A veteran local wildlife activist wants a water-skiing squirrel featured at the 2020 Vancouver International Boat Show to be docked.
And although a city by-law against circus performances with animals doesn't apply, an older ordinance would appear to back him up.
Peter Hamilton, the founder of Vancouver-based Lifeforce, stated in a news release that the eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on display, named Twiggy, is actually the eighth animal by that name to have been "caged, food-deprived, and subjected to force training" in the name of human entertainment.
The squirrel act has been presented daily at the boat show, which is Western Canada's largest and longest running such show and which runs until Sunday (February 9) at B.C. Place and Granville Island.
In his February 6 release, Hamilton noted that squirrels are not prohibited "under the Vancouver 'Wild Animals in Circuses' Bylaw that was instigated by Lifeforce. Although it states 'circuses' Lifeforce did stop the bird act at the Queen Elizabeth Theater a few years ago. We will have to see if the City will include squirrels as they are not specified in 'Schedule A' but are certainly wild and/or domesticated animals. The intent of this Bylaw was to ban wild animal performances...".
Vancouver By-Law No. 6940, passed by city council in February 1992, states: "No person carrying on the business of a circus shall use or permit to be used an animal listed in Schedule A which is attached to and forms part of this By-law."
The animals listed in Schedule A include "non-human primates (such as gorillas and monkeys)", felids (only wild cats), canids (only wild dogs), bears, elephants, seals, snakes, marsupials, alligators and crocodiles, most birds, weasels, badgers, raccoons, anteaters, sloths, and others.
Squirrels, members of the Sciuridae family—which includes ground squirrels, tree squirrels, groundhogs, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, prairie dogs, and other small rodents—are not included in the bylaw.
However, a Vancouver bylaw passed in 1978, Business Prohibition By-Law No. 5156, states that a "person must not carry on any business, trade, profession, or other occupation set out and described in Schedule A to this By-law". Listed as No. 13 in Schedule A is "A business that offers for sale or sells, at retail or wholesale, or that uses in a competition, exhibition, performance, event, or other situation, any exotic animal listed".
The list goes on to name dozens of animals, including "rodentia excluding domestic hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, rats, mice, degus, and gerbils". Squirrels are members of the taxonomical order Rodentia.
Offences against this by-law are punishable, upon conviction, by a fine of up to $10,000.
Repeated attempts to contact Hamilton by phone were unsuccessful.
The website for Twiggy Inc., which claims to have been showcasing the water-skiing rodent for more than 40 years, directs visitors to a YouTube channel that archives videos of Twiggy's performances throughout North America.
Messages left for Twiggy Inc., based in Sanford, Florida, and the media representative for the Vancouver International Boat Show were not returned by publication time.