maybe the same severity of seeing the public perception as being important.

And in this case, it seems they’ve gone forward and said, yes, we do care about public perception and public experience. There are still some gaps in the legislation, but also continued reports from wildlife rescues and veterinarians where poisons are still being used and animals are still suffering.

Do any cases come to mind of confirmed or suspected rodenticide poisoning in wildlife?

Erin: I think one of the things that’s important to remember is that these poisonings often go undetected. So, for example, with wildlife rehabilitation centers, these are often not-for-profit charitable organizations that don’t have a lot of money to invest in poison testing. And this does take money and it takes time.

It can often go undetected because if an owl, for example, is experiencing secondary poisoning, even if the poison doesn’t kill them, or isn’t the obvious cause of death, it does make them more likely to be involved with things like vehicle collisions. And so when they present, it may appear that this owl was hit by a car and that’s the cause of death, not realizing that maybe what we should be looking for is also a rodenticide test.

It’s hard to know what we don’t know. And there have been a number of scientific studies showing a shockingly high percentage of carcasses that tested positive for residue. Whether or not that was the cause of death, it’s still in their system.

And certainly, the members of the public who have found poisoned wildlife have been huge in making this effort. You know, there was one report from the same area where they found more than four owls that had died by rodenticide poisoning. And those cases really speak to the public.

They know what they’re seeing is wrong and they want to take action.

Chantelle: That’s a really good point about the difficulty tracking how many animals are being poisoned by rodenticides if we’re not testing them. Because we know policy change is more attainable when it’s backed by accurate and consistent data. So that’s probably why these reports haven’t yet resulted in a comprehensive ban on all rodenticides.

And the four owls that you mentioned that were found in the same area, which were found in North Saanich, were found around an area that has several farms, where second generation anticoagulants are still allowed.

Calling for change in local elections

A gosling walks out of the lake in front of a family of geese.

Chantelle: We have the municipal elections coming up and that’s a great opportunity to advocate for more animal-friendly bylaw commitments. Would you be able to talk a little bit about what authority municipal governments have to limit the use of rodenticides or make other laws to protect wild animals like with fireworks?

Erin: So, as we discussed earlier, municipalities really have that ability to fill in gaps that are left behind by either provincial or federal legislation. For rodenticides, we’ve actually seen that municipalities have made a huge difference in motive for the province to come down with that legislation.

So I think it’s nearly 30 municipalities now have banned all rodenticides or restricted rodenticides on their municipal property. So even though they can’t ban rodenticide use completely in the city, they can say what is allowed on their property.

And that has a huge impact, because this isn’t just one building. It includes all of their operational offices. It might include community centers, sports centers, and all kinds of different venues. So it covers quite a bit of ground. And it also brings the issue of awareness to the public eye. And I think for the provincial government, it showed that municipalities were willing to work on this, that they weren’t going to get pushback if they tried move forward with this legislation.

Amy: Then I guess there’s also some good bylaws that could be put in place for preventing wildlife feeding. Now is the time to ask either candidates, or if you’re listening to this later, elected folks to consider putting a bylaw in place around wildlife feeding or about banning fireworks or fireworks with sound.

And certainly outside of B.C., there is a municipal cycle that goes on as well. So any time is a good time to ask for change. As we know, it sometimes takes quite a while to get change in place when it comes to public policy, so best to get started sooner rather than later.

So we’ve spoken pretty in depth about the current legislation and gaps. What would you say still needs to be done to protect wildlife?

Erin: You brought up an excellent point with wildlife feeding. That’s definitely an issue that’s top of mind for us as we come into municipal elections. And this is just one of many ways that they can step in and fill a gap.

Where the province regulates the feeding of dangerous wildlife like bears and coyotes, it doesn’t regulate things that the municipal level can. So for example, the City of Vancouver has one of the more comprehensive bylaws we’ve seen prohibiting wildlife feeding, and that includes all species. Previously, there was a bylaw in place for Vancouver parks, but this now applies to the entire city of Vancouver.

Amy: That’s huge.

Erin: It is huge. And the BC SPCA has some examples of model bylaws that are available on our website. We’ve just updated our new model bylaw tool so that municipalities can actually go and look at examples of bylaws that we reviewed and we believe how the animal’s best interests in mind.

