Wildlife rehab centers fearful over Virginia Beach SPCA’s permit suspensions

(Photo courtesy of Marielena Balouris)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Local wildlife rehabbers believe thousands of animals will die if the Virginia Beach SPCA does not get it’s permits reinstated.

Last week we told you the Virginia Beach SPCA is unable to accept injured wildlife. That’s because their permits have been suspended by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It happened after the DGIF says employees did not properly report an injured bald eagle. The suspension lasts until February.

10 On Your Side spoke with local rehabbers to learn how the suspension is affecting their care of wild animals. The cries of a bunny are nothing new to Connie Heibert.

“I named my refuge Second Chance because I believe every living creature deserves that second chance,” says. Heibert.

She started Second Chance Wildlife after she had heart surgery years ago. Her work saving animals has given her purpose. But the SPCA’s permit suspension has left her feeling helpless.

“Without the SPCA I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Heibert says.

She focuses on animals like possums, rabbits and squirrels and works with other rehabbers in the area. They all echo a similar theme; thousands of animals will be left to die if the SPCA cannot re-open their doors.

“I think we’ve seen approximately a 30-35% increase in intake of animals already,” says. James Flengas, who is the secretary and treasurer of Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge, a non-profit created by his wife.

Hanging on their walls are pictures of the animals they’ve saved which is normally between 600 – 700 every year. But this year, they’re worried.

“Unfortunately we’ve reached the point now where we can no longer offer quality service to the wildlife that does come in,” Flengas says. “We have no alternative but to have them turned away. When they’re turned away, that means one thing: euthanization or death via other means.”

It’s a heartbreaking reality that no rehabber wants. But for now, they’re forced to accept it — hoping it’s not permanent.

“It’s a matter of life and death for these animals whether or not the SPCA gets their permit back,” says Heibert.

The SPCA and DGIF will meet early next week to discuss their appeal. The DGIF says they plan to work with the SPCA  as they hopefully move forward as quickly as possible and reinstate their permit if all goes well.

Stick with 10 on your side for updates following that meeting.