City Council Must Seek Expert Opinion to Protect Animal Welfare and Public Safety

OTTAWA – October 26, 2017: An ethical debate is taking place in Sault Ste. Marie – should the City prohibit zoological facilities to operate? Behind closed doors, without input from the public or animal welfare organizations, City Council instructed City staff to return a by-law to Council prohibiting zoological facilities from operating in Saute St. Marie.

City Council and the Mayor himself suggest that the decision is influenced by lack of expertise and resources at the municipality to develop and enforce a regulatory and compliance regime. However, in the absence of formal consultation with animal welfare experts such as CAZA, the OSPCA, and the Humane Society, the only influence that appears to have resonated with council is the political agenda of one City Councillor and that of anti-zoo organization which is funded on the sole practice of shutting down zoos in Canada.

What many consider to be a knee-jerk reaction to an ideological public relations stunt by Zoocheck and Councillor Hupponen, will inherently have negative consequences for the animals in the care of zoological facilities in Sault Ste. Marie, and potentially harmful effects on the public’s safety in surrounding communities.

This is where CAZA’s standards development can assist the City in their decision-making process.

Founded in 1976, CAZA is the leading animal welfare standards development organization in Canada. Our standards development process includes expert opinion from researchers, biologists, and academia to ensure that our standards reflect the latest in animal welfare research, organizational management, and safety protocols. Through a science-based approach, CAZA’s standards bridge the ethical concerns regarding zoos and aquariums, and are currently the only pan-Canada set of standards mandating zoological facilities in the country. Out of hundreds of zoos in Canada, only 31 have received CAZA accreditation through independent inspection.

We agree that more needs to be done across provinces and municipalities to regulate zoos, however the back-door manner in which City Council has chosen to do so is not the answer. When CAZA approached Councillor Hopponen to discuss the issues, we were turned away. For someone who claims to be concerned with the lack of expertise available to Council, refusing input from national standards development organizations is deceitful to the residents of Sault Ste. Marie. Without a formal consultative process, it is likely that the only fate of the animals in the care of facilities in the City – will be that they are euthanized.

If Council is looking for expertise and resources, they will find it in the team of animal welfare experts, scientists, biologists, veterinarians, operational experts, and ethicists who are part of CAZA’s network, and operate at our accredited facilities. We urge Council to guarantee that there is a fair and formal consultation process that ensures all considerations for the health and wellbeing of the animals in question, and the surrounding public’s safety are deliberated, and measured response be imposed.

City Council has asked for expert opinion – we urge them to keep the door open for us.

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