British Columbia

B.C. man who wanted to create a cheetah reserve in the Kootenays has petition denied

A pair of cheetahs — including one that infamously escaped into the B.C. Kootenays in December 2015 — will not be allowed to stay in the province.

Earl Pfeifer imported a male and female cheetah from South Africa in 2013

Earl Pfeifer and Carol Plato with their two cheetahs. The couple had applied to keep the cats at their home in B.C. (Earl Pfeifer )

A British Columbian man has been denied permission to keep his two pet cheetahs at an enclosure he's built in the Kootenays.

Earl Pfeifer imported a male and female cheetah from South Africa to Ontario in 2013, after obtaining permits in that province.

Ontario's alien species laws are far more lax than in B.C., but Pfeifer was determined to rear his two large pets in British Columbia.

He started an organization called RunCheetahRun and applied several times to keep the cheetahs at various places in the Kootenays: Kaslo, Creston and finally Crawford Bay, along the shores of Kootenay Lake.

B.C.'s director of wildlife denied his application, and now an Environmental Appeal Board decision has come to the same conclusion.

Earl Pfeifer wanted to turn his Crawford Bay property into a cheetah reserve and training centre where children could learn about the animals and even take them for a walk on a leash. (Facebook)

Tighter restrictions in B.C.

B.C. strengthened its alien species law after a high profile incident in 2007 when a captive tiger in 100 Mile House killed a friend of its owner.

As a result, the B.C. Legislature tried to stem the flow of alien species such as large African cats.

That did not deter Pfeifer, who said at a week-long appeal hearing in Nelson this fall that his pet cheetahs were docile and posed no danger to the public.

Pfeifer wanted to turn his Crawford Bay property into a cheetah reserve and training centre where children could learn about the animals and even take them for a walk on a leash.

Petition denied

In the 37-page ruling released in March, the Environmental Appeal Board Panel noted that Pfeifer has no formalized cheetah training or handling and it is concerned about the "consistency of care."

This was driven home to panel members in December of 2015 when one of the cheetahs ran away and was spotted and photographed near Crawford Bay. A picture snapped by a passerby went viral and prompted a massive hunt by B.C. conservation officers.

The ruling points out that Pfeifer initially told the BC Conservation Service his cheetahs were in Ontario but during the hearing he admitted it was his cheetah, Annie, that had escaped.

In December 2015, Creston RCMP reported an adult cheetah was spotted along Highway 3A near Kootenay Bay. Earl Pfeifer later admitted it was his cheetah, Annie, that had escaped. (RCMP)

Pfeifer conceded he located her an hour after she got loose by banging on her dinner dish.

'Cheetahs should not be in British Columbia'

Sara Dubois, the chief scientific officer with the BC SPCA, is happy with the ruling.

"We have said from the outset the cheetahs should not be in British Columbia," Dubois said.

"In addition to the ministry concerns of public safety, animal welfare needs are not being met. These are captive-born animals but they still have the needs of wild animals."

It's not known exactly where the cheetahs are at the moment. Neighbours say they haven't seen them and that the cats are believed to be in Ontario.

Pfeifer was not available for comment.

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