|For 42 stressed chinchillas, justice has come too late, but it has been served nonetheless. In her ruling, Provincial Court Judge Ellen Burdett awarded an Armstrong, B.C., couple compensation of $7,650 for the deaths of their chinchillas after heavy renovations on a neighbouring landfill site in late 2002 created four months of noise, dust and vibration.
The work was undertaken by the North Okanagan Regional District to improve public access to the landfill. The disruption upset the small, nocturnal creatures, which require uniformly quiet conditions so they can sleep during the day, and nearly 10 per cent of the herd "withered away" and died. Some of the dead chinchillas were babies that starved to death when their mothers, distressed by the racket that went on seven days a week for more than 12 hours a day, stopped lactating and were unable to feed them.
Burdett noted the relentless activity also took a toll on the well-being of the owners of the chinchillas, Colleen and Walter Brooks; Colleen Brooks suffered a heart attack several months after the couple sold their surviving animals. They had been farming the fur-bearing creatures at that location since 1988.
In her judgement, Burdett said "large equipment was used on the work site: earthmovers, excavators, dump trucks, caterpillars, a water truck, a roller and back-hoes.
||Not only was the equipment noisy, the work done involved the demolition of a house, tearing out trees and earthmoving. "Every time such machines backed up, they would emit a loud beeping noise. The dump trucks used jake brakes [engine brakes], causing more noise."|
Burdett said the regional district initially failed to tell the Brooks what it planned, and started work without notice, thus eliminating the possibility of removing the chinchillas from the property without upsetting them. The judge said the effect of the disruption was immediately apparent.
"Mrs. Brooks noticed that her animals began acting strangely on the second day of the work. Her chickens were huddled in their pens, the cats would not leave the house and the female breeder chinchillas and baby chinchillas stopped eating. "On September 17, the fourth day of construction, Mrs. Brooks found a dead female breeding chinchilla. On September 18, she found two more had died, and two others were in poor shape."
Colleen Brooks complained to the regional district and the local mayor and implored the truck drivers to stop using their noisy jake brakes, but her pleas went unheeded.
- The Vancouver Sun