Protesters swarm Papanack Zoo after video alleges abuse

Protesters gathered along the road near the Papanack Zoo on Saturday to urge people to boycott the attraction.

Footage shows people talking about beating animals, separating them from their mothers

Papanack Zoo is facing criticism after a video surfaced that alleges animal abuse took place within the compound. (Papanack Zoo/YouTube)

Protesters gathered along the road near Papanack Zoo on Saturday to urge people to boycott the attraction. 

The event was organized after a video surfaced online, showing what it described as an undercover look into what the filmmakers allege is animal abuse.

Animal Justice, the animal rights group who posted the video, say it was shot by a former employee of the Prescott-Russell zoo about 50 kilometres east of Ottawa.

Footage shows workers allegedly using violence to control sheep, separating a young cougar from its mother, talking about hitting a lion and forcing raccoons to bare their teeth for a photo shoot.

Protesters want the Papanack Zoo to close after a video surfaced alleging the animals were being abused. (Animal Justice/Screenshot)

"We think it's important for people to know the truth about what happens in zoos," said Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and the executive director of Animal Justice. 

She said the video was taken last summer over a two-month period, and that the location was confirmed when footage showed the owners and interior of the zoo.

The Ottawa Animal Defense League organizes protests at the zoo every few months, but bumped up their August protest when they saw the video. 

"We thought it was perfect timing to keep spreading the word," said Michele Thorn, one of the protest organizers. 

Though the video has angered many, the contents have yet to be officially confirmed. Papanack Zoo management has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

'I know what I see'

But that isn't enough to pacify protesters. 

"We saw the conditions ourselves from the roadside," Thorn said. "I know what I see, that's proof to me. Hearing from people wasn't enough."

Protesters are hoping that the zoo eventually gets shut down.

Papanack Zoo came under fire last year when a lion that had escaped its enclosure was shot and killed .

Several years before that incident, animal welfare organizations said the fences were inadequate to contain the animals. 

Michele Thorn helped organize the protest on Saturday, which was bumped up from the end of August after people saw the undercover video. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

No regulations for zoos

The issue with zoos in Ontario is the lack of regulations, Labchuk said. 

"Anyone can open up a private zoo in this province without getting a license," she said.

Laws surrounding treatment of animals in the province are loose compared to the rest of Canada. Labchuk said Ontario has no legislation in place to govern zoos. 

"These animals are being treated as objects," she said.

The Ontario SPCA said they are "aware of these animal cruelty allegations and are investigating."

With files from Andrew Foote