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New Legal Action to Relieve Lucy's Distress

posted 6 Sep 2016, 16:37 by Rob Laidlaw

For Immediate Release September 6, 2016

Zoocheck & Voice for Animals Launch

New Legal Action to Relieve Lucy’s Distress

In the ongoing battle to have zoo standards enforced in Alberta to protect Lucy, the lone elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, Zoocheck and Voice for Animals has filed an Originating Application for Judicial Review. We strongly oppose the government of Alberta’s decision to renew the Valley Zoo’s permit since they have failed to comply with the zoo standards for many years.

“Alberta’s Zoo Standards require that animals be kept in appropriate social groups and that the enclosures meet the animals’ basic needs. This is not being done for Lucy,” reported Julie Woodyer, Campaigns Director for Zoocheck. “We advocated for many years to get the Alberta Zoo Standards enacted, and although among the best in Canada, we now want to ensure they are enforced.”

“Lucy’s circumstances are inadequate in so many ways and most importantly they fail to comply with Alberta’s Zoo Standards. The Zoo Standards were enacted to protect captive animals in Alberta and, therefore, must be enforced.” Tove Reece, Executive Director, Voice for Animals.

Several affidavits have been submitted with the originating application with evidence to support the assertion by Zoocheck and Voice for Animals that the Ministry of Environment and Parks has failed to meet their duty to ensure that the Valley Zoo is in compliance with the Zoo Standards prior to issuing a zoo permit.

Affidavit of Julie Woodyer 2016

Ensley report 2016

Affidavit Dr. Lindsay

Keith Lindsay 2010 Affidavit

Affidavit T. Reece



Julie Woodyer, Zoocheck

1-888-801-3222 (toll free)

Cell #: 416-451-5976

Tove Reece, Voice 4 Animals

Cell #: 780-918-5385 or 780-922-4176


Now available - Elephant Resource Guide

posted 24 Aug 2015, 08:13 by Rob Laidlaw   [ updated 24 Aug 2015, 08:17 ]

An updated version of Take Action for Elephants for teachers is now available. Download from


Edmonton Valley Zoo turns down coat for aging elephant Lucy

posted 23 Feb 2015, 08:06 by Rob Laidlaw   [ updated 6 Sep 2016, 16:34 ]

Edmonton Valley Zoo turns down coat for aging elephant Lucy

The Canadian Press Posted: Feb 05, 2015 4:46 PM MT Last Updated: Feb 05, 2015 4:46 PM MT

The Edmonton Valley Zoo's lone elephant will not get a chance to try on a winter coat from a group concerned about her well-being.

The gift left for Lucy at the Edmonton Valley Zoo. (Chandra McQuarrie)

Friends of Lucy chipped in $250 to buy the extra-extra-extra large waterproof and insulated garment to protect Lucy from the cold.

Zoo spokeswoman Debi Winwood says Lucy doesn't need the coat, which Winwood says is more like a blanket.

She says it will be donated to an elephant orphanage in Africa or Asia.

Animal rights groups have been after the zoo for years to move the aging Lucy from a climate they say is too harsh for her.

The zoo says Lucy has been examined by a veterinarian and deemed too sick to travel because of respiratory troubles.

An elephant wears a coat, similar to the one offered to the Edmonton Valley Zoo for Lucy.

An elephant wears a coat, similar to the one offered to the Edmonton Valley Zoo for Lucy. (Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand)

Lucy's Veterinarian Passes Away

posted 5 Jan 2015, 11:08 by Rob Laidlaw

Man who tended to Lucy the elephant dies

By , Edmonton Sun

First posted: Saturday, May 03,

A man who fought vigorously against animal rights activists who wanted to see Lucy the Elephant moved to an animal sanctuary, has died.

Doctor Milton Ness, a chief veterinarian at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, passed away last week.

The Valley Zoo Development Society confirmed Ness’ passing on Facebook Saturday afternoon.

“We would like to acknowledge the loss of an important member of our Edmonton Valley Zoo family. Dr. Milton Ness, a passionate and dedicated friend to all animals,” the statement read.

“Our thoughts are with his family and all of his co-workers at this difficult time. He will be greatly missed.”

But like some of his endeavours, that post attracted some negative comments, primarily linked to his fight to keep Lucy in Edmonton.

Ness has been a vocal proponent of keeping the pachyderm in our city -- she’s been here for most of her 37-years -- as he says the move to a sanctuary in the Southern United States would likely kill her.

The Society quickly put a stop to the negativity, saying “using this post to further you personal agenda, cause grief to the family and friends of a man who was respected, loved and dedicated his life to animals is unacceptable.”

