Coun. Steve Butland, mover of the resolution passed by council in regard to the grandfathering of Spruce Haven Nature Park into the city’s new animal care and control bylaw, raised an interesting point after a wolf escaped from the zoo recently – succession rights.
“Succession rights concern me,” he told Elaine Della-Mattia of The Sault Star. “What happens .
If the Marshalls (Ken and Helen Marshall, owners of the zoo) can’t continue to do what they do? What happens if someone wants to take over Spruce Haven. I have concerns about that.”
He said he is considering penning a reconsideration motion to present to council.
Reading Butland’s comments sent me scurrying back to the grandfathering amendment council asked legal to prepare and incorporate into the animal care and control bylaw, which as originally constituted would have banned zoos from operating within the city, and I could see his concern.
The resolution said in one paragraph, “Whereas without a statement of exemption or grandfathering being included in the proposed new bylaw, the current operation of Spruce Haven Nature Park would be in contravention of the bylaw. ‘
It said in another, “Whereas the owners of Spruce Haven Nature Park have committed to winding down their operation and not accepting any new animals and do request that City Council allow the natural demise of the aging animals currently at the park.’
And in yet another, “ 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.”
Although it does say the Marshalls have committed to winding down their operation and not accepting any new animals, it does not specifically say that the zoo dies with the Marshalls, that it cannot be passed on.
And Della-Mattia quoted City Solicitor Nuala Kenny as saying the legal department was in the process of inserting the grandfathering of Spruce Haven into the bylaw.
“We can only act on council’s direction and we are going through the draft bylaw to exempt Spruce Haven from the zoo provisions of that bylaw,” she said.
“If council passes a reconsideration motion and directs us to do something else, then we will follow that direction at that time.”
A motion of reconsideration can be put forward by a member who voted on the prevailing side (i.e. – voted in favour of the grandfathering) and seconded by a member who either voted on the prevailing side or who was absent from that meeting..
I asked the city legal department, through Corporate Communications Officer Tessa Vecchio as is the new ill-conceived protocol, whether the new bylaw would be grandfathering the zoo or the Marshall family that owns it.
I said this matters because it determines whether the zoo dies when the Marshalls can no longer operate it or whether it can continue under new ownership if the Marshalls can sell it.
I got the following reply:
“Confirmation from Legal that the bylaw will be specific to the current operators of the zoo.”
I take that to mean there will be no such thing as succession rights, that when the Marshalls can no longer operate the zoo it will be forced to close down..
However, as you can well expect since I am on record as believing Spruce Haven zoo should be forced to close because of the cramped quarters in which its animals exist, I would hope Butland follows through with a reconsideration resolution.
Because I don’t care if it is forced to close on a safety issue, as is now his worry, or on a moral issue, as is the thought behind most of the objections to the zoo.
As I said in a previous column, 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.
I can’t see that they will suffer any more harm under a move than they will if they have to remain under the conditions in which they have lived for so long.
My thinking on this has not changed.
I only hope council’s has.
Doug Millroy can be reached at [email protected].