Papanack Zoo, approximately one hour east of Ottawa, A wallaby was roughly handled by staff members. A southern Ontario roadside zoo has come under fire from animal welfare advocates after a damning video released on Friday appears to show several of its animals in deep distress, pacing and rocking in small enclosed environments, and being roughly handled by staff members.
Animal Justice, Canada’s national animal law charity, released the secret footage and said it was taken by a whistleblower who worked on the grounds of Papanack Zoo in the summer of 2016. The facility is roughly one hour east of Ottawa.
The video also appears to show employees using wires to pry open the mouths of a raccoon, skunk, and bobcat for the purposes of a photo shoot. They are also seen manhandling the animals roughly.
Animal Justice called the video shocking.
“These animals are suffering and there’s no one there to help,” said lawyer and executive director Camille Labchuk. “It’s troubling to see that there are no standards for animals used in entertainment.”
Animal Justice is now calling on the Ontario government to create strict regulation for governing zoos and to create a licensing system for zoo operators whose permits are contingent on meeting designated standards for animal care and well-being.
The Ontario SPCA confirmed that it is “aware of animal cruelty allegations” against Papanack Zoo and has launched a formal investigation for breaches of provincial animal welfare laws. The organization’s spokesperson, Melissa Kosowan, could not confirm at the time of publication whether the investigation was launched as a result of the new footage or from previous complaints against the facility.
“As this is an ongoing investigation, we can’t speak to details at this time,” she told National Observer in an emailed statement.
Papanack Zoo shut down its Facebook page following the release of the video on Friday morning and did not respond to National Observer’s requests for an interview. According to the company’s website, however, its goal is to provide animals with a “comfortable, caring and safe living environment, while allowing the public an exciting, educational and fun place to visit.”
It’s not the first time the zoo has been criticized publicly — in February 2016, the company drew fire after shooting a 300-pound white lion that had escaped from the facility. Zoo owners at the time maintained that it would have been too risky to tranquilize the animal. In the end, Papanack issued a statement blaming the lion’s escape on “human error,” as it ended up in an unfenced park entrance.
According to Animal Justice, both the case of the escaped lion and the brand new video raise serious questions about Ontario’s lack of legislation governing zoos.