The province has renewed the licence of a controversial private zoo in central Alberta, but only for 60 days while officials continue to probe animal welfare concerns at the facility.
A full investigation of the Guzoo Animal Farm, which is near Three Hills, Alta., needs to be conducted before the business can be granted a full permit renewal, officials with Sustainable Resource Development said in a release on Friday.
The zoo has been the target of a widespread online campaign to have it closed over what its critics describe as unsuitable living conditions for the 400 animals, which include tigers, mountain lions, lynx and a baboon.
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.
Lynn Gustafson, who owns the zoo, said on Thursday that if his licence is denied, he will have no choice but to put down all of the exotic animals.
"We will be working very closely with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and the Alberta SPCA to ensure the facility operator clearly understands what progress is required to satisfy conditions placed on the renewal," said Mel Knight, Minister of Sustainable Resource Development, in a release.
There are several issues that need to be looked at carefully and the process will take some time to complete, said Terra Johnston, Executive Director for the Alberta Society for the Protection of Animals.
Over the next two months, an independent third-party verification process will be conducted to assess the health of the animals at the zoo, officials said.
A meeting of the provincial zoo advisory committee will also be convened to deal with discrepancies between rule enforcement for zoo versus non-zoo animals at the facility, officials said.
In 2007 Zoocheck Canada documented over 100 violations of provincial standards for zoos at Guzoo Animal Farm.