Doug Millroy: Spruce Haven Needs To Close

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I can understand Ken Marshall not wanting to lose his Spruce Haven Nature Park, formerly Spruce Haven Zoo, which is what will happen unless it is grandfathered into a bylaw banning zoos from the city that council is considering.

But I believe council also will have to look at the situation from the point of view of the animals, as it did when it voted in 1996 to close the zoo operated by the city at Bellevue Park.

That move was initiated, as this one is, by Zoocheck Canada, which described the Bellevue zoo as “a barren, unsuitable environment for animals . . . lacking space, stimuli and security,” a description anyone who had seen the zoo and its horrific conditions could attest to.

The same is now being said by Zoocheck of the Spruce Haven Zoo. And it is not as if it is the first time.

Over the years the zoo has been the subject of rebuke from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as well as Zoocheck.

At present the zoo is the subject of a scathing report by Dr. Martyn Obbard, a research scientist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and an adjunct professor in the Environmental and Life Sciences graduate program at Trent University, and Zoocheck launched an online petition last week calling for its closure.

Zoocheck said in the petition, which will be presented to our city council, that it has made several attempts to help the animals, which include Ben the black bear and two African lions, plus an assortment of hoofstock and small animals, at Spruce Haven Zoo.
“Unfortunately,” the petition reads, “Ontario does not regulate zoos or the keeping of exotic wildlife in captivity and, to date, enforcement agencies have been unable to address many of the animal welfare issues at the zoo.

“In addition, they do not have a mandate to deal with public safety, so zoo issues must be addressed by the City of Sault Ste. Marie. Just a short while ago, the city took the step of directing staff to prepare a bylaw banning zoos in the municipality.

“To help with this situation, Zoocheck has offered to relocate the Spruce Haven animals to sanctuaries at no cost to the city or the zoo, so that the animals can live out the remainder of their lives in better, more enhanced conditions.

“Spruce Haven Zoo has had many years to improve conditions for Ben and the other animals, but there is little evidence that meaningful improvements have been made for many of them. In this time of heightened concern for the welfare of animals, this situation should not be allowed to continue.

“Therefore we the undersigned urge the Mayor and Members of Sault Ste. Marie City Council to move forward with the proposed prohibition on zoos as soon as possible.
“The petition had 7,026 signatories as I was sitting down to write this on Thursday.
It doesn’t have mine.

I will speak my piece here, following a practice I established long ago of commenting on an issue rather than signing a petition.

In regard to this issue, I am totally in line with anyone or any organization seeking the closure of Spruce Haven Zoo.

I visited the Zoo with grandchildren more than 20 years ago and although I wasn’t impressed with what I saw, I didn’t campaign against it as I did the zoo at Bellevue Park.

My mistake.

However, I hope to make amends for that oversight here, suggesting that council move in that direction when the petition recommending closure comes before it, accompanied I would hope, by a staff report recommending the same.

There should be no grandfathering of the Spruce Haven Zoo. That would only be maintaining what it is obvious so many people, the welfare of the animals their priority, are against.

Ward 3 Coun. Judy Hupponen has been pushing for a bylaw prohibiting zoos in Sault Ste. Marie.

“I truly believe that we must do something to remove the animals at Spruce Haven,” she said in an email. “I’m going to assist in any way I can as a city representative.”
The majority of comments Zoocheck is getting from Sault residents favour the closure of the zoo, citing the small enclosures and conditions in which the animals live.

Ben the black bear, for instance, can be seen in a video pacing back and forth in a small cage, something he reportedly has done for more than 20 years.

Yet there are some who favour keeping the zoo in existence. One even suggested the closure of the Bellevue Park Zoo was a loss for the city.

And Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) has entered the fray on the side of Marshall and the zoo.

Dr. Susan Shafer of CAZA said in a letter to The Sault Star that:
“We urge council to guarantee that there is a fair and formal consultation process that ensures all considerations for the health and well-being of the animals in question and the surrounding public’s safety are deliberated and measured response be imposed.”
In an interview with Elaine Della-Mattia of The Star, Shafer said creating a bylaw is a dangerous precedent and a bylaw eliminating zoos is not always in the best interest of the animals.

I think anyone who goes online and sees the pens in which animals like Ben the Bear have to live will be able to quickly make up their minds as to the worthiness of the zoo and whether it is in the animals’ best interest to keep it.

