Hamilton

Little Ray's won't close or relocate 900 zoo animals after all, owner says

The owner of Little Ray's Nature Centres, which previously said it may have to close its rescue zoos in Hamilton and Ottawa and relocate about 900 exotic animals due to COVID-19 restrictions, will keep operating after all.

The company, with Canadian locations in Hamilton and Ottawa, borrowed roughly $1.4M amid pandemic

Little Ray's Nature Centres, one of the largest exotic animal rescues in North America, won't have to close, but is still in debt, according to the owner of the company, which operates zoos in Hamilton and Ottawa.

The founder of Little Ray's Nature Centres, which previously said it may have to close its rescue zoos in Hamilton and Ottawa and relocate about 900 exotic animals due to COVID-19 restrictions, will keep operating after all. 

Paul (Little Ray) Goulet, also chief executive officer, said the organization borrowed roughly $1.4 million during the pandemic, but the rescue zoos won't permanently shut down.

However, he said, they are still struggling, given zoos aren't fully open yet.

"If the government doesn't allow us to open in the next six months, we don't even have a fighting chance ... [but] I don't believe that's going to happen."

Little Ray's has taken in animals from across Canada after opening in 2000. Goulet said closing the zoos would have created a gap in how the country and Ontario manage the animals they rescue.

At the time, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General said Animal Welfare Services noted they were aware of Little Ray's potential closure of its zoos.

U.S. location lost money too

Little Ray's also has a third location, in Syracuse, N.Y.

Goulet said it was open from October 2020 until May (it's closed because it's changing locations) and still lost money, but not as much as the Canadian locations.

"We've lost tens of thousands of dollars down there. In Canada, we've lost hundreds of thousands," he said.

Goulet said he applied to various government relief programs and loans, as well as relied on donations to survive in Canada.

He hopes the government will start to forgive some loans, especially if he gets less support from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy over time without being able to fully open.

Right now, the zoos are open to a limited number of people through private bookings.

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