Hamilton

OSPCA 'bowing to activist pressure' after charges: Marineland

Days after the OSPCA charged Marineland with five counts of animal cruelty, the theme park has fired back, alleging the animal welfare watchdog is “bowing to pressure from radical California-based animal rights activists.”

The maximum penalties for the charges include a $60,000 fine and two years in jail

Niagara Falls, Ont. animal theme park Marineland says its most recent charges from the OSPCA are linked to pressure from a California-based animal rights group. (Scott Dunlop/Canadian Press)

Days after the OSPCA charged Marineland with five counts of animal cruelty, the theme park has fired back, alleging the animal welfare watchdog is "bowing to pressure from radical California-based animal rights activists."

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says it is just doing its job, but in a statement, Marineland alleges that the OSPCA is working under pressure from "activists who have been shown to falsify evidence."

"It is simply inconceivable to these radical activists that a company that relies upon the health and safety of its animals would actually be interested in maintaining their welfare," the statement reads.

The Niagara Falls theme park says it has "learned" that a recent inspection of its facilities was "prompted by pressure" from Last Chance for Animals, an animal rights organization Marineland says is "working with a fired former Marineland employee that is believed to be seeking revenge for his dismissal."

The statement goes further, saying the group used distorted or false images to create "false images to allege abuse."

OSPCA spokesperson Alison Cross told CBC News that the organization was simply doing its job when the theme park was closed.

"We do our job according to the way the law is written, and that is what has happened in this case," she said.

Marineland is currently facing cruelty charges regarding three kinds of animals — a peacock, guinea hens and American black bears.

The charges include permitting the animals to be in distress and failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care. In the case of 35 black bears, the zoo has been charged with failing to provide adequate and appropriate food and water.

OSPCA officers and a veterinarian responded to investigate when a complaint was made on Nov. 10.

The maximum penalties for these charges are a $60,000 fine, a lifetime ban from owning animals and two years in jail.

This is not the first time Marineland has come under scrutiny. In 2013, several former employees claimed the quality of water compromised the health of animals.

These allegations sparked an uproar and investigation, which the OSPCA is now using to inform the province's recent review of its animal welfare laws.

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