British Columbia

Twiggy the water skiing squirrel under investigation for violating Vancouver bylaws

City of Vancouver staff says it is investigating whether an event at the Vancouver International Boat Show, that features a squirrel water skiing, violates municipal bylaws.

The event at this week's International Boat Show features a squirrel on miniature skis

According to the official Facebook page for Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel, the original Twiggy was a baby squirrel rescued by a Florida family after a hurricane in 1978. (Facebook / Twiggy The Water Skiing Squirrel)

City of Vancouver staff says it is investigating whether an event at the Vancouver International Boat Show, that features a squirrel water skiing, violates municipal bylaws.

Twiggy the water skiing squirrel is performing for the first time in the Vancouver edition of the show this week in what is described by organizers as "an educational life jacket and water safety presentation."

The event, which involves a trained squirrel using miniature water skiis to navigate around an indoor pool, came under scrutiny after the City of Toronto announced Friday that Twiggy's performances the week of Jan. 17 broke its own municipal bylaws.

"People decided years ago in the city government, and I think with the support of the population, that we weren't going to allow animals like squirrels to be taken in by people," said Toronto Mayor John Tory during a Friday morning news conference. "They're wild animals." 

Vancouver bylaw prohibits rodent performances

Vancouver municipal staff issued a statement explaining that while the Eastern grey squirrel is not considered wildlife and is not prohibited in Vancouver, rodents cannot be used as entertainment. 

"Businesses are prohibited from using rodents in competitions, exhibitions, performance or events," according to Schedule A Section 13 of the city's  Business Prohibition Bylaw No. 5156, said the statement.

"Should the operator be found to be in a contravention of the bylaws, the City will issue a warning letter."

In response to questions about whether Twiggy is allowed to don his water skis, event spokesperson Laura Ballance said that it has obtained all federal licensing requirements related to Twiggy.

A statement emailed to CBC News says this includes "veterinary oversight of the squirrel" and that the event has been "been very well received by the children who it is designed to educate about water and life jacket safety, as well as their parents."

According to the boat show's website, the event has been performed for the past 35 years.

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