It is obvious that Remi Watts ["Feces? Gross," Mar. 31] is making a lot of assumptions and even what I consider prejudicial statements about "average city dwellers" who "cannot see beyond their cul-de-sac."
First, the "Shut down GuZoo in Three Hills Alberta" Facebook group was started by Concerned Albertans for Animal Welfare and Public Safety with the group's mandate being to "demand stricter enforcement of the Alberta zoo standards at the GuZoo in Three Hills, Alberta." So these "fanatics" simply want the law to be enforced.
Second, the author says the zoo has been successfully licensed since 1990 -- but conveniently fails to mention that many of those were temporary licenses that were issued because previous pre-conditions for licensing were not met. The records for these are easily found on the Internet, but this most basic bit of research seems to have been missed. One of the main issues being raised by the CAAWPS is the very fact that these temporary licenses keep getting issued, even when problems persist.
Third, many of the members of this group live, work, or were raised on a farm; previously or currently have worked in animal care, whether medical, rescue, shelter, etc.; and are involved in other animal rights issues, including the very ones the author mentions in the article.
Fourth, the author considers the Zoocheck report "uninformed." I would like to know what the author's expertise is to make such a judgement? The Zoocheck report is put together by professionals in animal care who have reviewed many facilities, often not just in Canada, but the U.S. and other countries. The author also makes reference to GuZoo "just being a country farm" -- but this place is being licensed as a zoo, and thus, must meet the regulations of a zoo.
One of the main issues being raised by this group is that there seems to be some corruption in the licensing process. After all, Lynn Gustafson, the owner of GuZoo zoo, was convicted of exotic animal trafficking -- twice. Even with those convictions, this person somehow became the animal control officer for Three Hills -- how is that possible? The SPCA first called for closure of GuZoo in 1993. In 1999, Fish and Wildlife put together a multi-departmental task force to investigate this one facility and found many deficiencies. Visitors to the zoo often get to handle potentially dangerous animals who are not fully under the control of the staff -- that is against the law. There are so many violations that have occurred, one has to ask what kind of system allows this facility to stay open.
I understand this is an opinion piece, but spreading opinion that, in the words of the author are "uninformed and hypocritical," does nothing to help this issue. I suggest the author look at the 2005 Zoocheck report, which itemizes each license renewal, many of which were only 3-6 month temporary renewals because of failures to meet pre-conditions. There is also a 2004 report which has copies of the Health Authority 5, Sustainable Resource Development conditions for permit and even a summary of biting incidents at the farm.