In his report Obbard said two female lions were housed in an enclosure not large enough to provide adequate opportunity for movement and exercise. No enrichment was observed.

He said a single cougar was housed in an enclosure without a private area to provide relief from being in public view. The substrate of the enclosure was hard-packed soil, with a few branches on the ground seeming to be what was provided for enrichment.
He said the enclosure housing Ben, the black bear, also was too small to provide adequate opportunity for movement and exercise. There was no material provided that a bear could use to make a soft day bed which is what bears usually do spring to fall. There was no reasonable opportunity for a bear to climb or otherwise move normally beyond walking a few steps in one direction or the other.

He said a pair of wolves were housed in a pen much larger than that provided the African lions, cougar and black bear, nevertheless only limited movement for exercise would be possible.

I think most people will get the drift.

We can only hope council does.

You can help in that by signing the online petition.

35 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Amber,
    That is the problem. These people, for some reason unknown to me, treat these animals like they are her children. They are not children and they are not pets. They are wild and dangerous animals that should
    have been addressed years ago. These people are blinded by their own attachments. If they truly loved these animals as much as they claim they do, then they should allow them to be moved to a reputable sanctuary that has offered to rehome them in much much better living conditions. A sanctuary that has moved other animals in much worse conditions and they flourished. I fully support the removal of these animals and plan to do everything in my power to make this happen. It has to stop now.

  2. This should have been dealt with 20 years ago and its pretty shameful to see how many people witness neglect and abuse and do nothing about it. That includes seeing old people being treated inhumanely Barbie Wallace. If you witness that kind of treatment at nursing homes and have done nothing about it..shame on you. The fact thay you are saying a wild animal should be happy because he is fed and locked in a small cage says it all. The treatment of these animals is beyond cruel.

    • Shame on me ,you really need a life Andrea Caldwell you know nothing of me so dont point your finger down at me for the atrocities in this community. Open your eye or better take your head out of your ass and take a look around. You seem to be a savior so reach in your pockets and contribute with your money not your big mouth

    • I have a life thank you and if I witnessed a senior being mistreated I would do something about it. Basically you are saying we should ignore animal abuse and no one should speak up because there are other issues in this community that should be dealt with. Just wondering what have you done about these atrocities you are claiming our healthcare providers are guilty off? I do contribute my money, my time and my voice to rescuing animals every single day of my life and sorry but bottom line is this zoo needs to be shut down, all the money in the world isn’t going to change the fact that holding a wild animal in a caged enclosure for over 20 years is animal abuse. I think you should take your head out of your ass and quite telling everyone else they should just ignore the severe neglect of these animals and give them money to try and solve a problem they had 25 years to speak up and address. They do not have the facilities or the manpower to ensure these animals are taken care of properly. If you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to address the issue, feel free..but I highly doubt you care that much about the health and welfare of these animals to put your money where your mouth is.

    • Dont speak what you assume I think or feel as right there your wrong to put your spin on my opinions. You have no idea of my journey and you certainly have no right to infringe your beliefs about me to rectify your sticking your nose and imposing your beliefs in others business. If these old animals where being physically abused you bet everyone would be on the band wagon. You keep on tooting your own horn, you are the hero. I hope by bringing in dogs from other communities are not infringing on the many cats and dogs we have here in our local shelters. And hopefully none carry the H2N2 viruses that parts of Michigan are going through because dogs there were being ‘saved’ from China or other places the do gooders bring them in from. Hmmmmm I ask how do the lions , bears and all the animals maintain there weight and hold onto to good health ?? Are they vet checked?? Do they get vet checked?? Have vets even been involved with these Spruce Haven animals? Wow someday I hope I can only see daisies and lolipops like you.

    • Oh and I have donated to Spruce Haven for many years. But if you think there enclosure is not suitable again by all means dig deep in your silver lined pockets and make them a better one. Easy peasy. Im done here enjoy your day and again get something started to better there enclosure and Im in .

    • You put your “opinion” out there..physiological abuse is just as bad and sorry but I think zoo check and the spca would know more about what constitutes the proper care of an animal than you do. Zoos all over the world are being shut down because wild animals do not belong in captivity in small cages with nothing but a bathtub, no room to rome, sleeping on a slab of concrete all so humans can all amuse themselves and get up close and personal with a wild animal. I wouldn’t donate to that and if I had of seen that years ago I would have spoke up then. Take care.

