Spruce Haven stays open after tied vote at city council


After a wolf escape and possible vandalism to Spruce Haven Nature Park, the animal control bylaw came back to the table again for reconsideration after it was grandfathered into the bylaw just a couple council meetings previously.

It was actually brought back to the table by the two city councilors that started the grandfathering process, namely councillor Susan Myers and Steve Butland.

There was as much anger and frustration tonight at city council over the issue as it has constituted since the beginning of the year.

Ken Marshall, proprietor of Spruce Haven, spoke and answered questions from councilors including a heated question over if Marshall owns a ‘kill gun.’

A representative from the Sault Ratepayers Association spoke on behalf of Marshall as well concerning various possible legal discrepancies on changing the decision for the animal control bylaw.

It came down to the housing of the lions at Spruce Haven, that would not be allowed under any municipal animal control bylaw. The lions have been living there for 20 years.

The rest of the animals may fall under a provincial license if the Marshalls wanted to fight it out in court.

“I was uncomfortable at the beginning of this and I am now even more uncomfortable,” said Butland, who was worried after the wolf escape and concerned for public safety and the city’s liability.

Councilor Marchy Bruni asked for clarification if the city would be held responsible if there was an animal attack if the exemption continues. The legal department said it would be responsible.

“Security is a major concern of ours,” said Ken Marshall.

Sara McCleary spoke against Spruce Haven on the safety issue stating that if the Marshalls cared for the animals, they would do what is best for them. “The eyes of the world are on us.”

“To me this is a philosophical issue,” said councilor Paul Christian who is simply against animals in cages in general.

Councilor Marchy Bruni also pointed out that in 1997 the city gave Spruce Haven the animals that were housed in Bellevue Park when it closed.

Councilor Frank Fata said that if the zoo was closed the animals would just be going to another zoo, which the opposition says it is against.

A recorded vote was called for and it was tied 6-6 so it failed.


  1. I too had many questions about the wolves, which I directed to City Councillors to hopefully find the answers to. One of the questions: Will they be spayed/neutered, as per the agreement not to add any more animals to the zoo/nature park? Who will ensure this takes place? Is this a procedure that can be done by local veterinarians? What will the cost be? Will fundraising be sufficient for their medical care?

  2. Ken Marshall talked about running a nature park with their new plan of taking people on hikes and teaching people about native trees and insects. So why not retire the animals to sanctuaries? They certainly don’t need to hang on to animals if they plan to take people on guided hikes to learn about trees and insects…

  3. Congratulations to the Marshall’s… I hope you can keep Spruce Haven open for another 30 years…. these keyboard warriors aren’t worth your time lol

  4. Once again, some City Councillors have failed to show leadership regarding this issue. I was so dismayed by the irresponsible and uninformed comments of Councillor Fata, that I wrote him a letter. Here, in part is what I wrote:

    “Councillor Fata

    You spoke last night at Council stating that there was a lot of misinformation and “over reaction” regarding the situation of the Zoo.
    You yourself took the opportunity to spread some misinformation as well.
    Without properly researching Zoocheck or listening to the Expert Opinions of Dr Obbard, a Zoologist who has done extensive research with Black bears and other animals, you only took the word of Mr Marshall and repeated your own uneducated opinion. You tried to discredit Zoocheck by bringing up the example of the Elephants that were rescued, by erroneously saying that one died as soon as it was moved. This is untrue. The 46 year old elephant was euthanized after about a year due to health problems that it in fact developed due to residing in the Zoo from which it was rescued.
    You also mentioned some emails you received from “out of towners” and proceeded to quote what you thought were some outrageous statements. I would like to ask you Mr Fata, did you read my email? I sent you several. At no time did I disrespect the Marshalls or say anything outrageous. I stated my point of view, and also sent you references and links to Dr Obbard’s assessment, which you have obviously not read or just discounted simply because he was asked by Zoocheck to assess the Carnivores at the Zoo. You did not mention MY letters, as someone born and raised in Sault Ste Marie.
    You played down the seriousness of a wolf in captivity escaping and being at large for days. You took only the word of Mr Marshall who said the wolf was harmless. Should you not get an expert opinion on this instead of writing it off as, “oh well we’re Northerners and there are wild animals out anyway”? I realize that only public safety is your concern here. But do you not think of the safety of the wolf? Neighbours and residents may not know that this wolf is “domesticated “ and could potentially harm it. The wolf could come into contact with other pets or animals, or find itself in any number of situations that could be serious.

    And yes, with the world watching.

    As far as your allegations of sabotage go, I do not know if this is true. If this is in fact the case, then you should realize that this would not have happened if the Zoo had been up to code. Dr Obbard identified twice in his assessment that there was no perimeter fencing present. If there had been, it is unlikely these “trespassers” would have been successful in enabling the wolf to escape the property. And now, you have only the word of the Marshalls that this will be taken care of.
    I was quite alarmed at your narrow view of those of us who are concerned with this issue, essentially writing us off as Fanatics who would commit sabotage to prove our point”.

