NEWS

Judicial review of Alberta's GuZoo adjourned indefinitely; zoo can remain open

12/23/2011 12:56 EST | Updated 02/22/2012 05:12 EST
EDMONTON - The owners of a private zoo in central Alberta want their day in court.

The Gustafsons, who operate GuZoo near Three Hills, plan to push for a new date for a judicial review of their facility.

"The fight's not over yet," Irene Gustafson said Friday. "We're still looking at significant legal proceedings and serious financial sacrifice in order to rectify this."

The provincial government decided last spring it would no longer issue the zoo a permit, because an independent investigation found deficiencies in its operations. But a judge allowed it to reopen under strict conditions pending the review, which was to begin in January.

But Darcy Whiteside with Sustainable Resource Development said it has been postponed indefinitely.

"There's more information to discuss, more information to share," said Whiteside.

GuZoo can remain open as long as it abides by the original court conditions. They include not allowing the public to have contact with exotic animals and other wildlife, upholding special requirements on the care and handling of the animals and agreeing to unscheduled government inspections.

Gustafson said her family agreed to the conditions because they were supposed to be temporary. Now there's no end-date in sight.

"These are conditions basically infringing on our personal rights and freedoms."

She gave as an example one condition that says no animals can be moved on or off the property.

"I can't buy a puppy for my daughter for Christmas, and I'm not even allowed to take my horse on a trail ride."

Gustafson said the zoo is closed for the winter, because the family didn't want to deal with the stress of ongoing public harassment. It is set to open again April 1.

GuZoo has been the focus of animal abuse concerns since it first opened in 1990.

Started by Gustafson's father-in-law, Lynn Gustafson, the zoo houses nearly 400 animals — including camels, lions and tigers.

The most recent public outcry came last March, when pictures that included one of a goat with its face covered in blood were posted on a Facebook page.

Several complaints were made to the Alberta SPCA and the province.

Retired game-show host Bob Barker also joined the debate and asked the government to step in and ensure the safety of all the zoo's animals.

The Gustafson family said it has since dealt with many of the concerns.

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