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

The owner of the Guzoo Animal Farm says if his licence is denied, he will have no choice but to put down all of the exotic animals.

Lynn Gustafson doesn't mince his words when it comes to the private zoo's operating licence.

"If they decided in their wisdom not to renew my permits, well then I would have to dispense with the licenced animals like your tigers, lions. … I would have to dispose of them."

Gustafson said he would consider it an act of kindness, because he feels the stress of moving his exotic animals would probably end up killing them anyway.

"It's not me that's doing it. It's the animal activists that are doing it … as a result of their actions."

The facility near Three Hills, Alta. is up for its licence review on April 1.

The review comes at a time when the zoo is coming under intense scrutiny for what its critics describe as unsuitable living conditions.

Zoo opponent offers help to keep animals alive

Photos taken last week by a visitor to Guzoo purported to show several animals living in dirty, unsuitable pens, with some animals apparently in distress.

Talk of putting down the zoo's residents makes Lauren Johnston nervous.

She's one of the organizers of the "Shut Down Guzoo" campaign.

Johnston said that if Guzoo is no longer an operating zoo, Gustafson's animals would be his property.

"Unfortunately, our standards that are set in place by our government put animals as property," said Johnston, adding she would work with the Gustafsons to move the exotic animals to a safe refuge in the event the licence isn't renewed.

Gustafson confident of licence renewal

Dave Ealey, spokesman for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, agreed with that assessment.

"Ownership of those animals is … whoever owns that zoo," said Ealey. "There are places in the province that no longer operate as zoos that used to operate as zoos … because they weren't prepared to deal with how to set up for visitation by the public. So that's an option."

However, euthanizing his animals could put Gustafson in violation of some provisions of the Animal Protection Act.

Gustafson said he probably won't have to dispense with any of his zoo animals because he expects to be granted a renewal to his licence on Friday.