Others however noted how much Ness had touched their lives in his career that spanned some 30 odd years.

“So sorry to hear this,” wrote Judy Dehoog. “He was our first veterinarian many years ago. His passion for Edmonton’s animals will truly be missed.”

Ness graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon in 1982.

He came to the Valley Zoo as a full time vet back in 2007 -- after studying at the University of Saskatchewan and getting his start working on bison and elk at a rural clinic.

In 2012, Ness was honoured by the Alberta Veterinarian Medical Association for his exceptional communication with Edmonton residents.

The city was unable to comment on what will happen with future care of Lucy and other zoo animals while they work to find a replacement.

Debate Over Lucy Rages On

posted 29 Oct 2013, 10:41 by Rob Laidlaw

Moving elephant would endanger its health, city officials argue

Otiena Ellwand, Edmonton Journal, Monday, October 28, 2013

The debate surrounding the Valley Zoo's lone elephant is back in the spotlight after the Toronto Zoo successfully transported its three elephants to a sanctuary in California last weekend.

A local animal-rights organization staged a protest Sunday at the west-end zoo to demand the city convene a panel of experts to examine Lucy the Asian elephant and reassess whether it's safe enough to move her. The group says elephants are social by nature and shouldn't be kept alone or live in a climate like Edmonton's.

"I'd like to ask city council to look to Toronto," said Stacie Leppky, a board member with Voice for Animals Humane Society. "Everyone in Canada is moving their elephants and they need to step up and do something," At the beginning of September, the Calgary Zoo transported its one male elephant to a zoo in Florida and plan to move its three female elephants to a zoo in Washington, D.C. this spring.City of Edmonton spokesman Jason Darrah said Lucy has respiratory problems that make it difficult for her to breathe when she's in stressful situations, and moving her would exacerbate that.

"Based on third-party scientific review and veterinary care, we have been advised that Lucy is well adjusted and has some manageable health issues, however moving her would cause her serious health risks and would likely kill her," Darrah said Sunday.

Those visiting the zoo Sunday morning had to walk past about 30 protesters to get inside and were reluctant to talk about the issue. Protesters stood by holding signs with slogans such as Nightmare at the Zoo, Free Lucy and Boo Hoo Zoo.

Visitor Jessica Hogan said she believes that at 38, Lucy is too old to be moved. "She has to stay where she is. She has too many health issues."

Hazel Roy, who attends the zoo regularly, pondered how the protesters would respond should Lucy die during transport.

"How would everyone here feel? Would they blame the zoo?" Tove Reece, executive director of Voice for Animals Humane Society, responded to Roy's comment by saying, "If that should happen, I would say life here is worse."

While the group does not want any harm to come to Lucy, it challenges the findings of Dr. James Oosterhuis, the elephant expert the city hired in 2009 and 2012, who determined that moving Lucy would be life-threatening.

"If a group of experts came in and said it's too dangerous to move her, we'd back off," Reece said. "We don't want to send her to a certain death."

Darrah said as part of the zoo's ongoing care of all animals, "we regularly bring in other experts ... to support our veterinarian with his work."

The Valley Zoo doesn't plan on housing any more elephants after Lucy.

In 2007, a 25-year-old African elephant living at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage was transferred to California after much debate.

3 Calgary Zoo elephants moving to Washington, DC

posted 29 Oct 2013, 10:33 by Rob Laidlaw

Female Asian elephants will be relocated to the Smithsonian's National Zoo in the U.S. capital

CBC News Posted: Aug 20, 2013 2:11 PM MT

The Calgary Zoo is sending its remaining elephants to a facility in Washington, D.C.

Next spring Kamala, Swarna and Maharani will head to the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

They will be reunited with a couple of elephants that two of them lived with at an orphanage in Sri Lanka more than 30 years ago.

Donald Moore, an official with Smithsonian's, says they'll be studying them to see if the elephants remember each other and how they'll react.

"We think they'll remember each other, and we are in conversation about how to study that along with some university researchers in psychology and communications," he said. "So it's going to be a very exciting time for these elephants in Washington, D.C."

The zoo announced earlier this summer that its lone male Asian elephant, Spike, will be moved to the Busch Gardens zoo in Tampa, Fla., later this year.

Zoo officials said they did an extensive international search and this accredited facility met their stringent criteria to take care of the three female elephants.

The move was made in the best interest of the animals and not because of recent flood damage to the zoo, according to officials.

The decision to move the animals was made last April because the island that houses the zoo cannot accommodate a large herd, and elephant welfare is better served by being part of a larger social group.