Advocate for change in your local election

Amy: It certainly seems like having one municipality take action on something helps for other municipalities to follow suit. You know, have you worked on any cases where a municipality was the first to adopt something? Curious about how that happened if you have experience with that.

Erin: For sure. I think for me top of mind, when it comes to rodenticides, was the District of North Vancouver. So they weren’t necessarily the first municipality in B.C. to pass legislation about rodenticides, but they certainly were sort of the biggest and the most vocal and they certainly developed the most comprehensive policy.

So the District of North Vancouver has also helped inspire other communities. And they can say, “Well, if a big municipality like the District of North Vancouver can do it, so can we.”

Because they also have this comprehensive policy that serves as a model for other municipalities and they don’t have to start from scratch. They already have something usable and comprehensive in place.

Amy: That certainly makes it easier to advocate. Do you have any advice for people who are in advocating for better laws for wildlife?

Erin: The most effective approach to try and make change is to talk to your elected officials. Because they want to make change that matters to their constituents, and if they don’t hear from you, they don’t know that it matters to you.

So the easiest thing you can do is email your City Councillors, Mayor and Council, email your MPs and MLAs, and let them know what animal issues are important to you and what you want to see. You can also even point them to our model bylaws and say, “I’d like to see something like this” or “This nearby district has this great bylaw. Is this something we could consider adopting?”

Laws around captive wild animals

Hana the tiger stares out the fence from a well-worn path at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.

Amy: As we segue into our next episode, we talked about fish welfare before, and then we’re moving on to laws around captive wild animals next month, taking a little bit of an in depth look at that aspect of wild animal welfare.

Do you have any thoughts to share on this topic? Are there ethical and non-ethical ways of keeping wildlife in captivity and is there room for improvement in the laws?

Erin: I think there’s certainly room for improvement. We talked a little bit about some of that cruelty legislation and how industry best practices or generally accepted best practices are excluded.

I think there is no denying that animals don’t have everything they need when we confine them in small spaces and put them up for public display. But unfortunately, if their nutritional needs are met and they’re not in neglect or distress, there’s not a lot legally that’s in place to protect them.

Amy: Yes, absolutely. I’m curious to see what can be done for stereotypical behavior.

Next episode

Watch out for the next episode of The Informed Animal Ally on October 25 about wild and exotic animals in captivity.


Vote for a kinder world in the B.C. local elections

Municipal elections are coming up. Will you cast your vote for a kinder world for animals?

On October 15th, municipalities in B.C. will hold their elections of local government and school boards. The weeks leading up to this election are the perfect opportunity to advocate for better protections for animals!

Candidates for mayor and council are listening to the concerns of residents and laying out their platform. By writing to the candidates and asking questions in local debates, you can:

  • Let the incoming local government know that animal welfare is a priority for residents
  • Find out where candidates stand on protecting animals
  • Help to build a community that is kinder to all species by helping to elect animal-friendly candidates

Get updates and alerts about local elections in B.C.

This action has now ended.

Thank you to everyone who signed up for updates and who advocated for animal protection during the election. The VHS will continue to work with successful candidates to build a kinder community for all species who live here.

See more campaigns

Contact your local candidates to express your support for animal-friendly policies

Let your candidates know that animal protection is a priority to the residents they hope to represent. Below is an email template you can copy and customize when you reach out to your candidates by phone, email, or social media.

I am writing regarding your local election campaign. As a resident, I would like to express my support for bylaws and practices that consider the welfare of animals and the many people in our community who care for them. 

I encourage you to support policies that protect the well-being of animals, including:

-	Supporting pet-friendly affordable housing
-	Reducing animal-based food purchasing
-	Supporting an end to the use of animals in entertainment
-	Ending the keeping of wild and exotic animals who suffer in captivity

I would be interested to hear about your platform commitments related to animal protection. Please reach out if you can provide any details about how you will support kindness toward all species if elected.

Thank you.

Tip: To find your local candidates, visit your municipality’s website or search for “[Your municipality’s name] local election 2022”. You can find the list of candidates in Vancouver here.

Attend local debates and ask questions.

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.

Asking questions at mayoral debates and other local events helps you to learn where candidates stand on animal protection issues, and lets candidates know that animal welfare is a priority of residents.

Below are some suggested questions covering a range of municipal policies.

