SPCA firm on opposition to Oak Bay deer cull

Following a confidential meeting with Oak Bay’s deer cull contractor on Wednesday, the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals remains against trapping and killing 25 deer.

Dr. Sara Dubois, the B.C. SPCA’s chief scientific officer, met with Oak Bay and Capital Regional District staff to reiterate the animal welfare group’s concerns about the cull and ensure awareness of the SPCA’s responsibility to respond if complaints of animal distress are filed.

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Oak Bay was granted a permit by the provincial government in January to cull 25 deer. The contractor will use large net boxes reinforced with wood and shots from a bolt gun to the deer’s head. The method has been deemed humane by the provincial wildlife veterinarian.

Mayor Nils Jensen has said Oak Bay council was “at a point that it had to do something for public safety and public health.” There has been serious injury to two Oak Bay dogs, and parents have been unable to let their children play in their yards due to deer feces or, in one case, the presence of several bucks at once. Seniors are increasingly afraid to walk at night in case they encounter deer, he said.

The municipality’s cull permit is valid until March 15.

The SPCA has no legal grounds to stop the cull, which would be illegal only if the methods used contravened either the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act or the Criminal Code of Canada, Dubois said.

“At this point, the B.C. SPCA has done everything within our legal ability in Oak Bay,” Dubois said in a statement. “We have the authority to investigate how animals are used or killed in the province, but we do have not ability to control why or for what purpose animals are used or killed. At the end of the day, concerned Oak Bay and CRD residents need to be a voice for the deer.”

But the Oak Bay pilot project does not meet the SPCA’s standard for “scientific, evidence-based approaches to animal welfare,” she said.

“The SPCA does not believe the approach was based on an accurate deer count of a cross-municipal deer population [or] proper consultation with residents, or that conflict-reduction programs (such as speed reduction, reducing attractants or fining intentional feeders) were properly implemented prior to moving to a cull,” Dubois said.

Helen Koning, Oak Bay’s chief administrator, said the meeting, which was called by the B.C. SPCA, went well. Both parties confirmed that the capture and euthanize method being used does not contravene the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

“There was no request for any further meetings,” Koning said.

Jensen couldn’t say whether the cull has begun.

But he said he is surprised the B.C. SPCA is speaking out against the cull, given that it follows provincial guidelines and uses methods practised elsewhere.

“We followed government guidelines and the exact same process they did in the East Kootenays, which was seen as appropriate by the SPCA,” Jensen said.

“I am a bit confused that they would look upon us differently than the communities in the East Kootenays, [where] at least four of them did significant culling of deer.”

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

asmart@timescolonist.com

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