OTTAWA – October 16, 2017: Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) is deeply disturbed by the amendments made to the bylaws pertaining to prohibited animals in the City of Toronto this month. Despite claims by City officials that the new measures will protect the safety and wellbeing of the public and animals in question – the amendments have actually stripped the City of the regulatory and enforcement capability to do so, and created a system where animals being used for entertainment purposes is endorsed. CAZA agrees that that there is a growing problem and concern for animal welfare in the City of Toronto that needs to be addressed – however the manner in which City officials have decided to proceed has amplified the issue rather than deter it.
The desire for interaction with exotic animals is a growing reality. Although CAZA believes that positive impacts can be made through responsible learning opportunities, we do not support the use of animals in situations where their welfare is negatively impacted. The City’s decision to ban the use of prohibited animals in educational programming without increasing enforcement measures to regulate the underground market, has created an environment where black market unaccredited operations will thrive in the absence of accredited facilities conducting important educational initiatives to schools, camps, and medical centres. More exotic animals will be sold and end up in nightclubs for photo opportunities, more exotic animals will suffer without regulatory oversight, and the public will be put at risk by companies coming into the City who are not held to a strict set of safety standards – such as the ones enforced on CAZA accredited facilities.
CAZA is also deeply concerned that despite the changes being sold to the public on a bill of “fairness” and “concern for the use of animals in programming,” restrictive measures were not put in place for animals being used for the entertainment industry. CAZA is disgusted that City officials are willing to turn a blind eye to animals partaking in unnatural or potentially damaging behaviours for entertainment purposes when it is generating a profit.
As an animal welfare organization, CAZA is responsible for creating and enforcing animal welfare standards which affect the lives of hundreds of prohibited animals in the care of our member facilities. Created with insight from scientifically recognized international best practices, CAZA Members are held to some of the highest standards in the world in veterinary care, safety, operational protocols, species survival programs, and educational initiatives. CAZA’s standards are vigorously enforced through CAZA’s established progressive discipline process. This process has been utilized efficiently within the last year alone as demonstrated by the loss of a number of CAZA members after unsettling issues were brought to light and investigated.
In the absence of regulatory measures in the amended bylaws, currently CAZA’s enforcement protocols are the only enforcement measures being utilized in the City of Toronto to monitor the use of exotic animals, ensure they are receiving the best care possible, and make certain that the public can engage with them safely for the purpose of learning about how our actions can save them in the wild.
Many of CAZA’s accredited members are called on regularly by provincial SPCA’s across the country for assistance when issues arise with prohibited animals found in homes and unauthorized locations. It is troubling that the City of Toronto does not recognize the expertise available to them and has rejected CAZA’s plea to assist. We encourage them reconsider.
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