‘Fur-Bearers’ want highest court to limit conservation officers’ power to put down animals

A grizzly bear cub nicknamed 'Groot' was euthanized Friday after being turned over to a conservation officer. Submitted: Brandy Gienger

An animal advocacy group has filed for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada after B.C.’s top court dismissed a case from The Fur-Bearers challenging the power of the Conservation Officers Service (COS) to euthanize animals at its own discretion.

The case stems from when an orphaned baby bear was put down in 2016 by a conservation officer — while a rehabilitation centre was willing to take the animal in.

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Executive Director of The Fur-Bearers, Lesley Fox, said the COS needs to be given limits when it comes to killing wild animals.

“They’re tasked with enforcing the safety of our public: they’re not veterinarians, they’re not biologists, they’re not trained to properly assess animals for wildlife rehab, that belongs in the hands of people that are experts in those areas, so I think we’re asking our officers to do more than they’re currently able. And quite frankly they’re understaffed and underfunded as it is.”

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She said an independent body needs to be created to overlook all decisions made before an animal is destroyed.

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“There’s experts in our province that can do that, we just need to enable those experts, and get out of the way for these animals in many cases to just simply recover.  So I think we certainly need to establish some boundaries and gain a better understanding if there are any limits to what a B.C. conservation officer can and can’t do — and currently right now there are no limits.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Environment said not a single conservation officer relishes the thought of having to put down an animal and that euthanization is a last resort.

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It said conservation officers are guided by provincial wildlife policy, as well as their experience and expertise, to make decisions in the field every day.

It adds that the previous court decisions affirms the understanding of the authorities granted under the Wildlife Act.

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