Vet forced to euthanize baby deer after Canada-wide search for sanctuary fails

Jul 20 2019, 5:23 pm

Sad news out of Kelowna, where staff at the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital are heartbroken after an injured baby deer that they have been caring for had to be euthanized on Friday.

Last week, someone dropped off the baby deer, named Gilbert, after it was found with an open fractured leg. It was determined that the fawn needed to have its leg amputated and couldn’t be released back into the wild.

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The veterinarian taking care of Gilbert, Dr. Moshe Oz, said that’s when it became a race against time because the BC Conservation Officer Service said wild animals can only be under someone’s care for a certain period of time, unless they have a license.

The COS gave Oz a deadline to find a solution, if a solution wasn’t found, the animal would have to be put down. The ministry extended the original deadline from end of day Wednesday to 5 pm on Friday.

In a phone interview with Daily Hive Vancouver, Oz said during that time, he didn’t leave the hospital because he was determined to find Gilbert a sanctuary he could go to after surgery, meanwhile keeping the fawn comfortable and medicated in the clinic.

After working tirelessly around the clock, no licensed sanctuary could be found for the baby deer.

Oz said the clinic got the call from the COS that the 5pm deadline wouldn’t be extended any further, “if we didn’t find any solution and present it to them, a solution that they’d say ‘feasible’ for the government, for the Provincial Government, which has lots of flaws, and lots of ‘no’ and lots of ‘can not’ then we had to put him down.”

“I chose to put him down here in the clinic, when it’s comfortable, when it’s under sedation, when it’s very clean and fast,” Oz said.

“It was hard,” Oz said.

“It was very very emotional and very hard for me because I’ve been here three days with the baby and, you know, looking at his eyes and what he represents, it’s hard for me.”

Oz said he understands the logic behind the decision making, and knew that it would be hard to find a proper sanctuary for Gilbert.

“It’s impossible to find any sanctuary here in BC as I learned because there is none,” Oz said, explaining he was hoping to find at least one in Canada — and then challenge the law stating that wild animals can’t be transported 200 KM from where they are found.

Oz said he understands that rule is in place so diseases don’t get transferred, but adds he could test the baby deer for any disease, and if found that Gilbert didn’t have any, “then maybe the law is not really for him. So I tried to challenge that, but unfortunately we couldn’t find anywhere in Canada that is licensed sanctuary.”

“We had lots of good feedback from the community and from people and lots of ideas,” Oz said describing efforts from strangers trying to find Gilbert a new home, “nothing was concrete to the point that the government would say ‘yes, this is a good idea, lets extend the ultimatum and work on it,'” because he said no facilities had a proper permit for the long-term care Gilbert needed, especially keeping up with changing his prosthetic as he grew bigger.

“We didn’t have much time, but on the other hand, I understand the Provincial Government, when they come and say ‘you have just until the deadline’ because at the end of the day, it’s not life for the small deer to live in a hospital environment — confined,” Oz said.

Gilbert’s death “wasn’t for nothing”

Oz said he hopes something positive will come out of Gilbert’s death: he hopes the baby deer’s story will raise awareness that the province needs a wildlife sanctuary, to have people think that “maybe there is a need to help those wild animals and not just to euthanize them if we can not release them back to the nature.”

Oz said he understands that the province doesn’t have the resources it needs to create a sanctuary now, but after speaking with the local MLA, Oz said he wants to get people together to get the ball rolling, adding he’s seen communities come together before and raise money for what it needs, and “maybe the government can give us a land, a piece of land somewhere in the woods.”

“Or, maybe we need to bend a little bit and redefine the rules that we have in BC which allows us to find a solution in different provinces,” Oz said.

Oz said he heard some people question the “importance” of saving the baby deer, “and I do agree in some extent, you know, it’s not as important as economics and politics and, you know, everything else, for me I’m a veterinarian — I just deal with animals, so for me it’s the most important part of the day.”

The Ministry of Forests said in an emailed statement: “This is an unfortunate and sad situation. Nobody likes to hear of a young animal in distress.”

It said both the ministry and the vet looked for long-term care facilities for the deer, “however no facilities were found that are equipped to deal with this type of injury in a wild animal and the significant ongoing care required.”

“A treatment plan was required to help the suffering deer,” it said.

It said the COS with the Ministry of Environment became involved “because anyone who possesses wildlife must require a permit under the Wildlife Act. However, no action was required on the part of COS.”

“Ministry staff contacted the vet to determine the best approach to help the injured deer. Together, it was determined the most humane course of action is to euthanize the deer,” it said.