This blog is written by our law summer student, Ira Marcovitch.
In what can be only be described as one of the most bizarre cases I have been privy to, a Quebec judge has ordered an injunction to prevent a Westmount, Quebec man from feeding the local squirrels, pigeons and raccoons. Yes, you read that right.
The saga began 5 years earlier when Lawrence Klepper, retired stockbroker and self-professed “extreme animal lover,” compulsively began to feed the local fauna of his neighbourhood. While this may not seem the usual genesis of legal action, Mr. Klepper’s actions soon reached a fever pitch. Complaints abounded to city officials and local newspapers of mysterious piles of peanuts littering streets, and residents awaking to find their years strewn with bird seed and nuts. As one resident wrote to the local Westmount Independent,
“For the last two winters, someone has been leaving mounds of peanuts in my yard. This year it has gone to absurd proportions … our whole lawn, front, side and back is covered with peanut shells”
In defence of his actions, Mr. Klepper asserted that he undertook them out of love for the animals and a genuine belief that they would starve through the winters if he did not feed them. Despite Mr. Klepper’s good intentions, the city undertook numerous actions, including a slew of by-law tickets and an order to desist, to get Mr. Klepper to curtail his habits. However, all was for naught, and Mr. Klepper kept feeding the local animals.
The situation began to escalate as city officials deemed parks littered with peanuts a public health hazard and populations of vermin began to proliferate through the area. The city then began to undertake more unorthodox measures, including extensive surveillance. Witnesses at the trial recounted instances of Mr. Klepper being followed by large, unmarked SUVs as well as police cars routinely patrolling his neighbourhood looking for stray seed and errant peanut shells.
At trial, Mr. Klepper alleged that the, for their part, actions of the police had gone far beyond what was required. He went as far as to allege that someone had ‘planted’ a large pile of peanuts near his residence in an attempt to frame him. Unsurprisingly, the judge found the allegation to be spurious, and dismissed it out of hand.
In the end, the judge sided with the city. He found that, despite all of the warnings, tickets and surveillance, Mr. Klepper continued to feed the animals and would do so unless extreme action was taken. He granted an injunction preventing Mr. Klepper from feeding local animals within the boundaries of Westmount, the contravention of which could land Mr. Klepper in jail.
Though he stated that he will abide by the Court’s decision, Mr. Klepper refuses to stop feeding the animals. He now feeds the animals two blocks outside the boundaries of Westmount, defying the reach of Westmount’s bylaws, and ensuring that the animal residents of Greater Montreal remain well-fed for winters to come.
For the full text of the decision on this case, “Don’t Feed the Animals” may be found here.
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