I thought it was one thing for city council to grandfather Spruce Haven Nature Park, operated by Ken and Helen Marshall, into its proposed Animal Care and Control bylaw, thereby allowing the zoo to continue operation.
But I thought it irresponsible for council to allow it to continue operation free from any of the restrictions of the new bylaw; all that is to be asked of the zoo is that no new animals be taken on.
It was a thought put forward Monday night by Ward 3 Coun. Judy Hupponen who, wearing her heart on her sleeve on a night no others were in evidence, pointed out to her colleagues that Paragraph Five of an amendment to the Animal Care and Control bylaw proposed by Councillors Steve Butland and Susan Myers exempts Spruce Haven “from everything in the bylaw.”
However, her plaintive pleas on behalf of the aging animals at Spruce Haven fell on deaf ears.
It turned out the majority of her colleagues didn’t give a damn.
The amendment passed in a 6-4 vote. Councillors Butland, Myers, Marchy Bruni, Ozzie Grandinetti, Joe Krmpotich and Frank Fata voted in favour. Councillors Hupponen, Matthew Shoemaker, Rick Niro and Paul Christian voted against.
The offending Paragraph Five reads:
“Therefore be it resolved that city council direct the solicitor to include in the
proposed new bylaw wording such that would exempt or grandfather Spruce
Haven Nature Park from complying with any sections of the proposed new
bylaw that would otherwise cause the operation to be in a state of noncompliance.”
Hupponen also had a question about Paragraph Six, which reads:
“Further be it resolved that consideration by given to forming a written
agreement between the City and Spruce Haven stating there will be no further
expansion of the current business of Spruce Haven relative to the new Animal
Care and Control Bylaw.”
Who, she asks, is going to enforce this?
Hupponen was scathing in her comments about Spruce Haven, saying she visited the zoo in 2017 and “it was one of the most depressing days of her life.”
She said a brochure said the pens were separated by trees and ponds and as this was not so, it was false advertising.
She took issue with Spruce Haven’s claim that there is an educational benefit provided by the zoo in that it is visited by many school children.
Hupponen said there is nothing educational about seeing animals trapped in cages, with nothing close to being their natural environment.
I, of course, agree with everything she said but I don’t intend to go through my thoughts again as I have said my piece in previous columns.
Ken Marshall and his lawyer, Jonathan Poitras, appeared to be angling for another deferral throughout the meeting, suggesting there be a meeting of all groups involved in what has turned into a community controversy.
But as Coun. Niro asked, with the groups so polarized, what would that solve?
Exactly nothing, that’s what.
One group wants it closed; the other wants it to stay open.
There is no route to compromise.
Therefore we have a decision, based mainly, I would say, on support for the Marshalls and a local business, with a concern about liability for the city thrown in, rather than the animals who, of course, can’t speak for themselves.
Ken Marshall said they were increasing the size of the pens the animals have called home, some for more than 30 years, but that leaves the question, “why did it take 30 years for them to do so?”
And taking down a few walls isn’t going to make that much of a difference anyway.
Actually, one thing I didn’t realize was that Spruce Haven has been operating illegally.
Hupponen asked City Solicitor Nuala Kenny if Spruce Haven was operating illegally since it had two lions.
Kenny, who had recommended closure of Spruce Haven in the original bylaw presented to council, replied that “if anyone had lions tonight, they hold them illegally.”
The passing of the amendment fixed that.
Hupponen indicated at council that she wasn’t finished, that she was planning an amendment of her own. However, in the last email I received from her she was still looking for a seconder.
She thought she had one in Shoemaker, approaching him at council to let him read it to see if he still was prepared to second it. He wasn’t.
Shoemaker told me he didn’t recall having agreed in the first place to second Hupponen’s motion, but after having looked at it, he declined to second it because he “thought it was basically reopening the whole 1.5+ hour debate that had just taken place.”
I would have felt better if he had gone ahead because I believe out of respect councillors should be prepared to help a colleague get something to the table.
I recall writing along these lines in support of Shoemaker when he couldn’t get a seconder for a motion when he was a rookie councillor.
In any event, councillors will get a crack at the main bylaw when it returns to council in rewritten form.
As City Clerk and Deputy CAO Malcolm White pointed out, the bylaw will have to be redrafted to include the grandfathering of Spruce Haven.
This, of course, will be a bitter pill for animal lovers to swallow.