B.C. woman allowed to keep deer as a pet
Bimbo the pet deer is seen at home with Janet Schwartz and Mike Miller near Ucluelet, B.C., Friday, January, 18, 2013. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
By Keven Drews, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, January 19, 2013 10:30AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, January 19, 2013 4:47PM EST
UCLUELET, B.C. -- In a deer drama worthy of the emotions stirred by Bambi, a Vancouver Island woman will be permitted to keep the domesticated doe she calls Bimbo.
Janet Schwartz, 69, was relieved Friday when told by a reporter that the Ministry of Environment has backed off a suggestion the deer be removed from her house.
"It makes me feel good," she said of the decision. "She is my life, OK, and I've had her since the day she was born."
She said the animal, named after a Gene Autry song, was orphaned in the spring about 10 years ago and has been with her ever since.
The deer lives in her house and sleeps on her bed. On Friday, Bimbo hung around a visitor and nipped the cigarette out of the mouth of Schwartz's companion, Mike Miller.
"That's who keeps me going," Schwartz said of Bimbo.
"If I lost her, I'd probably just die myself because she keeps me going, she keeps me active and that's what I like about her."
On Tuesday, Schwartz said two conservation officers dressed in black uniforms showed up on her property and told her she would have to release Bimbo from the thin tether the deer is attached to when outside. Schwartz was told she wasn't allowed to touch Bimbo any more.
Environment Minister Terry Lake had said earlier this week someone had complained that Schwartz was keeping the deer in her yard and he noted it is illegal to keep wild animals as pets.
Schwartz, who lives on a remote property along a rough logging road, geared up for another fight to keep her beloved animal as she'd done once before.
In 2009, Schwartz was directed to apply for a wildlife permit but she was denied.
The province relented then, too, after national media attention, support from residents and a Save Bimbo Facebook page surfaced.
Schwartz said the latest threat has left her sleepless and with nightmares.
The province said Friday Schwartz will be able to keep her pet with the help of a veterinarian and conservation officers.
"We are highly concerned about the extreme habituation of this animal and understand the risks associated with the removal of an animal that has become so accustomed to a home setting," Lake said in a statement.
The minister, who is a veterinarian, said he is well aware of the bonding that takes place between people and their pets.
"(I'm) confident that by working with the provincial veterinarian and trained conservation officer staff, Ms. Schwartz will be able to follow a plan of care that will see her and Bimbo continue to live together."
Under the new plan, the ministry expects to work with Schwartz to ensure the continued "well-being and safety" of the animal.
A team including biologists, veterinarians and conservation officers is expected to establish a care plan for Bimbo in the next week.