TOWN OF CLAYTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jeff Garnsey has rescued animals of all shapes and sizes for years on his town of Clayton farm.
About two months ago, someone contacted Garnsey to take care of a baby squirrel that was found.
“Saying no is difficult with any animal. If I have the ability to help it, then I’m going to help it,” he said.
Garnsey named the squirrel Tyrian and within a few months, he says they formed a special bond.
Garnsey decided to rehabilitate the squirrel with the intention of one day letting it go. He says he never wanted to treat it as a pet.
“It wasn’t like, ‘I’ve got 34 other animals, let me take this one for a pet.’ The motivation was really to just help to get him to where he could have the opportunity to have a normal squirrel life - whatever that normal squirrel life is,” he said.
But then Garnsey had a surprise visit Sunday night - an animal control officer with the state Department of Environmental Conservation knocking on his door.
“And then he says, ‘You have to surrender your squirrel.’ If you need to put me in cuffs and take me then, but don’t take it out on this little animal where I made a mistake, if I made a mistake,” said Garnsey.
In a statement, a DEC spokesperson says “Mr. Garnsey does not have a permit to care for wild animals. In New York state, it is illegal to possess a protected species of wildlife, and therefore, this squirrel was taken by an Environmental Conservation Police Officer to a Wellesley Island Wildlife Rehabilitation where it will be acclimated back into the wild.”
Garnsey is fighting back. He says he’ll find out in a week if Tyrian can become an emotional support animal. He also says he’s scheduled to take a certification test to rehabiltate wild animals.
The DEC says no wildlife can be kept as an emotional support animal and those who become wildlife rehabilitators are not permitted to possess squirrels or any wildlife for longer than is necessary.
“I’m not saying anything negative over the folks that think it’s silly that a grown man would cry over a squirrel. It deserves the best life that I can afford it and I’m going to keep doing that until I can’t,” said Garnsey.