LANGLEY (NEWS 1130) – A moose at the Greater Vancouver Zoo has been put down, just a day after pictures of her gaunt, bony body were shared on Facebook by a concerned visitor.
Veterinarian Dr. Bruce Burton tells NEWS 1130 he made the call to euthanize the senior moose on Wednesday after months of declining health, and was unaware of the social media posts when he decided.
“We thought she was improving, and then when we examined her more closely we found that she just wasn’t improving enough to justify keeping trying to treat her,” he explains. “Unfortunately, we had to make that decision but I think we knew that was coming.”
Burton says Oakleaf was put under anesthetic in February so vets could check her teeth. They found them to be in poor condition, Burton adds, telling NEWS 1130 it impacted her ability to chew, hold food in her mouth, and eat.
Burton says these kinds of decisions can be “agonizing” as aging animals see gradual decline in their health.
“She was hanging in their and doing well but body condition she just wasn’t improving. And I couldn’t see that improving, so we made that decision earlier in the week,” Burton says. “The only other alternative was to alter her diet to try to make it as digestible as possible, and we had hoped and thought we saw some improvement over the course of that time, but it wasn’t enough, and I had made a decision earlier and discussed it with management and they all agreed.”
The moose being euthanized came a day after a Langley woman shared images of the animal on Facebook, after having taken her kids to the zoo.
“Am I the only person out there who thinks this is unacceptable?” Shannon Marcoux wrote on Facebook.
Moose are normally a robust animal, however, the pictures posted by Marcoux show the animal at the zoo so skinny you can see its ribs from afar.
She says there was no signage explaining if the animal had a medical condition.
“I emailed the zoo and the response was basically that she’s old,” she wrote, adding “I don’t believe that being old makes it okay to starve to death in a facility.”
Oakleaf has been with the Greater Vancouver Zoo for eight years, but lived in previous zoo for an unconfirmed amount of time.
“When you’ve got older animals, they’re going to have some types of medical conditions and issues. In the wild, they just get picked off by predators or they die and they don’t do it in front of a bunch of people,” Burton said. “We appreciate when people do bring that to our attention, but sometimes, rarely do they really know what’s going on behind the scenes and how much effort is actually going on to save some of these guys.”
Marcoux said she reached out to the SPCA, noting she was apparently the first person to contact the organization, “which is disturbing in itself.”
Burton says he was unaware of the Facebook post until after Oakleaf had been put down.
The BC SPCA’s Lorie Chortyk confirms in an email to NEWS 1130 the organization had been contacted with a complaint, and that it was looking into it. It’s unclear if the SPCA was aware the animal had been put down at the time the email was sent.
This isn’t the first time the facility has been criticized. Last year, the Vancouver Humane Society called on the Greater Vancouver Zoo to improve conditions for the animals it houses, after a report found the animals were bored and frustrated.