World Animal Protection has released a new investigative report into the state of so-called roadside zoos in Ontario. ‘Nothing New at the Zoo’ highlights a string of perceived violations which raises significant questions around enforcement of existing animal welfare regulations and public safety.
Bervie Zoological Park in Kincardine was among the 11 zoos investigated across Ontario.
“The lack of enforcement of what little regulation exists for these facilities is deeply concerning,” said World Animal Protection Campaign Manager Michèle Hamers. “This wild-west, patchwork system that has been in place for years just doesn’t work, and we know that – it needs an overhaul to protect the public and captive wildlife.”
A complaint was submitted to the PAWS Inspectorate raising concerns over standards for enclosures for captive wildlife (specifically the African lion enclosure) at the Bervie Zoological Park including, but not limited to:
Lion kept in an undersized enclosure which does not allow for engagement in their full range of natural behaviours including running, leaping, climbing, and digging.
No meaningful features or furnishings. Two fixed, elevated platforms are provided but nothing else. There is no opportunity for the lion to engage in most of its natural movements or natural behaviours.
“We actively encourage the PAWS Inspectorate to investigate our complaints immediately,” added Hamers. “A thorough review of all facilities is needed to identify other possible violations – and to take appropriate measures to address them to protect both the public and the animals.”
Across Ontario, World Animal Protection discovered dozens of concerning instances of potential non-compliance with the Standards of Care Regulations established under the Provincial Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) Act from enclosures too small for the animals to behave naturally, to the unsafe construction of fences for animals like tigers and lions – risking escape.
The investigation and report was completed as part of World Animal Protection’s ongoing work to advocate the provincial government to develop and implement a mandatory licensing program for all facilities, businesses and institutions housing native and exotic animals and improve enforcement.
Ontario is the only province that does not have any regulations related to the keeping of exotic wild animals in captivity. A provincial licence is only required when keeping native wildlife in captivity.
Elmvale Jungle Zoo, Phelpston
Observations bare-eyed Cockatoo enclosure
• A highly social bird (bare-eyed Cockatoo) housed alone
Observations monkey enclosures:
Grossly undersized,dark, minimalistic enclosures housingcrab-eating macaques, black-and-brown lemurs, and ring-tailed lemurs
Observations flamingo enclosure:
• Flamingoes kept in enclosure without appropriate water features.
- One flamingo displayed feeding behaviour on dry land, which is abnormal behaviour since flamingoes do not feed on dry land. This enclosure does not provide the surface to accommodate natural movement and behaviour.
- Flamingoes usually live on large mud flats and saltwater habitats. When feeding they take a mouthful of water and filter the organisms they will then eat.
Among the recommendations to come out of the report:
Require enforcement officers to conduct comprehensive reviews of all Ontario zoos to identify violations of the PAWS Act standards and take appropriate measures to address them
Implement a possession, breeding and acquisition ban on facilities, businesses, and institutions that would not meet licensing standards
Prohibit the use of wild animals for entertainment as well as the possession, keeping and breeding of dangerous and/or problematic wild animals by private individuals
World Animal Protection Wildlife Campaign Manager Michèle Hamers says the Government of Ontario needs to immediately implement tighter regulations on these facilities.
For more on roadside zoos, visit World Animal Protection.