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article image3rd giraffe dies in B.C. animal facility, charges pending

By Stephanie Dearing     Feb 7, 2010 in Lifestyle
Charges are pending against the Fort Langely conservation centre, Mountain View Conservation Centre after a giraffe died during hoof trimming.
Fort Langely, B.C. - Already under investigation on unproven charges of animal abuse and neglect, the SPCA has said it was preparing to charge the exotic breeding facility with neglect after a third giraffe died at the facility Friday. The SPCA had been investigating the facility since November for accusations of animal neglect and abuse lodged by former staffers. An emotional Eileen Drever, the SPCA officer who had been on site when the giraffe died during a medical procedure to trim its hooves told press "I'm saddened but I'm really angry that this poor animal had to suffer. I'm preparing charges to send to Crown counsel based on the animal being neglected."
Two other giraffes had died at the facility in December 2009. Drever was on site Friday to supervise a surgical procedure to trim the overgrown hooves of the giraffe named Jerome, a procedure ordered by the SPCA in January. The procedure was carried out by veterinarian, Dr. Bruce Burton. Drever said the death of the giraffe was preventable.
Jerome died while sedated for the hoof trimming. The procedure had been scheduled for Wednesday, but was delayed to Friday by Burton. Jerome's hooves were so overgrown that there was doubt the trimming would be successful, and there was talk of putting Jerome down. Discussing the planned procedure with media, Burton said "He's probably one of the nicest giraffes you'll meet. Everything that we can do we will do to try and save this guy. We very well may not succeed. If we do not think we can help him, unfortunately, we are probably going to have to euthanize him." Burton had cautioned that the proceedure to trim Jerome's hooves was fraught with danger. "If [the neck] comes down, it can be fatal. They just don't tolerate anesthetics very well."
An adult and baby giraffe had died at the facility in December during a cold snap. The facility installed heaters in the giraffe barn under orders from SPCA after the deaths of the giraffes. Mountain View founder, Gordon Blankstein, told press in December “We complied with the SPCA's order to provide heat for our giraffes, but we've kept giraffes in that barn for 10 years without any heat, and they've been fine in much colder winters."
The adult giraffe died from peracute mortality syndrome (PMS) combined with the cold. Necropsy results for the baby giraffe have not been released.
The facility, which bills itself as Canada's "... leading non-profit Canadian facility that breeds endangered wildlife species into thriving family groups for re-introduction back into their natural habitat, here in Canada and around the world" was founded in 1989 by Blankstein and his wife. The facility has 300 acres and 50 animal species.
A spokesman for the facility said that it might change its focus to endangered Canadian species instead of exotic animals. The Centre is currently planning to move all 300 of its exotic species to other facilities.
Former staff have alleged that up to 50 animals have died "under questionable circumstances" at the facility since 2004. The accreditation for the facility is currently being reviewed, and may be revoked. Up until recently, the facility has had a stellar reputation, according to accrediting authorities, the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA). National Director of CAZA Bill Peters said "... not a single complaint was received by CAZA during the latest five-year accreditation period."
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