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Tragic BC mauling should be wake up call for Ontario

Saturday, May 12th 2007 4:05:53pm

Media Release - For immediate release - May 12, 2007

WSPA calls on McGuinty Government to quickly pass Bill 154 - a Private Members Bill introduced in October 2006 by Willowdale MPP David Zimmer to regulate roadside zoos

(Toronto, Ontario)  The recent death of a BC woman, mauled by a tiger at a roadside zoo, should be a wake-up call to the Ontario government. Ontario has zoo regulations weaker than those in BC, says the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

"Roadside zoos pose a significant risk to human health and safety. Ontario has more roadside zoos than any other province," says Melissa Tkachyk, Programs Officer for WSPA.  "Keeping a tiger on your property should be considered as dangerous as keeping a loaded gun--but you don't need a license to keep a tiger in Ontario."

When it comes to regulating wildlife in captivity, Ontario has the weakest laws in the country.  There are more than 45 zoos in Ontario (approximately 60% of all Canadian zoos are in Ontario).  The majority of zoos in Ontario are 'roadside zoos'--small, substandard facilities that typically house animals in poor, barren conditions, and lack trained professional animal care staff and the financial resources necessary to ensure proper animal care and housing.

WSPA has been raising awareness of the numerous safety risks at roadside zoos across the province for more than a decade.  Through undercover investigations, the Society has discovered many dangerous animals housed in poorly constructed cages with inadequate safety features.

Problems encountered during WSPA's investigations include:

* Poorly constructed cages and enclosures;
* Inadequate fences to contain potentially dangerous animals (e.g., big cats and bears);
* Lack of double door entry gates into cages;
* Lack of secure containment areas to sequester animals during cleaning;
* Lack of stand-off barriers to keep the public away from the animal cages;
* Unlocked cage doors and gates; and
* Inexperienced, poorly trained staff.

No law currently requires captive wild animals to be housed securely in cages and enclosures appropriate to their physical capabilities.  There are also no requirements for appropriate care and management practices that will safeguard zoo staff and visitors.

Seven months ago, Liberal MPP David Zimmer introduced a private member's bill--Bill 154--that if passed would ensure basic safety measures are in place to protect zoo staff, volunteers, visitors and neighbours, as well as the animals. This Bill provides the McGuinty government with an opportunity to make changes quickly and help avoid a repetition of the tragedy in BC.

"As zoos across Ontario open for the Holiday weekend, we're calling on the McGuinty government to regulate zoos before anyone else gets hurt," says Tkachyk.

More than thirteen thousand people have signed a petition supporting Zimmer's Zoo Bill which has also received support from members from each party in the Ontario legislature.


For more information, please contact Melissa Tkachyk, Programs Officer for the WSPA at 416-712-3468 (cell). Visit WSPA's website:

Background Information

Dangerous animals escape from Ontario zoos every year, and attacks on staff and visitors occur periodically.  Some recent examples from 2005 - 2006 include:

* An adult tiger escape from Papanack Park Zoo near Ottawa. The cat was found on a nearby road (Canadian Press, September 28, 2005) (Ottawa Sun, September 29, 2005);
* A tapir, a large potentially dangerous South American animal, escape from Zooz Nature Park in Stevensville (St. Catharines Standard, June 29, 2005);
* A wolf escape from the Chippewa Wildlife Exhibit in Thunder Bay (TB Television, June 12, 2006);
* Two separate incidents of visitors being attacked by lions at Colansanti's Tropical Gardens near Leamington (Windsor Star, January 26, 2006).

The past dozen years have seen a number of people injured and killed in Ontario by captive exotic wildlife:

* A tiger attack resulting in the death of a 16 year old boy at a private display near Wiarton (Toronto Star, July 28, 1994);
* 16-year-old employee mauled by a female lion while conducting a tour at Dornoch Zoo, in Grey County (Owen Sound Sun Times, September 3, 2003);
* More than a few youngsters have been bitten by monkeys (potential carriers of a range of diseases transmissible to humans), including one six-year-old girl bitten while visiting Stevensville Garden Gallery in 2001;
* A tiger escape at Bear Creek Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Barrie (Toronto Star and Toronto Sun, April 1, 1997);
* A serval escape at Bergerons Exotic Animal Zoo (Kingston Whig Standard, July 30, 1999);
* Two tigers escaping at Lickety Split Ranch and Zoo in London (London Free Press, July 18, 1997).
* A tiger biting the arm off a 16-year-old employee at Thousand Islands Wild Kingdom, a zoo in Gananoque (Hamilton Spectator, June 9, 1990).

Ontario does not require zoos to obtain liability insurance to cover claims for loss of life, bodily injury or property damage caused to any person as a result of the keeping of wildlife.

View First Reading of Bill 154, "The Regulation of Zoos Act,"