  5. To those that believe the nonsense spouted that the Marshalls ‘love their animals’, Ken Marshall, when asked what he would do if he could not keep the lions stated he “would euthanize them”!

    So much for their love of them when they would prefer to kill them instead of allowing them to live out the rest of their lives with room to roam to thrive in an accredited sanctuary.

    • OMG Katherine, I also heard Mr Marshall say he would rather euthanize the Lions before he would
      send them to a sanctuary. Mrs Marshall nodded in agreement. I’m so glad you heard this comment as
      well, I couldn’t believe it. I guess we all know the fate of the Lions now.

  6. The Councillors that voted in favour of keeping these animals at the zoo (Turco, Fata, Krmpotich, Hollingsworth, Grandinetti, Bruni) and previously, although they had a change of heart with their reconsideration motion, (Myers and Butland), all admittedly KNOW NOTHING ABOUT WILD ANIMALS, their care, welfare or habitats.

    Nor do any of these Councillors even understand the difference between a for-profit zoo off the backs of these unfortunate animals, who keep these wild animals housed in isolation (with the exception of the two African lions housed together), all in substandard and painfully too small enclosures were they cannot even exercise their natural range of movements, and accredited wildlife sanctuaries that are designed by wild life experts, for wild life, in the best interest of wild life, who cannot be released back to the wild.

    For those of you that just do not understand that wildlife sanctuaries exist BECAUSE OF THE INHERENT CRUELTY OF ZOOS, I urge you to explore this site to educate yourself on what an accredited MULTI MILLION DOLLAR WILD LIFE SANCTUARY designed by WILD LIFE EXPERTS FOR WILD LIFE, SPECIFIC TO EACH SPECIES is and I am providing a web link here for you to do just that: https://www.wildanimalsanctuary.org/

    For anyone to think that caging a bear for a lifetime in a 20 ft x 20 ft cage, with a shoddy makeshift box and a too small bathtub with dirty water is acceptable, I suggest you check yourself for a heart as you are obviously totally devoid of any empathy and compassion.

    While I have lost faith in the above mentioned Councillors to carry out ANY due diligence on this issue, (or any other issue for that matter), since they have proven their inability to listen to wild life experts that have presented at council, their inability to read or understand expert reports and their inability to comprehend the impact of petitions with close to 280,000 signatures worldwide.

    These Councillors do not grasp the fact that animals are sentient beings and there is ZERO educational value to the public in keeping wild life distressed in substandard, far too small cages, other than a lesson in cruelty.

    Spruce Haven has had 30 years to make improvements for these animals and has done nothing. To believe they will do so now, whether or not they have the financial means to do so, demonstrates these Councillors lack any critical thinking skills and brings into question why they are taking up space on Council making decisions for our city?

    The days of keeping beautiful wild animals housed in isolation in cramped, dirty and barren cages for visitors to walk by and take photos, oblivious to their suffering should be long behind us.

    Have we not evolved as a human race that understands all the research on the natural world in order to live with and provide a better world not only for ourselves, but for the wild life we share it with? It seems not, at least in Sault Ste. Marie the dark ages remain as does the COMPLETE IGNORANCE of the needs and welfare of wild life, while common sense (uncommon here) allows the greed of a family business to take precedence over the life time of suffering of these majestic animals reduced to static displays in cages for a few bucks.

    The City of Sault Ste. Marie should hang its uneducated, ignorant head in shame for turning a blind eye to the plight of these long suffering wild animals. Thanks to these Councillors named above, Sault Ste. Marie can now be known WORLDWIDE as the CITY WITHOUT A HEART.

  7. Why was Katherine G. MacRae conspicuously absent from this meeting?
    She was the one that was so sure city council’s minds could be changed.

    • Katherine WAS at the meeting. At first we were told that only the Marshalls could speak. Then at the last moment Sara McCleary was allowed to speak. I would also like to say that Councilor Fata obviously has no idea about the subject. Saying that taking the animals from THIS zoo to another zoo would be the same is nonsense. No one wants them to go to another zoo. They would be going to a sanctuary which is totally different. Sanctuaries have acres of natural habitat for wild animals to roam in. Their surroundings would be like they are in the wild. it is not the same as living in a 20×20 ft cage for your whole life. If certain councilors had read all the reports then they might have a much better understanding about what this issue is about. In fact it was their duty to read those reports so they could make informed decisions. They did not. I am saddened to think about what these animals have endured and will continue to endure. thank you to the councilors who did take the time to read the reports.

      • They should be in an accredited sanctuary with wild life experts that are trained to care for them and do the right thing for them, not for greed. They will not be placed in areas directly with other lions, unless and not until they have become comfortable with any other lions.