Animals in captivity

  • Wild, exotic animals have unique needs that cannot be met in captivity. If elected, will you support ending the keeping of wild and exotic animals in permanent captivity for the sake of entertainment and education, in favour of genuine rescue, rehab and release programs and wildlife conservation efforts?
  • Currently, provincial Controlled Alien Species legislation only restricts the private keeping of certain animal species, while many animals that are not suitable for captivity fall through the gaps. For instance, provincial laws do not prohibit the private keeping of zebras. Municipalities have the power to introduce positive lists, which proactively only allow animals that are evidenced to be a suitable fit for domestic environments. Would you support a positive pet list approach?

Animals in Entertainment

  • As we learn more about animal welfare, more people are opposing the use of animals in entertainment such as rodeos and sled dog tourism. If elected, will you support ending the use of animals for entertainment purposes in favour of animal and family-friendly events?
  • The presence of horse-drawn vehicles in urban areas poses a risk to horses, pedestrians, and drivers. Montreal has already banned horse-drawn carriages. If elected, would you support a move away from horse-drawn vehicles?

Farmed Animals

  • Municipalities take a stance on dietary choices when they purchase food for meetings, events, and concessions, or offer food-related funding. The City of Vancouver has already committed to exploring a 20% shift toward plant-based foods, which will help to decrease emissions, cut food purchasing costs, and save animal lives. Would you support a similar commitment to increase plant-based food purchasing?

Companion animals

  • British Columbia is experiencing a housing crisis, and many people with pets are finding it extremely difficult to find affordable housing. If elected, will you support ending the “no pets” rental policies?
  • During the flooding crisis in late 2021, many families with pets were left without adequate accommodation options. Would you support emergency planning that considers animals, including companion animals?


  • There are significant gaps in provincial legislation around rodent poison use, as many animal protection and wildlife rescue organizations have pointed out. Would you support a full ban on dangerous rodenticides being used on municipal property?

Vote on or before October 15

Your vote counts! You can use yours to speak up for animals on voting day or at advance polls. You can find details about advance polling dates, voting locations, and candidates on your municipality’s website.


B.C. government asking for feedback on rodent poisons

The B.C. government is seeking public feedback on proposed changes to the province’s rodenticide regulations. Similar to the current temporary, partial ban on second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs), the permanent changes being proposed fail to address a number of glaring gaps that will leave wildlife and pets at risk of rodenticide poisoning.

Birds of prey and scavengers that eat poisoned rodents continue to turn up dead; domestic cats and dogs are still being brought to veterinary clinics with serious symptoms of rodenticide poisoning, even losing their lives.

From now until June 19, 2022, animal lovers have a unique opportunity to speak up for wildlife and pets before B.C. moves forward with inadequate legislation.

Speak up for B.C. wildlife

Tell the provincial government that wildlife need stronger protections against inhumane and indiscriminate poisons. Click the link below to go to the B.C. government’s online consultation page.

Key points to consider during the public consultation period:

  • Many dangerous poisons would still be allowed under the new regulations, including first-generation anticoagulant rodenticides and neurotoxins.
  • Exemptions to the ban are too broad; second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides would still be used in many locations, including those with frequent wildlife activity.
  • Compliance with and enforcement of the partial ban have been inconsistent; there is inadequate evidence that the government has capacity to enforce proposed restrictions or Integrated Pest Management requirements.
  • Rodenticides are not a long-term solution, as they can harm and kill natural predators of rodents and cause ecosystem imbalance. Many more effective alternatives and prevention strategies exist.

Key recommendations

  • A comprehensive ban of all rodenticides is needed.
  • At the very least, the list of exempt locations should be reduced and the proposed changes should apply to all rodenticides.

Tips for filling out the public consultation survey

British Columbia residents can complete the online consultation by going to the B.C. government’s consultation page and clicking the button to “Submit comments online”.

If you are unable to complete the online consultation, you can email your feedback to

Continue scrolling for more in-depth points broken down by section. Please be sure to submit constructive comments in your own words.

Section 1: Demographics

Complete the section with your information.

Section 2: Discussion Questions (Optional – tap to expand)

Note: If you are unable to complete this section, you may still enter your key concerns under Section 3: General Comments. Please use the suggested points below as a guide rather than copy and pasting, as unique submissions are important.

