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Posted: 10/7/2004 9:49:31 AM EDT
Canada in Legal Fight to Deport Flying Squirrel

2 hours, 33 minutes ago Oddly Enough - Reuters

TORONTO (Reuters) - A flying squirrel named Sabrina is at the center of a fight between Canada, which wants to deport the rodent, and its owner who says the creature is harmless and has bonded to him.

Ottawa wants to send the animal back to the United States, citing a 2003 ban on importing rodents into the country after a monkeypox outbreak south of the border last year.

Naturalist Steve Patterson, who brought the squirrel across the border last June after filling out the necessary papers, said the government is simply being stubborn.

"The good the squirrel can do far outweighs the bad," he said on Wednesday. "If we could apply for refugee status, I would certainly put an application in for her, but I don't think the laws cover small, baby squirrels."

It is illegal to capture flying squirrels in Ontario, prompting Patterson to travel to Indiana to obtain the animal for educational purposes, he said.

Patterson, whose squirrel got a clean bill of health from a veterinarian, won the opening round of the court battle after a judge denied Ottawa's request to make him turn Sabrina over.

But an appeal is pending and Patterson has lined up high-profile lawyer Clayton Ruby to defend the animal.

"Granted, he's not the cheapest lawyer around but I felt that Sabrina deserved the best defense," Patterson said. "When you're fighting the federal government, you've got to have some good guns there."

The saga began in July when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency told Patterson the squirrel had to go, issuing a removal order and giving him three days to move it back to the U.S.

Requests for extensions and an intervention by his local parliamentarian fell on deaf ears, Patterson said, adding that sending Sabrina to another U.S. home is no longer an option.

"During that time, the animal has completely bonded to me. It's a motherhood thing," he said. "The animal is now my responsibility."

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it cannot comment on the specifics of the case since it is before the courts.

"Our mandate is to prevent the introduction of disease and sometimes it comes in the most unlikeliest of places," said Debbie Barr, the agency's senior staff veterinarian in Ottawa.

"Based on the existence of a prohibition, the animal should not have been allowed into the country."

Patterson has set up a Web site at http://www.glaucomys.org/sabrina/ to appeal for donations to the Save Sabrina Legal Defense Fund, to help pay for his legal battle.
Link Posted: 10/7/2004 9:54:42 AM EDT
"Officer, arrest that squirrel! She was after my nuts!"
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