NEWS

Guzoo judicial review could get timeline this week

10/11/2014 03:09 EDT | Updated 12/11/2014 05:59 EST
An Alberta animal rights group hopes to find out this week when a judicial review of Guzoo will go ahead.

Guzoo houses exotic and domestic animals near Three Hills, Alta., and has been the target of criticism from animal rights groups for years. Opponents say animals are not being fed properly and are not being kept in safe enclosures,

One of the organizations behind the push to shut down the zoo says Guzoo owners have been warned about the conditions for a long time.

"Food is a huge issue — frozen water bowls in the winter, scummy, algae-ridden water in the summertime," said Tova Reece, executive director of Voice for Animals, which filed the application for a judicial review with the Court of Queen's Bench. "There's been complaints about Guzoo since he opened basically, in 1990, by a number of groups that work internationally and everything like that, have written reports and complained about the zoo and yet they have done nothing."

Many zoos in Alberta — including the Edmonton Valley Zoo and Calgary Zoo — fall under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA).

Some smaller, private zoos, like Guzoo, are monitored by the province instead and animal rights groups — including the Council of Concerned Albertans for Animal Welfare and Public Safety and Voice for Animals — say the province is not effectively enforcing its zoo standards and Guzoo should be shut down.

Zoo has been ordered closed before

Guzoo was ordered to close in 2011 after it failed an inspection.

The zoo owners then decided to call the facility a "parsonage" or place of worship, in hopes the designation would help keep the private zoo open. They argued the designation would mean the animals are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as having found sanctuary.

The owners also filed a judicial review of the closure order and were permitted to remain open.

Then, the province announced it would indefinitely postpone its review of the facility. That's when the zoo's owners were handed a list of conditions to meet in order to remain open to the public.

In 2012, the province quietly terminated the judicial review.

However, animal rights group say nothing has changed and that the province should shut down the zoo once and for all.

A spokesperson for the province says an inspection of the facility was done last month and they will do another unannounced visit next year.

None of the allegations against Guzoo have been proven in court.

Guzoo no stranger to making headlines

Guzoo made headlines last year after the internet activist group Anonymous published a disturbing video that was allegedly shot there over the Canada Day weekend.

The graphic, 10-minute-long video was purported to have been filmed at Guzoo by a whistleblower and showed parrot habitats filled with garbage, kitten chow covered in maggots, and multiple dog carcasses rotting in a "garbage pit."

As well, Anonymous organized a social media "twitterstorm" last year aimed at spreading the word about Guzoo's alleged conditions and pressuring authorities to close the zoo.

In 2012, the zoo was also in the news after two wolves died in their pens, leaving staff to feed seven pups. At the time, zoo owners said they believed the animals died of cyanide poisoning.

The owners have said in the past they would put down all of the exotic animals if the zoo's operating licence is revoked.

Several Alberta zoos, including the Calgary Zoo, have previously offered to adopt some of the Guzoo animals.

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