ALBERTA

Private zoo removing animals after Alberta government orders improvements

04/01/2015 04:21 EDT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 EDT
THREE HILLS, Alta. - A private zoo in central Alberta is getting rid of all its wildlife and licensed animals.

The controversial Guzoo near Three Hills, northeast of Calgary, has been under fire for several years by animal welfare groups and, at one time, even retired game-show host Bob Barker.

A phone greeting at the zoo Wednesday said the government is forcing the removal of animals and the facility is closed temporarily.

It said it hopes to reopen but wasn't clear about what animals it might feature.

Duncan MacDonnell, a spokesman with Alberta Environment, said the zoo's one-year permit expired on Tuesday and it was told to close for 30 days so it can address a list of deficiencies, including poor animal care and public safety.

He said the province did not order the removal of animals.

But if the zoo doesn't address concerns, he added, it could be closed for good.

Guzoo was opened in 1990 by Lynn Gustafson and his family. It has housed nearly 400 animals — and most recently had lions, a tiger and a baboon.

The zoo was almost forced to close in 2011 following an investigation that discovered a number of safety issues, health risks and poor record-keeping. But after a judicial review, it began to operate again.

In 2013, a video was released showing images of dirty cages, maggots in a feeding bowl and dead animals at the facility.

MacDonnell said an inspection earlier this year showed the zoo hadn't addressed previous concerns and new ones were found.

Tove Reece with the Voice for Animals Humane Society said she's happy the zoo has closed its doors but she's still concerned about the animals. She has heard the tiger has been sold but believes many of the animals won't find new homes because of problems with their breeding, records and interaction with domestic animals.

Reece said she is reaching out to different sanctuaries across North America to see if they might take the animals. But she's not sure if Guzoo would be willing to work with her group.

She added that she would hate to see the zoo open again in any capacity, even as a petting zoo.

No one from Guzoo was available for comment.

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