About 40 people gathered on the steps of the Alberta legislature Monday to protest a controversial private zoo in Three Hills, Alta.
"No excuse for animal abuse, shut down GuZoo," chanted the crowd while wielding signs with pictures of alleged animal abuse.
"We’re here to protest the ongoing concerns [about] GuZoo Animal Farm because of the lack of enforcement of Alberta’s zoo standards," said Bonnie Farion, a spokesperson for the Council of Concerned Albertans for Animal Welfare and Public Safety.
Many zoos in Alberta — including the Edmonton Valley Zoo and Calgary Zoo — fall under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA).
Some smaller, private zoos — including GuZoo — are monitored by the province instead.
"Basically, the zoo standards are set up to ensure that the animals are taken care of properly at the private zoos in Alberta," said Farion.
But she says the province is not effectively enforcing its zoo standards.
"Because of that, [GuZoo has] been allowed to get away with some disgusting and horrid conditions for over 20-plus years that they’ve been in operation," she said.
Conditions still poor, say animal activists
She says these poor conditions include rotten and maggoty food, filthy and unsafe enclosures and chronic understaffing.
GuZoo was closed in 2011 after it failed an inspection, but Farion says it was allowed to reopen immediately after the owners filed a judicial review.
The province later announced it was indefinitely postponing its review of the facility. At that time, the zoo's owners were handed a list of conditions to meet in order to remain open to the public.
However, Farion says nothing has really changed in that time.
"GuZoo hasn’t changed. They might have put lipstick on a pig, but it hasn’t made it better.... There’s not the want to make it better, and that’s the problem."
Now, she wants the province to shut down the zoo once and for all.
Last year, GuZoo made the news after two wolves died in their pens, leaving seven pups to be hand fed by zoo staff. At that time, the zoo owners said they believed the animals had been poisoned.
GuZoo made headlines again earlier this month when the internet activist group Anonymous published a disturbing video alleged to have been shot there over Canada Day weekend.
An earlier version of this story stated that GuZoo was permitted to reopen in July 2012, but it was actually allowed to reopen in 2011 after a judicial review was filed.Jul 22, 2013 4:27 AM MT