Spruce Haven narrowly wins vote to stay open


The animal care and control bylaw that would have affected Spruce Haven Nature Park, which has been pushed back twice this year already was dealt with tonight at city council.

“I truly believe that they love these animals,” councilor Steve Butland said who wanted to grandfather the nature park into the bylaw. Councilor Susan Myers seconded the matter.

Councilor Judy Hupponen came with a petition signed by 580 residents to close Spruce Haven down.

The bylaw was in part to prohibit zoos in the Sault, giving the zoo a 6 month window to close up shop.

It was amended by Butland and Myers to grandfather in Spruce Haven.

Council passed the resolution 6-4.

A representative from Zoocheck spoke before council first.

It offered to move the animals from Spruce Haven if it closes because of the bylaw.

Spruce Haven is home to bears, wolves, a cougar, a coyote as well as other animals.

Spruce Haven has had a wolf escape because of its poor fencing according to Zoocheck.

A representative from Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo in Ottawa spoke.

They were not in support or disapproval of Spruce Haven but spoke of the educational aspects of zoos as well as tourism capacities.

It asked for a further delay until council had all the knowledge available that it can have.

It was representing CAZA or Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums which had a representative speak last council meeting.

City councilor Susan Myers asked the legal department of their opinion:

“We do not have proper resources [to deal with this matter]… my recommendation is to prohibit zoos.”

Council for Spruce Haven said the escaping wolf is unfounded and that OSPCA inspections have been found to be in compliance.

This council for Spruce Haven Nature Park asked for an further delay until proper experts are consulted.

Spruce Haven said regular inspections from the OSPCA, the MNR and the local humane society have gone on for years.

They say they “are not sitting back doing nothing” but making regular improvements on the animal enclosures and resources on the animals for the public.

City councilor Matthew Shoemaker asked Spruce Haven if they would be able to meet CAZA standards.

They asked again for a delay until there were better expert opinion into the bylaw.

Shoemaker asked what would they do with the animals if the bylaw was passed in its current state.

Spruce Haven said they would look to other sanctuaries.

The discussion back and forth was summed up when councilor Hupponen tried to refute Spruce Haven’s statements and while she was passing out information to other councilors, acting mayor Paul Christian said “please councilor Hupponen. This is turning into a circus.”

The bylaw will be revised to come to a further council meeting.



  1. In Councillor Meyers very well prepared speech in support of the ‘grandfathering’ resolution, which she seconded, she states that she has listened to all the arguments and discussion on the matter. There was more than an hour of discussion Tuesday evening before the amending resolution was discussed. It seems obvious that the speech was prepared prior to the meeting and her mind was not open to any of the discussion, including the city solicitor’s advice.

    • Both Counsillors seemed defensive. I fear that they have allowed some of the more extreme comments to cloud the real issue here. I do not think the Owners are evil or cruel people, but how can we ignore the assessments and reports given by experts in this feild?

  2. I was very disappointed with the “reasons” given by Councillors Butland and Myers for the “Grandfathering”. Sault Ste Marie can do better than this! It was obvious to me from some of the comments that the information that the first speaker presented was not listened to. I have emailed my views to City Council, asking that they give this issue the thought and consideration it deserves.

  3. OK…. let me get this straight. We have two senior citizens who are keeping wild animals as pets in their
    back yard? These animals are in cages and wooden houses to small for their size?? These animals have lived this way for years ??? Are there issues with feeding these animals, exposing them to -30C weather , sanitation, safety for their neighbors?? There is an organization who is willing to move these animals , at no cost to these seniors or the city,and take them to a safe sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives in a natural habitat?? Six our our city counselors want to keep these animals exactly where they are ????
    W5 will be visiting Sault Ste Marie again!!!

    • Well said, Debbie! I said it before, I feel the Zoocheck offer was a win, win, win situation.
      The animals, who need the win the most, would win, the owners, who are aging and don’t have a concrete plan for the animals, win and the city, alleviating any liability issues, win.