QuestionSuggested points (in your own words)
1. The ministry is proposing to restrict the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) to Essential Services … What is your feedback on the proposed Essential Services list?The list is too broad and will result in continued widespread use of SGARs.
It should be further reduced and essential services should be assessed to evaluate and prioritize prevention and alternatives to rodenticides.
For example, both rodent conflict and other wildlife activity may be present because of attractants, such as at garbage dumps or recycling facilities. This increases the probability of poisoning of non-target wildlife.
2. What is your feedback on implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, focused on prevention and alternative control tools to rodenticides, when managing rodents?IPM has always been required, but has not been consistently followed or enforced.
Express your concerns about how prevention and alternatives will be enforced.
3. What is your feedback on the proposed requirement for a site-specific IPM plan where SGARs are used?Enforcement appears reactionary (site-specific plans would be provided to ministry inspectors upon request) rather than proactive (require all plans be submitted and reviewed).
4. The ministry is proposing to only allow short-term baiting if using SGARs within an IPM program. … How might the use of SGARs only for short-term baiting within an IPM program affect Essential Service operations?It appears that compliance would be based on good faith by service owners and operators.
Express your concerns about how compliance with 35-day limit and 120 total days per year time limit will be tracked and enforced.
Questions 5-11Respond as desired or proceed to Section 3.

Section 3: General Comments

12. Do you have any other feedback on the proposed changes outlined in the Intentions Paper?

Respond with your main concerns and key points. Below are some additional details to consider. Please feel free to use the points below as a guide, but be sure to submit comments in your own words rather than copying and pasting.

  • There are many negative impacts of rodenticides, such as secondary poisoning of non-target species—which poses a danger to domestic pets and wildlife, including birds of prey.
  • The proposed changes don’t impact the use of other dangerous and inhumane rodenticides, such as first-generation anticoagulants (FGARs) and non-anticoagulants. For instance, veterinarians have raised concerns about bromethalin, a neurotoxin with no specific antidote, yet its use as a rodenticide is still permitted.
  • Exemptions for essential services are too broad and would mean SGARs will continue to be used in many circumstances and contribute to significant wildlife poisoning and deaths.
  • There are concerns about the government’s ability to enforce a permanent partial ban on SGARs. Evidence of suspected SGAR use in prohibited locations was routinely found during the temporary ban and follow-up on reported complaints was inconsistent and slow, suggesting that there aren’t enough resources allocated to effectively enforce a partial ban.
  • The same concerns exist with regard to capacity to enforce enhanced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) requirements—how will the government ensure compliance in terms of no preventative SGAR baiting; ensuring prevention and alternative measures are first exhausted; and limits on baiting time periods? IPM is already required in the current regulations and has not been effectively enforced, leading to regular overuse and misuse of all rodenticide products.
  • There are many prevention methods and alternatives.
  • Prevention is the only long-term solution to rodent conflict. For instance, removing attractants (garbage, compost, food sources like bird seed and fallen fruit, leaky plumbing); rodent-proofing buildings and fixing structural flaws and access points; habitat modification (cutting back bushes and grasses from around building, storing items away from buildings and off the ground).
  • Alternatives exist for lethal control, if needed, including high-quality snap traps; captive bolt traps and other mechanical systems (e.g. Goodnature device); rodent contraceptives (e.g. Contrapest); supporting presence of natural rodent predators, such as owls, through building owl boxes. A family of owls can eat more than 1,000 rodents per year!
  • Recommendation: For all of the above listed reasons, a complete ban on all rodenticides is strongly recommended, including FGARs and non-anticoagulants. As currently proposed, the regulations would result in a complicated patchwork of rules for different audiences and different rodenticide products, which is practically impossible to enforce.
  • At the very least, the proposed essential services list should be further reduced and, crucially, all of the proposed changes being proposed should be applicable to all rodenticides, rather than just SGARs. This would streamline the regulations across audiences and rodenticide products, creating more consistency in the regulations and enforcement.

Note: clicking the button below will open the link in a new tab. You can still return to this tab to review the key points.


B.C. wildlife photographers call for full ban on dangerous rodent poisons

Calls continue to grow for a comprehensive ban on rodent poisons across British Columbia. The province’s current temporary ban on second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) still allows for these products to be used in many circumstances. Meanwhile, the ban fails to prohibit other dangerous rodenticides that pose a similar threat to wildlife from being used. These loopholes prompted VHS, advocates and concerned B.C. residents to call for further action by the B.C. government to protect wildlife from these dangerous and cruel poisons.

