It’s 2020 and a water-skiing squirrel is breaking the law in Canada.
This week we learned that Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel, a longtime fixture at boat shows across North America, has been water-skiing illegally in several Canadian cities for decades.
That’s because longtime bylaws in various cities, including Toronto and Vancouver, prohibit the domestication of squirrels, like Twiggy.
On Friday, the Globe and Mail reported that the radical rodent was “no longer welcome” in Toronto after the city’s animal services department notified organizers of the Toronto International Boat Show that municipal regulations prohibit keeping an Eastern gray squirrel in captivity, and they would be enforcing those regulations.
Under the City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 349, rodents can’t be held in captivity, unless they weigh less than 1.5 kg and are derived from self-sustaining captive populations. Twiggy, on the other hand, is a trained wild squirrel.
The Toronto Wildlife Centre heralded the move as a victory for animal rights.
“Using a wild animal in a ridiculous display as a public attraction is archaic and cruel, and very stressful for the animal,” the animal hospital and rehab centre wrote in a Facebook post. “If you ever see a wild animal being used in this way, please speak up!”
Following what was likely Twiggy’s final appearance at the Toronto International Boat Show, the squirrel and its team went west, where they are currently performing this weekend at the Vancouver International Boat Show (which is run by the same company).
But similar municipal bylaws mean Twiggy is skirting the law on the west coast as well.
In Vancouver, there’s a bylaw in place to prevent squirrels from water-skiing and other cases of domestic animal exploitation. Enacted by Vancouver city council in 1978, business prohibition bylaw no. 5156, explicitly prohibits any business from using “rodentia” and several other exotic animals “in a competition, exhibition, performance, event, or other situation.”
Of course, there are exceptions for commonly domesticated rodents — hamsters, guinea pigs, rats and the like. But it’s illegal for squirrels to be kept domestically in the city, and equally illegal for them to shred sweet waves.
Vancouverites and organizations have called on the city to enforce the bylaw.
“Using wildlife for entertainment is wrong. The City of Vancouver should enforce its bylaw,” the Vancouver Humane Society wrote on Twitter Friday.
And Twiggy’s been strapping on the tiny water skis for a while — over 40 years in fact. The watersports aficionado first debuted in Florida in 1979, because of course the water-skiing squirrel is from Florida.
“Using wildlife for entertainment is wrong. The City of Vancouver should enforce its bylaw.”
Much like the Pope, there have been many Twiggys over history, with a different radical rodent stepping up to take on the mantle every few years. The latest Twiggy is actually a comeback of sorts — Lou Ann Best, one of the original minds behind Twiggy, retired the squirrel in 2018. However, Best’s son Chuck Best Jr. revived Twiggy shortly after.
Should we be talking about Twiggy alongside the likes of other great lawbreakers like Thelma and Louise or Bonnie and Clyde? Perhaps.
But the squirrel won’t be making waves in Toronto again anytime soon.
WATCH: Water-skiing Labrador shows off impressive skills.