  3. The time has come to stop exploiting animals for human entertainment, it’s 2017, enough is enough. If you want your kid to see a cougar, bear or wolf… google it and show them a video. These animals deserve better. I have nothing against the family that owns the Zoo, or anyone else but if Zoocheck is willing to relocate these animals to sanctuaries, AT NO COST, don’t blow this chance! Allow them to live out their lives in peace.
    Perhaps I was a sensitive child, but visiting the animals at Bellevue park did NOT create nice memories for me. My memories are of being worried and sad for those animals, it was upsetting, not fun.
    I have added my name to the petition.

  4. Humane treatment??!!?? Take a walk around a nursing home, or psych ward and show me humane treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Humane treatment sitting in dirty diapers in there chairs or beds for hours. Humane treatment?? You mean being housed and fed?? How did Ben the bear make it all these years without your divine intervention?? Just like the people that sit in there chairs waiting for someone to come feed them, these animals are fed and cleaned up after. If your so concerned about sticking your nose in others business get up off your asses and dig in your deep pockets and help make it better to your standards for them. Oh and dont be surprised when these same people come to your farm or your houses to claim its not in the best interest that you keep your livestock or family pets.

    • I agree everyone complains, send them somewhere else! Can they guarantee we will make it there in their travels, can they guarantee it really is a better place, can they guarantee that the animals won’t miss the family they bonded with? Course the answer is no they can’t. What can be done, the city helping to make it a better place.

  5. please please please take these poor animals and give them a real home. I have been to the zoo and the conditions are deplorable . I have been to this zoo a few times , nothing has changed in the way these animals are cared for. Seeing empty cat food cans in some of the pens. the size and condition of the pens is disgusting. Mr black bear lives on pavement with an old bathtub . Fox pens are no bigger than an outhouse ! locate them PLEASE !

  6. If the living conditions of these animals are not meeting industry standards, as determind by the experts, then the issues should be recified and operator held accountable. If there are no standards in place, then the city needs to step in and determine a standard to enforce, as determined by the experts. This is like staying let’s leave children in an abusive home because it will upset and disrupt them if we get involved. Action must be taken to address the issues; not wait around for the animals to die of old age, in the meantime. I am all for people making a living and having pets, but not if these pets are suffering in any way. I balled my eyes out after leaving the zoo the last time I was there, over 15 years ago. Their pens are so small. This is no life for them. It should not be ignored or become a personal issue just because the owners are nice people. If they are not meeting standards, then they need to upgrade the conditions, in order to keep their animals. Is there room to expand pens? Can the community help? Can some animals be relocated to make better conditions for the remaining animals, until their death? Maybe black or white solutions are not the only options. Just my thoughts.

  7. If the living conditions of these animals are not meeting industry standards, as determind by the experts, then the issues should be recified and operator held accountable. If there are no standards in place, then the city needs to step in and determine a standard to enforce, as determined by the experts. This is like staying let’s leave children in an abusive home because it will upset and disrupt them if we get involved. Action must be taken to address the issues; not wait around for the animals to die of old age, in the meantime. I am all for people making a living and having pets, but not if these pets are suffering in any way. I balled my eyes out after leaving the zoo the last time I was there, over 15 years ago. Their pens are so small. This is no life for them. It should not be ignored or become a personal issue just because the owners are nice people. If they are not meeting standards, then they need to upgrade the conditions, in order to keep their animals. Is there room to expand pens? Can the community help? Can some animals be relocated to make better conditions for the remaining animals, until their death? Maybe black or white solutions are not the only options. Just my thoughts.

  8. They need larger enclosures with enrichment. Pacing back and forth all day is no life!!! And I don’t agree that the remaining animals should have to suffer until they pass away just because no new animals are being taken in, that’s rediculous!!

    • The fact that you think these animals are suffering is ridiculous!
      Lions cage is large enough so they can move eat bath and lounge as it is a 2 part enclosure and if it were much bigger the animals would be able to escape. If you’ve ever done research on lions you would know that they spend a large part of the day doing absolutely nothing…. Try again to validate your opinion.

