Marineland charged with 6 new counts of animal cruelty
WARNING: This story contains a graphic image
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has laid six new animal cruelty-related charges against Marineland Canada.
The organization announced the new charges against the Niagara Falls, Ont., amusement park Monday.
The new charges against the park involve treatment of elk, red deer and fallow deer — and include permitting the animals to be in distress and failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care.
"We want to reassure the public that the [OSPCA] will continue to make sure these animals are getting the care they require," said Steve Toy, OSPCA senior inspector, in a news release.
Marineland, which features both marine and land animals, now faces 11 charges of animal cruelty and neglect after a complaint raised concerns about some of the animals' well-being on Nov. 10.
OSPCA is saying only that charges stem from a complaint from a member of the public.
The Niagara Falls theme park said after the first charges that a recent inspection of its facilities was "prompted by pressure" from Last Chance for Animals, an animal rights organization.
The California-based watchdog group is taking credit for submitting the complaint that has led to both sets of charges, saying it gathered evidence on the treatment of the land animals at the theme park and alerted the OSPCA.
Marineland has previously said the California group is working with a fired former Marineland employee, who the company alleges is seeking "revenge for his dismissal."
The tourist attraction was charged with five counts of animal cruelty late-November, regarding three kinds of animals — a peacock, guinea hens and American black bears.
Those charges also included 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.
None of these animals have been removed at this time based on the nature of the charges filed, said Jennifer Bluhm, OSPCA deputy chief inspector.
'OSPCA lays strangest charges yet'
CBC News contacted Marineland seeking comment on the new charges. The theme park declined to comment on any changes it is making in the care of its land animal, but issued a statement in which it says the "OSPCA is continuing a publicity campaign at the behest of a band of discredited activists with little relevant expertise or knowledge."
The amusement park continues to dispute concerns over the alleged mistreatments of the land animals in care, calling the additional six charges laid Monday, the "strangest charges yet."
'Bowing to activist pressure,' Marineland says
At the time of the November charges, Marineland issued a statement saying the animals in question are receiving the medical attention needed and disputed some concerns over the alleged mistreatment of the animals in care.
It has also accused the OSPCA of "bowing to activist pressure" in laying the charges.
Bluhm responded to this accusation stating: "Our investigation is no different than any other of the 16,000 investigations we do every year.
"The fact that we've laid an additional six counts as part of this investigation is a good example of the thoroughness that we've put into this investigation."
The OSPCA is continuing to monitor the animals to ensure they receive the care they need while the investigation continues.
The maximum penalties for these charges are a $60,000 fine, a lifetime ban in owning animals and two years in jail.
Marineland is scheduled to appear in court for the 11 charges on Jan. 26.