  4. So disheartening. When the owners of Spruce haven say they “love their animals” I would ask them “Then why don’t you improve their environment.?” They have had years and years to improve conditions yet have not done so in any apparent way. Poor Ben should have been moved to where he could interact with other bears in a much larger area instead of the small cage where he will now spend the rest of his years. The other lone animals should been moved to be with others of their species. I am surprised (well maybe not) that in this day and age with so many speaking out against animal cruelty, City Council chose to ignore all the excellent advice Zoo Check and others gave them. I will remember those who voted against the animals when election time comes around. I and my family will not be voting for those who have done nothing for these animals. Pathetic and idiotic, Shame on them.

  5. What wasn’t mentioned was that the 580 names (not 570) were from Sault Ste. Marie residents pulled out of a petition with 9241 signatures!

    In addition, two other online petitions have signatures of 268,456 signatures and 915 signatures respectively.

    It’s a shame that an apathetic Sault Ste. Marie community would indulge the grandstanding of Councillor Butland and Meyers instead of taking action to make a positive difference in the lives of the long suffering animals at Spruce Haven. This allowed them to put through a ridiculous Grandfather Clause for Spruce Haven to continue with the status quo of cruelty BECAUSE Councillors Butland, Meyers, Bruni, Grandenetti, Fata, Krmpotich couldn’t be bothered to read the expert report provided to them or the background information or educate themselves on this issue, nor bother to visit Spruce Haven to see the deplorable conditions for themselves.

    It’s really disheartening to know the rest of the world cares more about the animals at Spruce Haven than the residents of Sault Ste. Marie and the thoughtless and heartless Councillors sitting on council.

    • Katherine. Just remember this when the election rolls around. This is the same council that cut bussing, daycare and decimated the fire service all on the word of an outsider. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have another session regarding this topic, and they still won’t have done any research.

    • I think the community does care. That’s not a small feat – getting 580 local signatures on a petition. The caring is also evident from the comments on this thread.

  6. The only one that showed any common sense was Ms. Ross from the Humane Society. All the parties involved should get together in a meeting to air their opinions and have a/some knowledgeable people there to help Council make an informed decision.

    • Oh, that petition, 570 names does not remotely come close to a needed view on the matter. It is 0.008% of the citizens of this city. I think that she is just trying to position herself for the coming election.

      • All she did was make herself look like a psycho.
        One that will never be re-elected.
        I knew they were going to do this.
        Another reason why city council needs a major shakeup.

  7. It was obvious by the questions and comments from the Councillors that voted in favour of grandfathering cruelty (Councillors Butland, Meyers, Grandinetti, Fata, Krmpotich and Bruni) that none of them had done any research, nor read the expert report or other information provided to them and likely, most have never even visited Spruce Haven to see it for themselves.

    Councillor Meyers played on her phone the entire time Julie Woodyer from Zoocheck spoke, not even giving her the courtesy of her attention.

    Ms. Woodyer is a very knowledgeable experienced professional with wildlife, whom has flown up to the Soo twice at her own expense, to provide critical information regarding the carnivores and details regarding moving them to sanctuaries and Meyers and Butland weren’t even listening or paying attention. Yes, very shameful behavior for Council Members.

    Very sad lack of empathy and knowledge about wildlife from those Councillors that voted in favour of giving Carte Blanche to Cruelty at Spruce Haven.

    • Amen Katherine!
      Playing on her phone was she? I wish I would have seen this…as acting mayor called it ‘a circus’ (ironic word choice). What is the matter with people??! No seriously, this is perplexing in a huge way!

      • You can see it on the Council meeting replay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkERj3htpj0 and hear and see the comments and questions from the councillors and decide for yourself whether they read any of the documentation provided to them months ago or did a minute of research, or even bothered to attend at Spruce Haven for a first hand account.

  8. This is wrong on so many levels. Golden opportunity wasted.
    Sorry Ben the bear, I didn’t think our council would actually keep you there like that in the year 2018.
    Councillors that voted in favour of this:
    Shame on you all!

  9. Animal prisoners sentenced to life in a tiny box. How sad that any councillor would consider this humane treatment of an animal. Keep this in mind come election time.

Comments are closed.