Most recently, the Canadian Conservation Photographers Collective shared their support for a comprehensive rodenticide ban and their members took to social media to help raise awareness.

“The Canadian Conservation Photographers Collective (CCPC) fully supports a province-wide ban of all rodenticides in British Columbia as proposed by the Vancouver Humane Society.

The indiscriminate use of rodenticides in the province leads to the deaths each year of many non-target species, such as raptors and household pets. Many owl species, which are extraordinarily adept at catching and killing rodents, are the unfortunate victims of rodenticide use. As advocates for conservation, our members would welcome the discontinuation of all rodenticides in B.C. and the rest of Canada.”

CCPC members shared stunning images of different species who often fall victim to rodenticide poisoning, reiterating the widespread impact of these indiscriminate poisons. Scroll down the page to see some of the CCPC photographers’ powerful images and words.

If you haven’t already, you can also add your name to our petition, calling for a comprehensive rodenticide ban.

Yuri Choufour

“They’ve played an important role in ecosystems for millions of years and captured the human imagination through recorded history. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t like owls. When scanning their surroundings with large piercing eyes, these elusive and charismatic birds often perch hidden in plain sight. Varying adaptations such as nearly silent flight, strong vision & exceptional hearing have made them one of nature’s ultimate rodent hunters.

Some owl species are already imperilled by habitat loss, so we need to act to diminish further threats! Thanks to efforts by the Vancouver Humane Society, you can take part in an online petition to help put an end to the controversial use of rodenticides in BC. These poisons are counter-productive, as they often kill the predators of the targeted rodents in the process. We would love you to lend your voice, helping put a stop to this outdated practice. There are better solutions out there, and we need to continue to improve when it comes to coexisting with wildlife.”

Follow: yurichoufour

Mark Williams


You may have heard this this term, you may have even considered using them, trusting a large company that they are safe, well they are absolutely not. Not for you, for your pets and certainly not for a number of wild animals.

They are extremely toxic poisons that cause a slow and painful death for the rodents. Then what do you think happened to the dead rodents? They are consumed by a number of scavengers or the sick rodents are piled off by predators like owls having deviating effects. I also ready one study that over 60% of mountain lion necropsies found large numbers of rodenticides in them. They are also very harmful for pets and can easily getting into human agricultures for us to consume.”

Follow: marineconservationphotography

Isabelle Groc

“A few years ago, I wrote and co-directed with @mikemckinlayproductions a short film in collaboration with @wildernews about the work of biologist Sofi Hindmarch to understand and conserve the threatened barn owl in British Columbia. ‘Silent Flight’ highlights the many struggles this species is facing: habitat loss, road mortality and rodenticide poisoning. The film can be viewed in the film section of my website.

Today there is an opportunity for all of us to take action and make a difference for the survival of the barn owl, and all wildlife species that suffer a slow and painful death after consuming poisoned rodents.

On July 21, 2021, the B.C. government enacted an 18-month partial ban on second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs), citing the serious risk they pose to the public, pets and wildlife. This means SGARs cannot be used in or around most residential buildings, offices, parks, schools, or non-food retail shops. Unfortunately, gaps in the ban and an apparent lack of enforcement continue to leave wildlife at risk.

Please join me and the members of in supporting the @vancouverhumane who are asking the government of British Columbia to ban all rodenticides in the province.”

Follow: isabellegroc

Ryan Miller

“Vancouver Humane Society is taking action to ban rodenticides. They are 1000 signatures shy of their goal.

Rodenticides are highly toxic poisons that cause a slow and painful death for the rodents that consume them and can severely injure or kill any scavengers, predators or pets who encounter the poisoned rodents. In fact, B.C.-based Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) noted that a few years ago a blood test study found that more than half of the animals in their care had poison residue in their system.”

Follow: ryanmillerphoto


“Important BC Wildlife post … Please go to @vancouverhumane click in their profile to sign the petition to permanently ban poisons against all wildlife. Lets be a voice for those without and help protect these beautiful lives.”

Follow: happytrailzjk

Ray Maichin

“Rodenticides have long caused problems for BC wildlife. On top of being extremely inhumane, rodenticides have far reaching consequences not just to the target ‘pests’ but the wildlife that feeds on them.