The Elephant in the Room on the fifth estate

posted 12 Nov 2012, 14:52 by Rob Laidlaw

Visit the fifth estate website

A no nonsense look at the keeping of elephants in zoos, with a focus on the plight of Lucy at the Edmonton Valley Zoo and the three surviving elephants at the Toronto Zoo.


In the trade they call elephants Charismatic Mega Fauna -- huge majestic animals that help the industry draw millions of people each year. The fact is that Zoos and Aquariums are big business, generating more revenue than all professional sports leagues in the U.S. and Canada combined, according to industry insiders. Yet all is not well with the gentle giants in Canadian zoos. A heated controversy has erupted over what to do with zoo elephants when they are ready to retire.

This week on the fifth estate, Bob Mckeown looks at the bitter fight over elephants in captivity and what zoos will do to keep them. Weighing in on this controversy are Hollywood stars like Bob Barker and William Shatner, who are out to rescue aging elephants from Canada's cold climes and move them to an animal sanctuary in Northern California where they can peacefully live out their lives.

"Canada is a wonderful place and I love Canadians. I loved them on the The Price is Right and I love the country. But it ain't no place for elephants." says Bob Barker, former host of The Price is Right and animal activist.

Cold climates, tight enclosures, little exercise -- it's a far cry from the vast hot expanses of elephants' natural environments. Battle lines have been drawn from Edmonton to Toronto with zoos facing off against experts who say a cage is no place for these gigantic yet graceful giants. Could Canada's elephants be the beginning of the end for the world's zoos?

Top court won't hear Lucy the elephant case

posted 26 Apr 2012, 08:02 by Rob Laidlaw   [ updated 26 Apr 2012, 08:04 ]

NOTE: Today, the Supreme Court of Canada said it will not hear the case regarding Lucy the elephant. Once again, the City of Edmonton and the Valley Zoo get lucky and avoid being put in a position where they actually have to defend their multitude of nonsensical claims about Lucy. Despite the ruling, the campaign to relocate Lucy will proceed full steam ahead.


Top court won't hear Lucy the elephant case


Lucy the elephant appears to be staying put after a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday that it will not hear a case regarding her future.

The court rejected an application to hear the case between animal-rights activists, who want the elephant moved, and the City of Edmonton, which owns the Edmonton Valley Zoo where Lucy lives.

Lucy's plight has been in the spotlight for years, with several celebrities publicly calling for her relocation, including former The Price is Right host Bob Barker, ex-NHL enforcer George Laraque and William Shatner.

Activists, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Zoocheck Canada, launched a lawsuit in 2010, asking the court to declare the zoo's lone elephant was in distress. They said Lucy should be moved to a warmer climate where she could be around other elephants.

The zoo has said the 36-year-old Asian elephant is in no condition to move due to a respiratory condition.

"Moving Lucy would be life-threatening and this is a risk that we cannot and will not take," the zoo said in a recent statement.

But activists disagree and say Lucy's living conditions at the Edmonton Valley Zoo are exacerbating her ailments.

"Her health, in fact, is the reason she must be moved," said Julie Woodyer, campaign director for Zoocheck Canada.

"She continues to decline there and, if she's not moved, she'll die."

The Edmonton Humane Society investigated and, in early 2011, declared Lucy was being adequately cared for at the zoo.

Woodyer said Zoocheck will not end its campaign to move the elephant, however.

"We're not going to give up on Lucy," she said.

The Edmonton Valley Zoo moved their African elephant, Samantha, to a breeding program at the North Carolina Zoo in 2007.

Valley Zoo Comments on Calgary Decision to Move Elephants

posted 20 Apr 2012, 14:38 by Rob Laidlaw

Note: Below is the statement from the Valley Zoo regarding Lucy. Nothing at all new. The Valley Zoo continues to claim that Lucy is unable to be moved due to a "mysterious" health condition that still, after all these years, they cannot diagnose.  The Valley Zoo also reiterates their intention to cease the keeping of elephants at their facility but, at the same time, state that they are committed to forcing Lucy to remain at their zoo, where she lives an impoverished, solitary life.


Calgary Zoo and Edmonton Valley Zoo Both Making Decisions in Best Interest of Their Elephants

April 19, 2012

Edmonton Valley Zoo Director responds to Calgary Zoo elephant announcement

Edmonton Valley Zoo Director Denise Prefontaine released the following statement in response to Calgary Zoo officials announcing its long-term plan to relocate its elephants to another accredited facility:

“The Edmonton Valley Zoo supports the decision by our colleagues at the Calgary Zoo to develop a long-term plan for moving their elephants to a larger facility with a larger herd. Their position to eventually not house elephants is consistent with the previously announced decision of the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Zoos are stewards of living, breathing animals and must be committed to the best interests of the individual animals. We firmly believe this, and as such support the Calgary Zoo for the careful long-term process they have made a commitment to follow.