        • Isn’t it weird that the animals have been fine for the decades they’ve been there. The lions were in canada before they came to soo zoo. North american born lions. Believe it or not they do adapt. The animals aren’t in pain. Have no disease besides what you people “trying to help” are trying to do by uprooting these animals. Pretty sure your narrow minded and ficticious claims go against common sense. If one has only ever been to zoo once there is no way in hell you can propose any wrongdoing. And if you do then you are part of what is wrong with society

  9. I’ve known this family my entire life, and they would never do anything EVER to harm those animals. Helen treats each and every single animal like they are her children. Its pathetic to get rid of something thats doing absolutely no harm to anyone. Its sad to see the Marshall’s be continuously harassed when they are good people helping these animals.

  10. People don’t understand the care they actually get out there. Moving these animals would probably kill the lot of them. They are in the process of winding down so let them do so in peace. Ken and Helen are a wealth of knowledge about their animals and love and care for them although they are both pushing 80 yrs old. Very closed minded thinking to feel that moving animals at this stage in their life that they will be bettering said creatures. As it is the zoo will be open for a year or two at most anyways. Let them end the zoo themselves as they are hurting no one including the animals themselves. People have to give their head a shake and stop jumping on bandwagons they are clearly not informed enough to pass fair judgement on.

    • Hello Former Helper,
      I do understand the care they are actually getting out there. That is why the push is on to move these animals.
      They said they were in the process of winding down in 2013 when the OSPCA was involved with the facility. It is now 2017 and no end in site. In fact they made statements in 2013 that they had two wolf pups and they made the same statement in June 2017. What are they doing with these pups? Are they selling to other unscrupulous zoos? We have no way of knowing as the zoo circuit are shrouded in secrecy and would never
      reveal any of their dark secrets.

  11. Thank-you Doug for writing about the worst zoo in Canada. The animals deserve much better and something has to be done now. They have had many years to upgrade the living conditions and nothing was done. Gone on too long and I truly hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel for these poor animals that deserve to be treated with more dignity and respect. I will do whatever I can to make this happen. Zoocheck has had this facility on their radar since 1999. Arrangements have been made with a well established and respected sanctuary that will move all of the animals safely at no cost to the city or to the zoo owners….. No grandfathering please !!!!

  12. My opinion. Animals in captivity should not be for profit…whether its zoos or in circuses. But theres also a need for people to observe animals in a habitat similar to what the animals are used to…. (Adequate room, shelter etc.)…for education or mere curiosity or interest. This shouldnt be at the expense of the animals…it should be in the best interest of the animals.
    There needs to be laws to make that balance.

  13. Disagree with you this time , they are winding the zoo down as the older animals pass on they are not taking any new ones when the last one goes they will close , it makes no sense to close them now

    • Instead of everyone complaining and crucifying this family that’s been trying to help these animals maybe they should support them with cash k donations, time and make it possible for them to enlarge and closures and make things better for these animals. But yes this is Sault Ste. Marie we just get rid of everything because there’s nothing here. People take the time to hear the stories of each of these animals and how they ended up there. And people that make a comment about animals and profits I’m pretty sure that the family is not making a profit running this zoo.

    • We are not trying to crucifying the family. I don’t know them personally but I’m sure they are lovely people.
      They just can’t accept the fact that the animals are living in horrific conditions. The poor bear has been there of 28 years!!!! It would be like keeping your dog on a leash for 28 years and never, never letting off. Can that be right? No, it is absolutely wrong and it has to be addressed. No, not later and to allow these people to keep these until until they die is a sickening thought.

    • No, they need to go and live out the rest of their days in more comfortable surroundings than they have had at this quasi zoo.
      The conditions there are deplorable and it should have been shut down years ago. The city has failed the animals and they should be ashamed.

    • You go live there first. Or better yet, go get a tent and I mean a two man tent, a bit of hay and put it in a storage container at the ruscio so you can hear the traffic at night and day, then remain there without human company, as you are human, so only animals are permitted to come and look at you while you eat whatever you’re fed.
      THEN give your opinion of what you believe is proper for these animals that are in the aforementioned conditions.

  14. Why was nothing done about this years ago ? The city closed the zoo in Bellevue Park and they should have sent these animals to a sanctuary then !!! This is on the city and they should be ashamed of themselves !!!

    • Good question Robyn, this should have been dealt with years ago. So we can’t let it go on any longer. The animals deserve respect and dignity, something they are not getting at Spruce Have.

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