Melissa's Blog

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More Wildlife news... not sure why I'm so drawn to this stuff....

B.C. zoo charged over hippo's home
Last Updated Wed, 31 May 2006 16:16:38 EDT
CBC News
A B.C. zoo, criticized for its treatment of a young hippopotamus, has become the first in Canada to face animal cruelty charges.

FROM AUG. 13, 2005: Zoo criticized for baby hippo barn

The director of legal services for the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney General said the Great Vancouver Zoo was charged with two counts of cruelty following a review of a report by the B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which enforces laws relating to animal cruelty and prepares cases for prosecution.

"The allegation is that the accused did cause or permit an animal to be, or continue to be, in distress," said Geoffrey Gaul, adding that the zoo will soon be served with a summons and told when to appear in court.

The Vancouver Humane Society had been lobbying for charges since Hazina the hippo was moved to the Aldergrove facility from a zoo in Quebec in October 2004.

The very social animal has been kept in solitary confinement in a windowless shed with a very shallow pool since its arrival, society spokesman Peter Fricker said. "Alone, without access to the outdoors, with only a small shallow pool to wade in, and we feel that's totally inappropriate for an animal of that size."

Fricker said the zoo is the first in Canada to be charged with cruelty to animals.

Hazina was the star of a Telus commercial that aired on television last Christmas, with the proceeds to be used to build her a new home and pool that is supposed to open later next month.

But Julie Woodyer, a spokeswoman for the animal rights group Zoocheck, said the process has taken too long, adding the zoo has been warned repeatedly to make improvements.

"The SPCA gave them every opportunity to rectify the situation and move the animal into a better situation, and as far as I can tell, they just ignored that and went ahead and left her in a concrete barn," Woodyer said.

The zoo's animal care manager, Jamie Dorgan, said he's surprised at the pending charges. He said the SPCA had been working with the zoo for months and had seemed happy with the zoo's progress.

Hazina's new pool is going to open soon, Dorgan said, and the hippo has been doing well.

"She's doing great," he said. "She eats regularly. We spend a lot of time with her, working on her target training, which is great enrichment for an intelligent animal like a hippo. She gets all sorts of different enrichment opportunities as well with other things.

"And the reason we can say that she's doing very well is because she's in great mental condition. She shows no signs of having any problems at all. She's in great physical condition."

Dorgan said the zoo would plead not guilty to the charges under the Animal Cruelty Act, which provide for a fine of up to $2,000 and six months in jail.


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