POLITICS

Elephant still in the room: SCOC won't hear appeal over Edmonton zoo's Lucy

04/26/2012 05:42 EDT | Updated 06/26/2012 05:12 EDT
EDMONTON - Animal rights activists are considering their next move after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled it will not get involved in a fight over a 36-year-old Asian zoo elephant.

The high court on Thursday declined to hear an appeal by animal rights groups who are trying to have Lucy moved from the city-owned Edmonton Valley Zoo to a warm wildlife sanctuary in the United States.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Zoocheck wanted to challenge an Alberta Court of Appeal split decision last August that ruled against their application to sue the City of Edmonton over Lucy.

"There are other options to take this case forward," said animal rights activist Tove Reece.

"There are judicial reviews and things like that. Those are things that we're going to be looking at," she said. "They talk about how much they love Lucy and how much they care about her, and yet they don't care enough about her to solve her medical problems."

A rally in front of Edmonton city hall was already being planned for Friday by members from at least two animal advocacy groups, including some protesters who have arthritis.

Lucy has the disease, which her handlers say is normal for her age, and has suffered chronic foot issues.

She also has a breathing problem that the zoo and city say would almost certainly be life-threatening in the stress of a move. They say her health is manageable otherwise.

"At this point all we can do is appeal to the public and look at other options ... to try to force the city to do the right thing for Lucy," said Reece.

The city's lawyer said the zoo's long-term goal is not to house elephants, but it will continue to look after Lucy and do what is in her best interests.

"It's time to let the people who work at the zoo, who care for Lucy, to do their job," said Steven Phipps. "They've been doing it consistently for many years prior to this action ... and now it's time for them to move on and let the people who know what they're doing do their job."

Asked about a renewed push in the court of public opinion, Phipps suggested "the public is not buying what they're selling.

"The public knows that the people who take care of Lucy at the zoo are qualified and have only her best interests at heart. The people know that the Edmonton Humane Society is out there, as a neutral, third-party observer, and who have said Lucy's care is fine.

"And the public knows that the provincial government who licenses zoos inspects on an annual basis and renews the licence only because the zoo does a good job and complies with all of the requirements."

Animals rights advocates have other concerns besides Lucy's health. They say the Edmonton climate is much too cold for her and they suggest she is lonely because she has lived alone half her life.

Reece believes Lucy will soon be the only pachyderm left in Canada.

The Calgary Zoo announced last week it plans to relocate its Asian elephants to another animal facility where they can live in a larger social group. The zoo said it can't provide that because it has limited space.

The Toronto Zoo moved its three African elephants to California after a city council vote last October. However, the zoo lost its accreditation last week in part over that decision because the elephants went to an unaccredited facility.

The fight over Lucy has attracted celebrities and sports figures. Retired game-show legend Bob Barker and Canadian-born actor William Shatner have spoken out in favour of moving her. Barker also advocated in favour of moving the Toronto elephants.

Retired NHL enforcer George Laraque offered Edmonton $100,000 if the city would move the elephant.

Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Nico Ricci, Jane Urquhart, Barbara Gowdy and 31 other Canadian authors have also called on Edmonton's mayor and council to send Lucy south.