Moving elephants can cause great stress to the animals, so deciding if and when to move elephants must be done carefully and thoughtfully and be based on what is right for the individual elephant.

The Edmonton Valley Zoo followed a thoughtful decision-making process before moving Samantha, the zoo’s African elephant, to become part of a breeding herd at the North Carolina Zoo in 2007. Our remaining Asian elephant Lucy is a calm and well-adjusted animal with a challenging and unique medical condition. Lucy has a respiratory condition which precludes any thought of placing her in a stressful situation, such as transporting her and/or placing her with unfamiliar caregivers or in an unfamiliar environment.

Moving Lucy would be life-threatening and this is a risk that we cannot and will not take.

So while the long-term goal of the Edmonton Valley Zoo – like the long-term goal of the Calgary Zoo – is to not have elephants, the current priority is Lucy’s health and overall well-being. The City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Valley Zoo will continue to make decisions in the best interest of Lucy. She will remain in Edmonton where we are committed to ensuring she will receive the most appropriate and best care possible.”

Who Will Speak for Lucy the Elephant (March 28, 2012)

posted 28 Mar 2012, 07:46 by Rob Laidlaw

Globe and Mail (Opinion Editorial)

“I’m the Lorax who speaks for the trees!”

Long before there was a hit movie, children could remember reading Dr. Seuss’s story of The Lorax, about a determined orange creature who made them wonder whether anyone would speak for the trees. Back in the world of non-fiction, the Supreme Court of Canada is now being asked to consider whether anyone can speak for Lucy.

Lucy, a 35-year-old Asian elephant, was captured as a baby in Sri Lanka in 1977 and has been captive at the Edmonton Valley Zoo ever since. For 18 years, she had the company of an African elephant named Samantha, but in 2007, Samantha was sent to another zoo on a long-term breeding loan. Lucy now lives alone, and she is suffering.

Elephants are highly social and very intelligent, with complex physical, psychological and social needs. They require very large spaces, variegated natural terrain, pasture, lots of things to do and a moderate climate. Wild female elephants spend their entire lives in relatively stable family groups with their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and even their grandmothers.

Lucy is in solitary confinement. Prematurely aged because of her captivity, she suffers from health problems that the zoo has been unable to resolve. She lives in a small, barren enclosure, and she must endure Edmonton’s cold winters, confined indoors to even smaller concrete and rubber quarters when she’s not on display. Lucy has been offered a home at the highly respected California sanctuary where the Toronto Zoo’s three elephants will soon be retiring. The City of Edmonton, which owns the Valley Zoo, won’t let her go.

The local humane society won’t enforce the laws that are supposed to protect Lucy. Yet, as the law stands, nobody else is allowed to speak for her or to assert her interests in any formal way. She needed a good lawyer. Two animal protection organizations – Zoocheck Canada and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – and a resident of Edmonton hired one, Clayton Ruby. They brought an application in court for a declaration that the City of Edmonton is violating provincial zoo standards. Those standards prohibit keeping an animal in distress, and they specifically proscribe keeping female elephants alone.

The Alberta courts dismissed the case without considering its merits. The majority of the Court of Appeal said letting Lucy speak, or letting someone speak on her behalf, is unnecessary, contrary to precedent and should not be allowed.

But Chief Justice Catherine Fraser wrote a thoughtful and powerful dissent. It’s the most important legal development for animals in Canadian judicial history. She gave serious consideration to Lucy’s plight, and stressed that, when government refuses to abide by existing laws, it’s important for the rule of law that someone be able to bring an injustice before a court.

The Supreme Court is now considering whether it will hear Lucy’s case. The central issues before the court are not only Lucy’s right to justice but the right of Canadian citizens to have their laws respected and to go to court if the government itself doesn’t obey the law.

After reviewing the uncontroverted evidence of several experts, Chief Justice Fraser concluded that the evidence “packs a powerful punch. It holds up a mirror for all to see – provided one is prepared to look into the mirror. What it reveals is a disturbing image of the magnitude, gravity and persistence of Lucy’s ongoing health problems and the severity of the suffering she continues to endure from the conditions in which she has been confined. And it also exposes who is responsible for those conditions and that suffering.”

There’s still time for Canada’s judicial system to right this wrong. Lucy’s story could yet have a happy ending. In The Lorax, the trees were saved because someone spoke for them. Will the Supreme Court let someone speak for Lucy?

Lesli Bisgould is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s law faculty and author of Animals and the Law.

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