Marineland charges dropped

Pros­e­cu­tors say no rea­son­able chance of con­vic­tion on an­i­mal cru­elty charges

North Bay Nugget - - ONTARIO NEWS - LIAM CASEY

NI­A­GARA FALLS, ONT. — an­i­mal cru­elty charges that had been laid against Marineland were dropped thurs­day af­ter pros­e­cu­tors said there was no rea­son­able chance of con­vic­tion on most of the 11 counts faced by the on­tario tourist at­trac­tion.

dur­ing a brief hear­ing in a Ni­a­gara Falls, ont., court­room, the Crown said it could have pro­ceeded on three of the charges — which re­lated to fail­ing to com­ply with stan­dards of care for a pea­cock, guinea hens and a red deer — but did not be­lieve it was in the pub­lic in­ter­est to do so, cit­ing po­ten­tial court costs and a weak case.

Crown at­tor­ney stephen gal­braith said pros­e­cu­tors had in­stead come up with an al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion that in­cluded on­go­ing mon­i­tor­ing of the amuse­ment park and zoo.

“the Crown’s case is more cir­cum­stan­tial than di­rect ev­i­dence,” gal­braith told the court. “the pho­to­graphs and video pro­vided pre­serves ob­ser­va­tions, but there was no in­de­pen­dent ex­am­i­na­tion of the an­i­mals. the vet­eri­nar­ian’s re­port was not able to de­ter­mine the cause of is­sues re­lated to the an­i­mals.”

the jus­tice of the peace hear­ing the case ac­cepted the Crown’s sub­mis­sion and with­drew the charges.

the 11 charges against Ma­rine land were the re­sult of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the on­tario so­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to an­i­mals that was launched last Novem­ber af­ter the an­i­mal wel­fare agency re­ceived a com­plaint.

Marineland was ini­tially charged with five counts of an­i­mal cru­elty late last year in con­nec­tion with the treat­ment of pea­cocks, guinea hens and black bears. in Jan­uary, the osPCa laid six more an­i­mal cru­elty charges against Marineland re­lat­ing to elk, red deer and fal­low deer.

in a state­ment is­sued af­ter thurs­day’s court hear­ing, Marineland said it had suf­fered “rep­u­ta­tional dam­age” as a re­sult of the charges that were with­drawn.

“the Crown con­ducted its own in­de­pen­dent re­view of the osPCa charges and has ef­fec­tively agreed with Marineland by de­ter­min­ing all the charges ought to be with­drawn,” the com­pany said.

the osPCa said it was sur­prised the charges were with­drawn.

“We are ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed in this out­come and feel that this mat­ter is of pub­lic in­ter­est as all an­i­mals rely on hu­mans for ap­pro­pri­ate care for their gen­eral wel­fare and the pub­lic de­mands this,” said osPCa chief in­spec­tor Con­nie Mal­lory.

“if any­one has any con­cerns for the wel­fare of the an­i­mals at Marineland, we en­cour­age the pub­lic to con­tact 310-sPCa to re­port the new in­for­ma­tion.”

the 35-page com­plaint that prompted the osPCa in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Novem­ber was filed by a Cal­i­for­nia-based an­i­mal rights group called Last Chance for an­i­mals. it con­tained al­le­ga­tions of an­i­mal abuse along with pho­to­graphs and videos from a for­mer Marineland em­ployee.

the Cana­dian Press ob­tained a copy of the group’s com­plaint, as well as copies of the pho­tos and videos from the for­mer em­ployee with meta­data in­di­cat­ing they were taken on Marineland prop­erty last sum­mer.

Marineland said at the time that the com­plaint was part of a smear cam­paign by a for­mer em­ployee who had been fired for poor per­for­mance and in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour. it also ar­gued the images and videos may be doc­tored.

the for­mer em­ployee, who re­quested anonymity for fear of be­ing sued, told the Cana­dian Press he quit on good terms and is not an an­i­mal ac­tivist and doesn’t want the park to close.

Last Chance for an­i­mals, mean­while, has said its goal is not to shut down Marineland, though it does be­lieve “wild an­i­mals should be left in the wild.”

on thurs­day, Marineland reiter- ated its pre­vi­ous po­si­tion that the osPCa laid the charges to appease an­i­mal rights groups that have crit­i­cized it for not do­ing enough to pro­tect an­i­mals.

“the osPCa lit­er­ally pre­pared the first of th­ese charges on site, af­ter spend­ing a sin­gle af­ter­noon ex­e­cut­ing a search war­rant and view­ing more than 4,000 an­i­mals across more than three hun­dred acres at our park,” Marineland said.

“the osPCa did not re­move or iso­late any of the 4,000 an­i­mals, de­spite lay­ing mul­ti­ple charges.”

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