Quebec's Wildlife Ministry says it had 'several files open' on St-Édouard Zoo
Owner Normand Trahan, charged with animal neglect and cruelty, had until September 2020 to obey new rules
Quebec's Wildlife Ministry had inspected the St-Édouard Zoo "several times" before the owner's arrest Tuesday and had requested improvements to the living conditions of the zoo's menagerie, a ministry official said.
Normand Trahan, 69, was charged with animal cruelty and neglect following a Montreal SPCA criminal investigation, which led to the seizure of roughly 100 animals at the zoo in Saint-Édouard-de-Maskinongé, 120 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
François Lelièvre, a biologist with the Wildlife Ministry, confirmed Trahan had the required permits to operate a zoo.
The owner had, however, been fined on several occasions between 2010 to 2016 for minor offences.
"Our wildlife officers knew Mr. Trahan, and it was a place we visited often," said Lelièvre, who could not provide more details because of the criminal charges Trahan is facing.
'We didn't have the legal tools': Wildlife biologist
Before the Wildlife Ministry overhauled its animal control program in 2018, taking away a permit was difficult even if a business had several strikes against it, said Lelièvre.
"When we were on the ground and we found problems, we didn't have the legal tools we needed to intervene," he said.
Tougher regulations on keeping animals in captivity have been in place since last September, according to Lelièvre. For example, zoos now have to respect minimum standards for the size of cages and other enclosures.
Lelièvre said the ministry had given Trahan and other zookeepers until September 2020 to comply with the new rules. After that date, wildlife officials will have more power to enforce regulations and lay charges, if need be.
Lelièvre estimated there are about 30 businesses similar to Trahan's across Quebec.
Farm animals transferred
The St-Édouard zookeeper is expected back in court on June 21.
Meanwhile, the Montreal SPCA, which obtained the warrant to seize the animals, has begun the huge undertaking of transferring them to sanctuaries in Canada and the United States.
On Thursday, a first truckload of some 60 farm animals — sheep, goats, ponies, alpacas and birds — left the zoo, headed for one of the SPCA's partner farms in the Montérégie region.
"They will be examined and cared for by a veterinarian," said Sophie Gaillard, animal advocacy director with the Montreal SPCA. "We will see, once the court proceedings are over, what will happen to them."
It will take several more weeks before the rest of the menagerie finds new homes, Gaillard said. Those include tigers, lions, zebras, kangaroos and other exotic animals.
"It's much more complex because these are not animals that are easy to deal with," said Gaillard.