An Ontario petting zoo is under investigation and its show has been pulled from a street festival north of Toronto after animal welfare officers responded to reports that a kangaroo had been left out in the sun on a hot day with little water.
Brian McCartney, president of Law Insurance Brokers Limited, which organizes the petting zoo for the Aurora Chamber of Commerce’s annual street festival, said they have cut ties with Tiger Paw Exotics after complaints from the public about the state of several animals on Sunday.
Jonathon Cole went to the festival, as he does every year, with his girlfriend and 10-year-old sister, who he said began crying after seeing a kangaroo curled up in a cage in the sun.
“It was lying on the ground, no water, barely any bedding, lying on the hot concrete and panting and foaming at the mouth,” he said.
“It wasn’t dead, but I thought it might be dying.”
Cole said he then spoke to the owner of Tiger Paw Exotics, Tim Height, who told him he hadn’t brought proper coverage because he thought it would rain. Cole said they got into a heated argument.
Height could not immediately be reached for comment.
Cole said he then called the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to complain. He took photographs that show rabbits piled on top of each other in a shady corner of their enclosure and porcupines in a similar position in their enclosure.
He said he was pleased with the organizer’s pledge to stop the petting zoo portion of the street festival.
“I really didn’t want to have to see them back there again next year,” Cole said.
The OSPCA said an animal welfare officer attended the petting zoo and “addressed the concerns,” which mostly meant providing more shade for the animals, in particular the kangaroo.
OSPCA inspector Brad Dewar said they have launched an investigation into Tiger Paw Exotics and the case is being managed by one of its zoo inspectors.
The OSPCA is responsible for enforcing animal welfare and cruelty laws in Ontario and also runs a voluntary zoo registry. Dewar said he was unable to provide information on previous inspections at Tiger Paw Exotics due to privacy concerns.
McCartney said he’s never had any complaints in seven years working with Tiger Paw Exotics, “but if the public is saying they don’t want to use (the petting zoo), we don’t want to use them.”
He said the kangaroo seemed fine when he saw the animal at various points during the day.