Supporters of a private zoo that has come under attack for allegedly mistreating animals are coming to the defense of the central Alberta business.

si-cgy-guzoo-dogs220

A New Guinea singing dog, in an enclosure with a frozen water dish, was shivering from the cold, said the photographer. (Courtesy Nic Burgess)

About five groups in support of the Guzoo Animal Farm near Three Hills, Alta., have created pages on Facebook with roughly 800 members in total.

"I have been going there for years and not once have the animals looked liked they have been mistreated," says the description section on the Facebook page called "Help Save the Guzoo."

Pictures were recently posted on the internet that seem to show some animals living in distress, many of them caged in dirty, small, dilapidated enclosures.

Provincial officials promised to review operations at the facility before deciding whether to renew its licence, which is set to expire on April 1.

Zoo owner Lynn Gustafson said provincial officials visited his property on Tuesday and did not find any mistreated or neglected animals.

But the Canadian Humane Society wrote to Premier Ed Stelmach, asking that a qualified veterinarian be allowed to check on every animal in the private zoo.

Devon McDonald, one of the organizers of the online campaign to have Guzoo shut down, said a surprise visit from a vet is a great idea.

"If a vet was to check every animal, I believe he would find a lot of problems," McDonald said.

Local support

Local officials have been supportive of Gustafson's right to keep operating.

"I know the Gustafson family both personally and as community members and they are a well respected family in our community," said Kneehill County Reeve Carol Calhoun.

And Three Hills Mayor Tim Shearlaw said he wants to see the zoo stay open.

The half dozen Facebook sites calling for the closure of Guzoo have in excess of 12,000 members.

Gustafson finds out on Friday if the facility's licence will be renewed.