A cheetah is seen near Creston, B.C. in this undated handout photo. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service via CP)

Cheetahs will not prosper in Creston: Permit rejected for two big cats

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

The owners of two cheetahs will not be allowed to return the large, African cats near Creston, B.C., to use them as ambassador animals promoting conservation of the endangered species.

The Environmental Appeal Board, which considers issues raised under B.C.’s Wildlife Act, has refused to overturn a 2017 ruling denying a permit to move the cheetahs to Crawford Bay.

READ MORE: West Kootenay man fighting to keep 2 pet cheetahs

The appeal by Earl Pfeifer argued the permit denial relied on allegedly unsupported details about the danger posed by cheetahs, as well as charges that were laid by the province but later dropped, after one of the cats escaped in December 2015.

In a 37-page decision, the appeal board says Pfeifer and his partner Carol Plato have not offered any special circumstances that would allow the province to override legislation written in 2007 after a captive tiger fatally mauled a woman at a zoo-like attraction near Williams Lake.

The board panel, chaired by Linda Michaluk, questions Pfeifer’s commitment to his own safety protocols and his ability to control the seven-year-old cheetahs, Robin and Annie, which were described as “undisciplined” by a wildlife park operator in Alberta who briefly housed the cats.

READ MORE: Charges stayed for B.C. pair suspected of owning cheetah

Pfeifer and Plato had hoped to bring the pair to a property in Crawford Bay to use them for “education and outreach” aimed at children, after acquiring them from a South African reserve.

Without the permits, the cats remain in Ontario where Pfeifer testified he now rarely sees them.

A team member with Cheetah Outreach in South Africa told the hearing that cheetahs are the most docile of the large cats and that Robin is blind but both he and Annie, “are well socialized and suitable as ambassador animals.”

Linda Rosenlöf said she worked with the two felines in South Africa in the year after they were born and before they were shipped to Pfeifer and Plato in Ontario in 2013.

She testified there is no formal study program to become a cheetah trainer but the panel referred to a textbook co-written by cheetah biologist and handler Laurie Marker, who testified on behalf of B.C.’s director of wildlife.

“Cheetahs are not pets; they are wild animals and should be treated as such,” says the textbook “Cheetahs: Biology and Conservation.”

“Working with cheetahs requires extensive previous experience with animal training and handling. There are both courses and books that teach training practices that use positive reinforcement. Additionally, trainers new to cheetahs must begin their hands-on work with a mentor or with experienced co-trainers,” the textbook says.

FROM 2015: Creston RCMP calls include MVAs, shoplifting, cheetah sighting

Given that description, Michaluk writes that the panel “has concerns” about Pfeifer’s level of formalized training and with the consistency of care he could offer the cheetahs, especially during the daily walks and exercise he told the panel they would require outside the enclosure.

“Of particular concern is the evidence regarding Annie’s escape (in Crawford Bay) in December 2015. This reflects on the appellant’s abilities as a handler, although the panel accepts that this incident raises more issues than simply handling expertise,” writes Michaluk, adding that Pfeifer brought the cheetahs to B.C. shortly before Annie escaped, even though he knew he lacked the required permit.

“The appellant, in short, has demonstrated a disregard for the B.C. laws and regulations regarding (species such as cheetahs,) and for safety procedures and protocols of his own design, and of others,” she writes.

“In conclusion, the panel cannot conceive of any additional ‘special circumstances’ that support this particular applicant receiving a possession permit for these particular prohibited species.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Thornhill’s future takes centre stage at June 2 public hearing

The current community plan was adopted in 1981

Class will look different at Coast Mountain College this September

The college is embracing a distributed learning model

City council considers easing food truck restriction

Food trucks limited to four hours public parking, may increase to six hours

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Facing changes together: your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Most Read