Community rallies to keep St-Édouard Zoo open
Organizer defends owner as a 'passionate man' who loves animals
Residents of the small community of Saint-Édouard-de-Maskinongé organized a rally Saturday to show their support for the owner of a local zoo who was arrested and charged with animal cruelty and neglect earlier in the week.
The Montreal SPCA filed the criminal charges against Normand Trahan following an investigation at the St-Édouard Zoo, which keeps a wide range of farm and wild animals including wolves, alpacas, bears, lions, kangaroos and primates.
Isabelle Béland, who organized the rally, said she has visited the zoo several times with her children and described Trahan as a "passionate man" who loves animals.
"It would be unfortunate to destroy his life's work for reasons that we don't even understand," she said.
Béland put out the call on Facebook and quickly got a response from people who know the zoo.
Patrick Desroches drove from Trois-Rivières for the rally, and described the situation as an "injustice."
"He's been taking care of animals here for 30 years," said Desroches, unimpressed with the way the SPCA arrested Trahan and seized his animals before a court ruling was made.
Access granted to defence team
The Montreal SPCA had been on the property since Tuesday gathering evidence to support its case. On Thursday 61 farm animals were relocated to another location in the Montérégie region.
Officials have have agreed to not move any more animals, following a request from Trahan's defence lawyer, Michel Lebrun, to access the site, and to allow his own experts in to examine the animals.
Lebrun's request was granted, putting a temporary hold on the relocation process.
Jacynthe Bouchard will be one of the defence's expert witnesses.
She is the owner of the Nicolet Zoo Académie, which provides training for people who work with animals in captivity.
Bouchard was allowed into the zoo on Saturday, during the rally, and told the crowd she intended to fight to make sure the animals stay put.
"For the animals' well-being, the last thing we should do is move them from here," said Bouchard, arguing the stress of moving to a new environment was unnecessary.
"We're not here to say everything is perfect, but we want to bring our expertise to make sure the animals can stay," she said, before going into the zoo.
Elected officials in the region are also trying to find solutions to lessen the blow on the small town, now that its biggest tourist attraction is closed, at least temporarily.
With files from Radio-Canada