Last year, the BC government put a temporary ban on rodenticide use which may be lifted soon. @vancouverhumane and others are calling for a full PERMANENT ban on these deadly poisons that also pose threats to children and pets.”

Follow: raymaichinphoto

Michael, Vancouver Island Wildlife

“At the time I’m writing this The Vancouver Humane Society is a little over a thousand signatures short of there goal of 5000 to help ban the use of rodenticides.

Rodenticides for anyone that doesn’t know are an incredibly toxic poison that once consumed cause a very cruel and painful death to the rodents that consume.

The effects of rodenticides doesn’t stop there as it can cause severe injuries and death to scavenging animals especially birds of prey that feed on these rodents!

On July 21st 2021 the BC government put in place a 18 month PARTIAL ban on rodenticides where they can not be used near schools, residential buildings, parks, offices, or non-food retail shops. Holes in this law and lack of enforcement are still leaving wildlife at risk!”

Follow: islandwildlife

Josh DeLeenheer

“Please join me and the members of in supporting the @vancouverhumane, who are asking the government of British Columbia to ban all rodenticides in the province. This is an opportunity for you to have a direct impact on a conservation issue.”


You can help!

Your voice can make a difference in the call to protect wildlife from cruel and dangerous rodent poisons. Take the quick action to support a full ban on rodenticides in B.C.

Looking to protect animals in your community? Next time you are running errands or spending time outside, keep an eye out for bait boxes that may contain banned poisons around non-exempt locations like apartment buildings, offices, and parks. Learn how to identify and report banned rodenticides here.


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. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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.  


Protect wild, exotic animals in captivity: Petition

Wild, exotic animals suffer in captivity

Zoos and aquariums cannot replicate the size and complexity of a wild animal’s natural habitat. Captive wildlife are also unable to engage in many natural behaviours that are crucial to their physical, social and psychological well-being. Captive exotic animals are often kept in climates that are not suitable for their species.  

According to a recent poll,89% of British Columbians oppose the international trade of exotic animals (wild animals not native to B.C.) to be kept on display in permanent captivity in zoos and aquariums.

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.

VHS has delivered a letter outlining our recommendations and has requested a meeting with the Minister. We will keep Ministry decision-makers updated on the total number of public signatures in support of the campaign.

*The petition form will only accept Canadian postal codes. If you reside outside of Canada, you can send a message directly to B.C. Minister Katrine Conroy at


VHS has been closely observing the status of animals at the Greater Vancouver Zoo and the Vancouver Aquarium. Investigation of both facilities revealed animals in small, barren enclosures and animals exhibiting abnormal behaviours. We have reported this footage to the BC SPCA and a cruelty investigation has been opened.

View the full footage reported to the BC SPCA.

Learn more about exotic, wild animal captivity and help raise awareness

Scroll through the infographics below to learn more about the issues facing captive wild animals. Click the images to save and share them on social media, or scroll down the page for key messages to share on Twitter.

Wild, exotic animals have no place in B.C. zoos. I support @vanhumane’s suggested restrictions to animal captivity.
I signed the petition to protect wild, exotic animals from suffering in captivity! Will you join me?
B.C.’s Controlled Alien Species regulation has not been updated since 2009 and is overdue for an update. Sign the petition to call for changes!

B.C.’s outdated regulations

There are loopholes in the law when it comes to keeping exotic animals. While B.C. has regulations related to the possession, transportation and breeding of exotic animals (wild animals not native to B.C.), the “Controlled Alien Species” (CAS) regulation 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. This leaves out many exotic species, such as kangaroos and zebras, who are not subject to the CAS regulation.

The international trade of animals also increases the risk of disease spread. One in four emerging diseases is zoonotic; many of the most serious illnesses of our lifetimes have originated in animals, including COVID-19.

In B.C., zoos and aquariums, industries using animals for research, and the TV and film industry can get permits to keep dangerous exotic animals through provincial laws regulating the trade of exotic animals. These Controlled Alien Species permits lead to frequent trade of exotic animals and end up resulting in at best, boredom and repetitive behaviours, and at worst, physical suffering and early death.

The province has not significantly updated the CAS regulation since its passing in 2009 and it is overdue for an update.