Doug Millroy: Succession Rights For Spruce Haven Zoo?


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].


  1. Put the welfare of the animals FIRST for once instead of the opportunistic people that have made money on the suffering of innocent animals for years. Do people have no conscience or empathy for the voiceless.?Shame on the councilors.

  2. I second every intelligent and compassionate comment here (as of Mar.31). Letting this roadside zoo stay in operation, and leaving the animals trapped there in conditions NOT meant for their respective species, rather than in sanctuaries where they could actually THRIVE, is just plain stupid and highly insensitive. This Council needs to not only visit this substandard prison (as someone else suggested), but read the reviews on TripAdvisor, which are overwhelmingly negative.

    Ill-informed and ill-educated city Councils are the bane of not only their citizens’ existence, but in cases like these, of the animals forced into situations they never would have chosen for themselves, given half the chance. The Marshalls are clearly not expertly trained to properly look after exotic animals, and hence have no business overseeing their lives. And nor does this Council. They should close this place, period.

  3. These counsillors should be ashamed some have yet to even take their sorry asses out to that hell Spruce Haven zoo. Check out trip advisor. Our town’s rep is being tarnished!!!

  4. Well said, Mr. Millroy. Council needs to put aside their,what seems to be, sentimental feelings for the Marshall family and their belief that the Marshall’s love for the animals is good enough for the welfare of the animals. They need to look at what is really best for the animals. Please do the right thing and let these creatures go to a sanctuary with a more natural environment.

  5. Get a city dump truck and load up all the city councillors and take them all out to the zoo for a first hand look. Then they might be able to make a decision based on FACTS.

  6. Some careless, short sighted and reckless decisions made by our City Council. They owe it to our Community to thoroughly explore all aspects of this issue, and look at the complete picture.

    Very disappointing.

  7. I can appreciate everyone’s concern and I do agree that the animals should be moved, but the backwards, uninformed city Councillors will let the animals stay where they are so as not to upset the Marshall’s regardless of the fact that the conditions at the zoo are substandard.
    They still don’t seem to get that they are there to represent everyone and their concerns, not just one family looking for special treatment at the expense of these poor animals.

  8. Councillor Meyers and Butland’s Grandfather Clause was ill thought out at best. It was planned PRIOR to hearing from the experts presenting at council, by Butland’s own admission without him having even read the expert Obbard report and knowing “nothing about wild animals”, it also went against the City’s own legal recommendation not to Grandfather, and left the city wide open to liability as written when presented to Council.

    Councillor Krmpotich stated in open council that all he knew about animals was that he had “two cats at home”, while Councillor Grandinetti admitted he had NEVER been to Spruce Haven even after voting in favour of the Grandfather Clause.

    Let’s hope this is also a WAKE UP CALL for Councillors to do their research, read supporting expert documentation provided to them months ahead of time and to LISTEN TO THE COMMUNITY they represent.

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