I grew up in Sault Ste Marie, and like most Sault-ites, I’m a Bellevue Park Kid. Great memories and happy times, and yes, those happy memories include our Zoo. It never occurred to me there was anything wrong with it, or that the animals may have been unhappy. Looking back, how could I not see this? As times change, awareness and education help us evolve and change our points of view. Some like to harshly criticize our City for the Bellevue Park Zoo, but those were different times. I know that we would have done things differently if these issues were presented to us today. But wait, would we? Or more importantly, will we?
We have the opportunity to do things differently with the issues identified at Spruce Haven Zoo. Unfortunately, this does not look like it will be the case from what I witnessed at City Council a couple of weeks ago.
I am very disappointed by the response and reasons given by Councillors Butland and Myers who brought forth the “grandfathering” amendment, in effect exempting Spruce Haven Zoo from the rules of the By-Law regarding Zoos in the City.
One of the reasons given, was that the Councillors have not received complaints about the Zoo over the years. Speaking only for myself, I must admit this issue has not been foremost in my mind in the past. I recently became educated by reading the Zoocheck report, and listening to those knowledgeable in this field. Their assessments made sense to me. When you know better, you do better, so, it is now that I have evolved to this point-of-view and feel I must speak out.
While I sympathize with Councillor Butland’s point that the owners have been “portrayed as Villains”, the conditions some of the animals reside in cannot be ignored. I do not think the owners are evil, cruel people. I believe they mean well and perhaps have some role to play in helping to foster and assist animals as they reportedly have done. I fear that maybe mischaracterizing them in this way, as well as some extreme reactions from some out of towners, has muddied the issue with these Councillors and have therefore distracted them from the facts.
I was also dismayed by some comments regarding Grandfathering–that these are just aging animals, and that they should just be allowed a natural demise at the Zoo. In effect, what is being said is that they are being left to die in their current conditions, when there is an opportunity to better their final years. I have hope that Sault Ste Marie can do better than this.
Many of the comments and concerns regarding the special needs and relocation of older animals were already addressed by the first Speaker to address Council, but these seemed to be disregarded or not heard.
We have been offered help, it makes little sense to me that this assistance to better the lives of these animals is not being taken advantage of.
There is also the issue of liability. The City has now been made fully aware of the concerns regarding enclosures in regards to Public Safety. If anything should happen to someone’s pet, property or to a child, Sault Ste Marie will certainly have some explaining to do.
I ask our City Councillors to re-consider this issue. While I realize there are other important issues, as Councillor Myers reminded us, we can still care about more than one.
I will be watching how this one is dealt with.
Please, Sault Ste Marie, let’s do the right thing.