Goldwater, Dubé, a Canadian leader in family and animal rights law, has initiated an action at Quebec Superior Court to prevent the Montreal suburb of Longueuil — Quebec’s fifth largest city — from resorting to an unnecessary and cruel slaughter in order to control the deer population in Michel Chartrand Park.
The lawsuit is being led by Sauvetage Animal Rescue, a local nonprofit that has advocated for a science-based and humane solution to the overpopulation problem, a Longueuil citizen and animal rights activist, and Goldwater, Dubé senior partner Me Anne-France Goldwater, who has famously opposed plans by the suburban Montreal municipality to cull between 50 and 70 of the beloved animals. The population has more than doubled from the 32 white-tailed deer counted by regional authorities in 2017. Municipal inaction, the plaintiffs argue, continues to exacerbate the issue and complicate a possible rescue operation.
“There are organizations like our friends at the wildlife protection group Sauvetage Animal Rescue who have developed and continue to develop expertise in order to save these animals,” said Me Goldwater. “There are municipalities that have come forward and are willing to receive many of these animals on vast tracts of protected land. The solutions available after many years of the City of Longueuil’s inaction are not without some risk to the deer but are certainly better than a mass slaughter.”
Humane Solutions on the Table
The fate of the deer population of Michel Chartrand Park is a longstanding issue in Longueuil, and Sauvetage Animal Rescue had proposed a plan to ensure many of the deer would be treated by qualified veterinarians and then carefully relocated to protected sites in Quebec. The group is saddened that delays have only further complicated the operation, one which can be humane and free of cost to the city.
Me Goldwater is petitioning the Court to force both Quebec’s Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs and the City of Longueuil first, to agree to avoid enacting any plan to kill the deer until the case is heard and, second, to work with experts in the domain who have a humane alternative plan to culling available but also to comply with the spirit of Quebec’s Animal Welfare and Safety Act. The steps of TNRM include:
- Trap the deer under veterinary supervision and then Treat them on-site for parasites (such as ticks) with Ivermectin, to prevent transmission of Lyme Disease from the ticks to people and their dogs. Evaluate their health to ensure they are well enough to travel. This can take up to 3 days.
- Neuter the deer: vaccinate the females with contraceptive medication or surgically sterilize the males.
- If feasible, transport them to new locations, and Release all deer that are able to be relocated to wildlife refuges and other territories in Quebec.
- Maintain the deer by providing long-term veterinary care, and, if the deer remain in controlled environments, feed them as well.
Sauvetage Animal Rescue has put forward a proposal by a specialized firm to manage the deer population. The Connecticut-based White Buffalo Inc., which has published over 70 peer-reviewed studies about fauna management strategy and organized the relocation of about 1,975 deer in one New York State project alone, has determined through a preliminary analysis that Longueuil’s deer qualify for relocation.
“Our group has been encouraging the city and the Ministry to work together to find a humane solution for more than two years now,” explained Éric Dussault, General Manager of Sauvetage Animal Rescue. “We have always been ready to help with our expertise and our equipment, but unfortunately a certain administrative burden has slowed us down. The announcement of the action brings hope to animal rights defenders in Longueuil.”
Moreover, according to a recent statement by Sauvetage Animal Rescue, “a number of biologists and veterinarians who specialize in this domain and who work for a company that had developed a contraceptive vaccine are ready to work with us and cover all logistical expenses, at no cost to the taxpayer.”
Best Practices in North America
Me Goldwater would also encourage the City of Longueuil to seek out scientifically- validated methods of dealing with growing urban deer populations, especially from jurisdictions elsewhere in Canada and the United States where animal welfare legislation and best practices are well-established.
“I take issue with the lack of consultation with the citizens of Longueuil who have the right to be concerned about an open-air slaughter in suburban Montreal,” Me Goldwater said, “and I take issue that a so-called expert committee cites no best practices at all from the United States and very little from elsewhere in Canada. In fact, the city’s report does not cite one single English-language source. Why not look at operations that have worked successfully elsewhere in Canada or in the northeastern United States?”
Me Goldwater added: “Interestingly, there is historical evidence of relocation of deer throughout North America by indigenous populations, with considerable success judging by genetic analyses of their descendants, and this dating back hundreds of years.”
Photo: Les Amis du parc Michel-Chartrand