        The animals in sanctuaries have all suffered tremendously, (many big cats having been declawed and even their teeth removed by cruel greed driven humans). The one thing all of these animals share is a lifetime of suffering and a desire to live more like the wild animals they are. An Accredited sanctuary affords them the space and the environments to do so, but still in a secure area, but with plenty of room to roam and temperature controlled dens. They get a chance to have a life, not languish hopelessly in a cage only for humans to gawk at them oblivious to their suffering.

      • They should be in a sanctuary. These sanctuaries KNOW what they are doing. The lions would NOT be in danger in a sanctuary. They wouldn’t even be enclosed with other lions. I was told this by calling Wildlife Sanctuary in Colorado. Had anyone bothered to read the information that Katherine has sent to city council, these lies about the animals being attacked by other lions could have easily been dispelled. Most of the councilors apparently did not take this information seriously and obviously did not do any research whatsoever about this situation. All it would have taken was a phone call to Wildlife Sanctuary and Aspen Valley animal sanctuary. But no one seems to give a damn.

      • These animals are not well taken care of in too small cages, unable to run or express a range of motion natural to them. They exhibit signs of stress and lethargy, as outlined in the expert report, that is also visually apparent to anyone who has been there as I have, to see the distress of these animals for themselves.

        Many people were not aware they were there as many people, RESIDENTS OF THIS CITY thought that Spruce Haven was shut down years ago or only operated as a dog kennel.

        Because these animals have been caged for twenty or thirty years without anyone challenging the cruelty of their pathetic existence there at Spruce Haven does not mean that it has ever been OK, or those animals are happy or healthy in that environment. What may have been considered loosely acceptable 30 years ago due to a broad lack of knowledge or public education as to the welfare and habitat of wild life is certainly NOT ACCEPTABLE TODAY.

        The fact that the Marshalls are quite elderly themselves, had no plan for the animals when asked the same question in a previous council meeting as to what they would do if they could not care for them or should pass away ahead of the animals, and the fact that there was an offer to rehome the carnivores to specie specific, state of the art accredited wild life sanctuaries, AT NO COST TO THE CITY OR THE MARSHALLS, and the statement at council by Ken Marshall that he would kill the lions rather than rehome them, clearly reveals that Spruce Haven does not exist because of love for these animals, but has held these animals in substandard conditions for 30 years due to some twisted, misguided desire to make money off of their backs, despite low visitor attendance and an ever increasing public outcry and outrage to do better by these animals.

      • Already? Wow, they must really care if they are expanding cages now after 30 years of cruelty. How generous of them, after coming so close to be shut down.

      • For one thing the Spruce Haven property is not even big enough at 30 acres to have appropriate spaces for large carnivores. You cannot compare a road side makeshift zoo run by uneducated people with a multi million dollar state of the art wild life animal sanctuary with 9793 acres with vast natural spaces with lakes and ponds for each species designed specifically for the particular wild life living there by wild life experts and trained staff with wild life experienced veterinarians on site.

        These animals should be allowed to live as wild animals, to be respected and admired after a lifetime of suffering, as they would be given the opportunity to do and be at accredited sanctuaries, not caged like an inanimate object behind bars with no where to go or unable to even exercise properly.

        It doesn’t make sense to throw good money after bad, when the resources are not there to begin with whether in terms of land, expertise or funds, and when these facilities designed by experts for the animals already exist, that Spruce Haven could not even begin to imagine the freedom an accredited sanctuary would offer their animals that have experienced a lifetime of captive mental anguish and physical suffering in their substandard too small confinements at the hands of people that would choose to kill them instead of agree to provide them better lives elsewhere.

      • Great people do not let animals suffer in a far too small gages for 30 years and turn down an offer to rehome animals where they could actually have a better life. Nothing great about continuing the suffering of innocent animals that have no choice in the matter.

      • The ones that are hurting are the animals that have suffered far too long in cramped and dirty cages, unable to express their full range of motion in an unnatural environment.

        If there was any love for these animals instead of the desire to make a buck off of their sore backs they would be happily rehomed to accredited wild life sanctuaries to be able to live more like the wild animals they are to be able to roam and enjoy whatever time they have left, cared for by wild life experts and people that care about what is in the animal’s best interest, not their own.

    • Well here are some facts , the wolf got out because someone cut the fencing , also someone was shooting at the wolves with a pellet gun so needless to say someone wanted the wolves to get out , it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out also isn’t it a coincidence that all of a sudden that happened when Zoo Check wants to shut them down , shouldn’t people be more concerned that someone is doing this ? The wolves have never gotten out before . Also there is new and higher fencing ,cameras installed and a blind put up so no one can shoot at the wolves anymore . The electric fence is monitored at all times . The wolves have been there for 9 years and have never gotten out .

      • I don’t believe that BS for a second. Ken Marshall himself is on record as saying they “always return for feeding” and the “many times before”. Plus neighbours have complained that the wolves have escaped previously as well.

    • Strange how your facts differ , was someone doing this when the human society was watching them roam and jumping the fence ? Looks like a patch up to the enclosure not a proper fix . Maybe you would call living in a small enclosure a quality life but I treat my dog better than these animals used for profit!

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