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Private Ontario zoo with 450 animals up for sale in Chatham-Kent

Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo in Chatham-Kent in Ontario is up for sale for $4.5 million. While one of the owners says only serious offers will be considered, animal activists say better laws about the sale of exotic animals are needed.

Animal activists concerned over sale of 20-hectare property, buildings and animals going for $4.5M

Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo, shown in this image posted to Ontario's Multiple Listings Service, is up for sale for $4.5 million. (Greenview Aviaries/MLS)

The potential sale of a private zoo in southwestern Ontario where there are hundreds of exotic animals is raising legal and moral questions about the thorny issue of the private ownership of dangerous wildlife. 

Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo, which has operated for nearly 40 years in the community of Morpeth in Chatham-Kent, is listed on Ontario's Multiple Listings Service (MLS) for $4.5 million

Cody Kraus, a broker with Century 21 Erie Shores Realty, said the purchase price includes:

  • About 20 hectares of land.
  • A house, maintenance sheds, livestock barns, reptile pavilion, souvenir shop, restaurant, playground, splash pad.
  • A personal collection of 450 animals, including goats, llamas, hundreds of birds and a number of large predator cats. 

"There's five or six lions," Kraus said. "A lot of these animals are breeding. They had a new lion cub that was born this year and that's one of the big features now. There's tigers, there's a black bear, there's water buffalo." 

'It's leaving people in a dangerous situation'

Animal rights activists say the fact the zoo's menagerie of 450 animals is included with the property illustrates the need for better laws governing keeping exotic animals in Ontario. They argue anyone could take ownership of potentially dangerous lions and tigers with no licensing or training required. 

"It's leaving animals in a dangerous situation and its leaving people in a dangerous situation," said Julie Woodyer, the campaigns director for ZooCheck Canada, a charity dedicated to the protection of wild animals.

Ontario has no laws governing the ownership or breeding of potentially dangerous animals, such as lions and tigers, and no standards for training on how the animals should be handled. 

Four white lions stare at the camera in this 2018 picture taken at Greenview Aviaries and posted to social media. (Greenview Aviaries/Facebook)

"Anyone can buy this. They don't have to have any training or understanding of the biology of the animals nor how to manage them," Woodyer said. 

In Ontario, it's up to each municipality to enact its own bylaw, which critics say creates a confusing and inconsistent patchwork of rules when it comes to public safety and the keeping of potentially dangerous wildlife. 

Greenview has exemption under local bylaws

Chatham-Kent passed its own exotic animal bylaw in 2015. The legislation gives Greenview Aviaries an exemption under the bylaw. 

Don Shropshire, the municipality's chief administrative officer, told CBC News on Monday that municipal lawyers said the bylaw exemption would be transferred to the new owners once the property is sold.

He also noted the facility under its current ownership has never presented a problem for local law enforcement officials. 

The zoo "has been operating successfully for many years. I am not aware of any concerns being raised about either safety or the care of the animals. Hoping whoever buys the business will carry on with this tradition."

Also on Monday, Brian Daly, who co-owns the zoo with his brothers Ken and Scott, told CBC News the family would only consider serious offers when it came to selling their 38-year-old business. 

"If somebody is going to buy a zoo, they would have to know what they're doing, wouldn't they? I mean it's just common sense," Daly said. 

Brothers will keep zoo going if they can't find buyer

Daly wouldn't say how he and his brothers intend to determine how a potential buyer is qualified to handle the animals, especially in a jurisdiction where there are no regulations on training or qualifications for the public display of lions and tigers. 

"We'll find that out when the time comes," he said. 

Daly said he and his brothers decided to sell the zoo because they're looking to retire.

"I'm in my mid 60s," he said, noting he's worked seven days a week for the past 38 seasons and is looking forward to having weekends off. 

Daly called his career in animal handling a "labour of love," and said if he and his brothers can't find a serious buyer, they'll likely keep the business going. 

"The worst thing that could happen is if it isn't a zoo anymore," he said. 

Brent Ross, a spokesperson for the Solicitor General's Office, told CBC News the province did not want to comment on the sale. 

"Animal Welfare Services is not involved in real estate or business-to-business transactions, and cannot provide comment on this specific matter."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

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