In the face of yet another animal death at Marineland and the release of shocking undercover footage taken at Papanack Zoo, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) is calling for the formation of a federal/provincial task force to study the high number of animal deaths in Canada’s zoos, aquaria and other captive wildlife facilities and to determine a new animal protection framework for the industry.
“Most of these facilities cannot reasonably meet the needs of their animals, yet the law fails to protect them from abuse or neglect,” says Barbara Cartwright, CEO of CFHS. “We must closely examine this industry and create a new framework that will ensure there are real consequences to captive animals being harmed or killed. Given the level of illness and death at these facilities, it’s obvious that our current protection framework is not working.”
The number of whale deaths, in particular, underlines the need for stronger animal protection legislation for cetaceans, like Bill S-203, and strict provincial regulations that limit who can house captive wildlife in public facilities.
There were 12 high-profile deaths of zoo animals in Canada in 2016, two more deaths at Marineland since May 2017 and another death at Vancouver Aquarium in June 2017. More often than not, these deaths are attributed to ‘an unknown illness’ or ‘a sudden turn for the worse’, indicating that the animals are most likely chronically unwell and not having their welfare needs met. The suffering and death will not stop unless our elected officials take action to strengthen our animal protection laws and regulations, increase funding for animal cruelty enforcement and secure a firm commitment from all provinces and territories to prioritize the prosecution of animal cruelty.
“As we saw with the recent charges against Marineland, even when cruelty is investigated and charges are laid, there is no guarantee that the government will pursue prosecution,” says Cartwright. “We were shocked that the Crown in the Marineland case determined that proceeding with the case was not in the public interest despite the fact that three of the 11 charges were deemed viable. What the public hears when this happens is that animals aren’t worth the cost of being protected.”