May 13, 2021

Another Victim of Ontario’s Lax Approach to Zoos

On May 8, a kangaroo named Willow died after escaping from Papanack Park Zoo. The zoo, located east of Ottawa, is notorious for longstanding allegations of animal cruelty and abuse.

Witnesses reported seeing Willow cross the road while already suffering from serious injuries, with blood and exposed bone. Passing motorists attempted to help Willow by capturing her with a coat while waiting for a veterinarian to arrive. It is unclear whether Willow was hit by a car, or was injured by other means.

Willow’s death is not the first escape from Papanack Park Zoo. In 2016, a lion named Zeus escaped. He was shot and killed at the direction of the zoo, which later lamented that the shooting was unfortunate because Zeus was worth $25,000.

When humane societies and SPCAs in Ontario investigated animal cruelty and neglect in the province, the OHS received frequent complaints about Papanack Park Zoo. I have seen hidden camera footage taken there. It showed horrendous animal cruelty and neglect.  Unfortunately the business was outside our jurisdiction, so all we could do was pass on the complaints to the Ontario SPCA, whose service area included the zoo. 

Today in Ontario, the Ministry of the Solicitor General employs provincial animal welfare inspectors to investigate animal cruelty, but I am not aware of any action they are taking for the animals caged at Papanack Park Zoo.

One of the problems is a lack of provincial legislation with which to act upon. Ontario is the only province in Canada that doesn’t require a license to operate a zoo, and has no regulations specific to keeping animals in zoos. Some municipalities, like Ottawa do, but the province does not. In many parts of the province, if you can afford to buy a lion, you can open a zoo.

This gross exploitation of animals in Ontario has to stop. There are two ways you can make this happen:

Vote with your wallet, and never give roadside zoos your money. These are businesses and without support they will disappear.

Contact your MPP and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and let them know that Ontario needs to protect exploited animals like Willow and Zeus.

Bruce Roney
President & CEO