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August 14, 2014

Quebec government refuses to rescue foxes in critical state on fur farm

Humane Society International/Canada; Montreal SPCA

  • J. McArthur/Montreal SPCA

Authorities from the Quebec Ministère de la Forêts, Faune, et Parcs (Ministry of Forests, Fauna and Parks – MFFP) are refusing to rescue approximately 80 red foxes in distress on a fur farm north of Montreal. Multiple inspections by the MFFP in recent weeks have revealed that the foxes are in critical condition and suffer from serious health problems including dehydration, emaciation, toe fractures, tail injuries, tooth fractures, ear and eye infections, internal bleeding and neurological issues. Further, the condition of these foxes has been steadily deteriorating. Approximately 10,000 minks in the facility were also found with a variety of health problems. Wildlife experts, veterinarians, the Montreal SPCA and Humane Society International/Canada have indicated applying provincial legislation related to foxes and other wildlife in captivity to immediately seize these animals, yet government authorities are refusing to take action.

This stands in stark contrast to recent announcements made by the Minister of Agriculture, Pierre Paradis, to the effect that his Ministry is taking animal welfare seriously. As recently as last week, Paradis announced he was working with the Minister of Justice to change the property status of animals in the civil code and was working on major reforms to the provincial animal welfare legislation that falls under his Ministry.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada stated: “Given the apparent violations to provincial animal welfare laws and the distress the foxes in this facility have been in for months, removing them from the premises so they can receive immediate care is the only acceptable course of action. Our organization, as well as our partners, informed government authorities that we were fully prepared to assist in this seizure and we are astounded that no such action is being taken. If the Liberal government sincerely wants to make Quebec a better province for all animals, it must begin by properly enforcing existing animal protection legislation. By leaving the foxes on this property, the Quebec government is condemning these animals to a horrible fate while sending a clear message that animal abuse is tolerated in this province.”

Dr. Sherri Cox, wildlife veterinarian, who assessed the foxes on-site during an inspection by the MFFP, added: “I am deeply concerned by the level of illness and injury I observed in the foxes on this farm. It is apparent that the foxes are not receiving veterinary care for their injuries and illnesses. I am also alarmed by the lack of basic care such as access to clean water and food. Their housing is unsanitary and harmful to them. These foxes require immediate medical attention and should be removed as soon as possible.”

Lynn Miller, Ph.D., director of wildlife rehabilitation for the Fund for Animals Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts, who assisted with the handling of the foxes on-site, added: “I have never seen animals housed in such poor conditions. These foxes are in a horrible state, from severe medical issues to obvious signs of psychological distress. These animals are in need of urgent veterinary care – without it, many of them will likely soon die. I urge that they be removed from the property for immediate care and rehabilitation.”

Alanna Devine, director of the Montreal SPCA, said: “In addition to grave concerns about the enforcement of existing legislation, it is important to point out that the current legislative structure essentially gives fur farmers in Quebec a free-pass to do whatever they wish with their animals. In Quebec, unlike in other Provinces, any fur farms with 10 or more breeding female mink or foxes are exempt from the permit requirements that non-profit or other organizations caring for mink and fox are subject to. The legislation also fails to provide minimum standards of care for these animals, despite the fact that there is an industry-created voluntary Code of Practice that could easily be adopted into regulations. Finally, the public should be asking why the Ministry entrusted with applying this legislation, the MFFP, is refusing to act within their power and seize the animals given the gravity of the situation.”

The Montreal SPCA and HSI/Canada are calling on the Quebec government to immediately address this situation and seize the animals on this property, to ensure that provincial legislation is properly enforced and that animals are not left to suffer and die. Furthermore, this case brings to light the serious shortcomings of the current legislation scheme governing wildlife in captivity, and the Montreal SPCA and HSI/Canada are asking that fur farms be subject to a permit system and that minimum standards of care for wildlife in captivity be adopted into regulations.

Please write a short letter to Minister Laurent Lessard, urging him to seize the foxes immediately.

Facts and legal framework:

  • The governing provincial legislation is An Act Respecting the Conservation and Development of Wildlife (see sections 1, 13.1, 16, 18 and 18.1) and the Regulation respecting animals in captivity (see sections 3 and 13).  Section 3 of the Regulation constitutes the basic animal welfare provisions for wildlife (such as foxes), and exotic animals (such as parrots). Very few animals have ever been seized by the MFFP for violations of section 3, with only 1 animal seized in 2013.
  • Fur farms in Quebec operate without any government oversight. While sanctuaries and rehabilitation facilities that take in these animals are required to obtain a permit, producers are not and no regular government inspection program exists. Fur farmers are free to self-regulate and keep animals in sub-standard conditions
  • More than 73,000 mink and foxes were killed on fur farms in Quebec in 2010.
  • Acting on a complaint received for animal cruelty, the Montreal SPCA first visited the premises, accompanied by veterinarians, in early May 2014. Several foxes had to be euthanized as they were suffering and had no chance of recovery. The SPCA recommended that criminal charges be laid were recommended but authorization of these charges is still pending.
  • Due to various legislative constraints, the Montreal SPCA was forced to transfer the file to the MFFP for the provincial animal welfare legislation related to wildlife in captivity to be applied. However, the SPCA offered the MFFP its expertise as well as financial assistance for the seizure of the animals.
  • Following multiple exchanges between the Montreal SPCA and the MFFP, on August 4 a group of veterinary and wildlife experts from the Montreal SPCA and HSI/Canada accompanied the MFFP to seize 16 arctic foxes from the premises. These animals were seized by the MFFP due to the owners not having a permit to keep this particular species of fox.
  • Multiple veterinary reports were produced as a result of these visits; and photos and videos document how the condition of the foxes has deteriorated since earlier visits.
  • Both the Montreal SPCA and HSI/Canada reached out to MFFP Minister Laurent Lessard asking that he work with the two organisations to enforce the law and remove the animals from their horrific situation, but these requests remained unanswered.  


Media contact: Christopher Pare: 514 395-2914, email: cpare@hsi.org

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