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Sudbury's Northern Exotics included in investigation of Ontario roadside zoos


The World Animal Protection organization has released a new investigative report on the state of so-called roadside zoos in Ontario.

The report, titled 'Nothing New at the Zoo,' highlights numerous problems with the way exotic animals are housed, cared for and interact with the public.

The investigation reviewed the operations of 11 zoos across Ontario, including Northern Exotics in Sudbury, as well as 10 operations in southern Ontario.

The full report can be found here.

"We found different things from very flimsy built cages to tigers being kept behind fences lower than three metres," said Michèle Hamers, the group's wildlife campaign manager.

"Tigers can clear fences higher (than) four metres, so there are some public health and safety issues there. We found very small enclosures in which animals aren’t able to engage in natural behaviours."

While the report doesn't single out individual zoos for problems, it points to widespread issues with the way the animals are cared for and handled.

In particular, the conditions in which they are kept are radically different from how they live in the wild.

"We found group animals or very social animals like monkeys and parrots to be kept alone, which is heartbreaking to me," Hamers said.

"We found quite some abnormal behaviours -- so those are behaviours that we only see in captivity that they’re usually related to stress, like pacing in wolves, feather plucking in parrots and self-mutilation in monkeys."

Dennis Epp, the owner of Northern Exotics, said he’s disheartened to be on the list especially since he said he doesn’t consider his store to be a zoo necessarily.

It's not a situation where he tries to acquire animals, Epp said. It's more of a rescue situation.

"We get a knock at the door with someone saying 'we have a lizard in a bin outside that needs a home,'" he said.

"So we go out and bring it in. And so, yeah, we might not have the best enclosures, but we don’t know what’s coming to us."

Unlike other organizations, Zepp said he pays for everything himself, aside from a few donations.

"As we can, we improve and we do our best,” he said.

Epp said he signed up for voluntary inspections through the SPCA years ago and has always received good reports. He said Northern Exotics also receives inspections through the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act, again passing with flying colours.

Hamers said the province took over enforcement of animal laws from the SPCA in 2019 and WAP's investigation proves the new way of doing things isn’t working.

"We want government to step up and make sure that at least the regulations that are in place -- which are quite vague and hard to enforce -- that they are enforced," she said.

"Additionally, what we would like to see … is to have a zoo licensing system that is province-wide, that is mandatory and that really would result in a phase-out of these types of facilities where public health and animal welfare are highly problematic."

Brent Ross, a spokesperson with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, sent CTV News this statement:

"Animal welfare services has received the complaints raised in this report and is investigating. The PAWS Act is one of the toughest provincial animal welfare legislations in Canada. Since the Act was passed, there have been 47,500 inspections or investigations province-wide; over 6,000 orders and over 500 charges being laid. A total of 3,200 animals have been rescued." Top Stories

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