Doug Millroy: Spruce Haven In Jeopardy Again


The future of Spruce Haven Nature Park, which seemed to be secure after council passed an amendment Feb. 20 grandfathering it into the proposed new animal care and control bylaw, is in jeopardy again.

Because a wolf recently escaped from the zoo operated by Ken and Helen Marshall, Councillors Steve Butland and Susan Myers, the presenters of the amending resolution, will be presenting council with a motion to reconsider when it meets Monday night.

The new animal care and control bylaw as proposed, which would eliminate zoos from the city, would then be voted on.

It could still make for some interesting discussion as the amendment, which staff had been preparing for inclusion in a redraft of the care and control bylaw, passed by a narrow margin, 6-4.

Councillors Butland, Myers, Marchy Bruni, Ozzie Grandinetti, Joe Krmpotich and Frank Fata had voted in favour of the amendment. Councillors Judy Hupponen, Matthew Shoemaker, Rick Niro and Paul Christian voted against.

Councillors Lou Turco and Sandro Hollingsworth were not present for the meeting and Mayor Christian Provenzano declared a conflict as one of the parties was a former client.

With Butland and Myers obviously changing their vote, it would appear the original animal care and control bylaw as proposed would now sail through easily and Spruce Haven would be forced to close.

But then, of course, we don’t know which way Turco and Hollingsworth, who presumably will be attending this meeting, will vote.

The paragraph in the Butland-Myers amending resolution that fired up animal lovers read:

“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.”

This went directly against what they were seeking and what was proposed in the original resolution, the banning of zoos within the city of Sault Ste. Marie.

Their worry was and remains the woeful conditions in which the animals at Spruce Haven live, quarters so cramped as to constitute abuse.

They should be pleased with the new resolution to be presented by Butland and Myers. The final paragraph reads:

“Now therefore be it resolved that the City of Sault Ste. Marie adopt the Animal Care and Control Bylaw recommended by the legal department including the prohibition of zoos in Sault Ste. Marie; and be it further resolved that the City require Spruce Haven Nature Park to be in compliance with the Animal Care and Control By-law herein adopted on or before December 31, 2018.

To be in compliance means closure on or before Dec. 31 of this year, with the animals being shipped to other zoos with facilities that would allow them more room to roam at no cost to the Marshalls or the city.

From a business standpoint, this might seem unfair to the Marshalls, who say some of the elderly animals, such as Ben the Bear who has been there more than 20 years, will not survive such a trip.

Looking at it from the viewpoint of the animals, who have room only to pace back and forth or in circles, I’ll bet they would say, “We’ll take that chance.”




  1. I am hoping that Council will do the right thing. These animals deserve so much better than being confined to small cages for the rest of their lives. Imagine how it would feel to them this summer if they were allowed to enjoy a natural habitat where they are free to roam and explore free from confinement! The Marshalls have taken care of these animals for years, and for that I am grateful. BUT twenty years in a small cage is no life for any living thing. The Marshalls of course will miss them, but they should take comfort in knowing that the animals will be able to thrive and enjoy a life that is closer to how it would be in the wild. Councillors, please release these animals to allow them to live out their remaining years in comfort and peace without looking out through bars and wire for their entire lives.

  2. This should have been dealt with properly months ago. A painful and sensitive situation that has been dragged out unnecessarily for all parties involved.
    I honestly believe this has hurt our community.
    Our City Councillors are supposed to be leaders, and owe it to all of us to examine all sides of an issue, listen to all contributors of information and read all materials, reports and info given to them. This did not happen unfortunately, and this situation has continued to be played out viciously here on social media.
    I am relieved that Councillors Myers and Butland have reconsidered their position, although it’s too little, too late.
    It’s disappointing that it was only because of public safety, without any regard for the animal welfare issues that made them reconsider.
    While public safety is very important in regards to the wolf escaping, there is also the issue that this innocent animal’s life was also IN DANGER or AT RISK while it was roaming outside the property for days, something many (who also love to scoff at those of us who find this concerning) seem to overlook.
    I hope they will now help our community move forward from this fiasco with a little more thought and care than they have shown.

  3. This circus has gone on long enough. There are far more important things for the city to be concentrating on. Do the right thing (free of charge) and get these animals into some roomy, secure enclosures and be done with it. This will also free up the owners of this substandard facility and take a huge burden off of them as they get older and could end up with health issues themselves and not be able to look after the animals.
    This nonsense about animals dying in transport is just that, nonsense.

  4. All the pertinent information was provided to Council MONTHS AGO in the expert Zoologist Dr. Martyn Obbard’s report, which states, along with the obvious distress of the animals, inappropriate enclosures, habitat, and non compliance of long standing OSPCA directives, the issue of safety and security because there is no perimeter fencing at Spruce Haven.

    Here again is the Obbard report:

    The fact that these Councillors that voted in favour of the Grandfather clause (Butland, Myers, Krmpotich, Bruni, Fata & Grandinetti) obviously disregarded the expert report, didn’t bother to read it (as Councillor Butland told me he did not read it and knew “nothing about wild animals”, and Councillor Grandinetti admitted he had NEVER been to Spruce Haven, and Councillor Krmpotich said in open council that all he knew was that he had “two cats at home”), these Councillors did not pay heed to wild animal experts speaking at Council, and yet still voted in favour to exempt Spruce Haven with a ridiculous wide open, zero regulation Grandfather clause, demonstrates a blatant disregard for facts and their duty of due diligence as Councillors representing the people of Sault Ste. Marie.

    Perhaps had these Councillors taken the time to do their homework, read the report, visited Spruce Haven themselves, paid heed to the wild life experts that travelled to Sault Ste. Marie to speak at Council, noted the scathing reviews of Spruce Haven on Trip Advisor and looked at the 3 different petitions that were brought to their attention with nearly 280,000 WORLDWIDE signatures to remove and rehome the long suffering carnivores at Spruce Haven to accredited sanctuaries, this issue could have been resolved and dealt with 7 months ago, instead of the ongoing fiasco it has become.

    Councillors are elected by the residents of Sault Ste. Marie. Many residents of Sault Ste. Marie will remember which Councillors carried out due diligence on this issue and those that did not, come election time.

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