More Than 200 Wild Animals Were Rescued From a Roadside Zoo

Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!


(Meredith Lee/HSI)

Accredited zoos are doing some really great conservation work by allowing endangered animals that are threatened in the wild to live and breed in a secure environment. According to Zoos Victoria, good zoos provide education about wildlife, conservation efforts and inspire people to take care of wildlife.

Sadly, not all zoos adhere to these standards. Unregulated roadside zoos or backyard zoos that usually operate as tourist attractions, frequently fall far short of animal welfare regulations. They often exploit or neglect the animals in their care. Now, the Quebec government has decided to act against one such roadside zoo.

In partnership with the Montreal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Society International (HSI) was able to rescue more than 200 wild animals including lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, camels, goats, and kangaroos from the zoo in May 2019, according to an HSI press release.

The SPCA had been monitoring the zoo for several years, and its staff had already received numerous citations for animal neglect in 2016 and 2018. When the owner refused to bring the tourist attraction up to code, the Quebec government ruled that the animals must be seized, and the zoo closed down.

The owner of the unaccredited facility has been arrested and charged with neglect and cruelty to animals under the Canadian Criminal Code. HSI said that if convicted, the accused could face a five-year prison sentence and a lifetime ban on having custody or control of any animal.

"It was disturbing to see this facility. Many of the animals were confined in dark, barren, dilapidated enclosures," Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada, said in the press release. "Others were living with entirely inadequate shelter with minimal protection from the elements."

HSI/Canada campaigned for over a decade for improvements to the animal welfare provisions in Canada's criminal code, and this is the first time that animal welfare charges have been made by an indictment.

The rescued animals will be cared for by HIS/Canada and its global affiliates, and the organization will transport the animals that cannot be returned to the wild to a network of partner sanctuaries across North America. This work is being supported by the Eric S. Margolis Family Foundation.

“Our foundation supports organizations that provide care for abused, neglected and abandoned animals, both wild and domesticated. We will always support the work of organizations like HSI/Canada and Friends of HSI, who defend those who cannot defend themselves,” said the foundation's founder Eric Margolis.

HSI asks that people check out the credentials of a zoo to make sure they are accredited in North America before visiting. Supporting institutions that help and not harm animals is an important way to make the statement that animal conservation is vitally important to our planet.

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