An Open Letter to Council

Civic Centre

The following is an open letter to Mayor & Council on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Sault Ste. Marie & 279,000 other supporters worldwide.

We, a group of Concerned Citizens, have concerns with the way in which our City Council has dealt with the recent bylaw prohibiting Zoos in Sault Ste Marie.

A)      Councillors did not do their due diligence in researching all sides of the issue before deciding to exempt Spruce Haven from the Bylaw banning Zoos

B)      Councillors admitted to knowing little about wild animals and some to even ever having visited Spruce Haven Zoo

C)   Councillors did not read the Assessment Report by Wildlife Expert Dr. Martyn Obbard who identified violations of The OSPCA and OMNRF licence in 2017

D)   Councillors acknowledged that there is no expertise locally to deal with or assess wild animals in Captivity, yet disregarded Experts and Professionals who came to address City Council

E)   Councillors did not seek out the Experience and Opinions of the OSPCA and OMNRF to address Council on recent visits to Spruce Haven.

F)   Councillors have not considered the Animal Welfare Issues involved, choosing only to react to a serious incident involving the escape of a Wolf.

G)  Councillors disregarded international, regional and local concerns as revealed in combined petitions totalling approximately 280,000 individuals as well as negative reviews from Trip Advisor

H)  Councillors accepted the word of The Spruce Haven Owner that the fencing Issue would be addressed after a verified wolf escape.

I)   Councillors accepted the word of the Owner that there was a Succession plan being developed should the Owners be unable to continue their care of the facility.

J)   Councillors accepted the word of the Owners that moving the Lions, who are currently being kept in violation of current laws, would have to be euthanized if required to leave the Zoo

K)   Councillors accepted the word of the Owners claim that “tons and tons” of people told him moving the older Carnivores would be harmful to them, although a Wildlife Sanctuary Professional previously informed Council that this was untrue.

L)   Councillors did not request the reports of those who told the Owners that moving older animals was not recommended. They did not ask for names or qualifications of the persons the Owners claimed they spoke to.

M)   Councillors accepted the statements made by the Owner that when the Bear paces, it is a reaction to an impending storm or to perfume. They did not seek any further explanation for this behaviour by a Wildlife Expert.

N)   Councillors accepted the word of the Owner that there are resources and ongoing funding available for improvements to the Enclosures and care for the animals

O)   Councillors accepted the statement that the OSPCA and the Owners have a ongoing good working relationship.

P)   Councillors accepted the word of the Owner that the incident of the Wolf escape was not a serious issue, both to the public and to the Wolf

Q)   Councillors accepted the word of the Owners that there would be no new animals added to the Zoo, even though the Wolves have had a litter of pups.

Now that Spruce haven Zoo will most likely be exempt from the Bylaw prohibiting Zoos, we, as Residents wish to be provided with the following information:

1.  Who will inspect and ensure the fencing of the Carnivores and the Perimeter fencing is adequate and up to Standard?

2.  Who will be responsible if another Wolf escape leads to an incident involving property, pets or persons?

3.  Who will ensure and verify the Wolves have been spayed/neutered so that the agreement to not acquire more animals is complied with?

4.  If one of the animals should fall ill or become injured and requires specialized veterinary care, who will be providing this care and how will funds be obtained?

5.  Where is the Emergency Evacuation plan for review, and who will review and approve this?

6.  What is the source of funding to ensure appropriate conditions and care for the animals can be sustained?

7.  Will a detailed Succession Plan submitted for review?

8.  Will the results of the Police investigation regarding allegations of sabotage to the Wolves’ enclosure be shared with the public?

This issue again will be before Council on Monday as the Bylaw prohibiting Zoos in Sault Ste Marie with the Grandfathering clause being added for Spruce Haven.

We believe, if our City is to embrace a more forward thinking mentality to showcase our city for growth, we need to be in step with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, our City has chosen to allow a substandard, roadside Zoo to operate here with very little, if any accountability.

When Councillors are presented with issues, it is their responsibility to do their research and hear all sides so that they can make an informed decision. It is their obligation to respond to correspondence and concerns from ALL citizens. With a few exceptions, our City Councillors have done neither of these things. We hope that Constituents will remember the handling of this issue come election time, and choose City Leadership wisely.

Signed, Concerned Citizens of Sault Ste Marie (as well as support from 279,000 individuals who signed petitions worldwide)


  1. Maybe you should get YOUR facts straight Robin.
    It was Ken Marshall himself who said that there were cubs born at the zoo.
    Obviously you have not been listening or reading anything on this subject regarding the transfer of the carnivores to sanctuaries, You say the lions can’t be moved because they are declawed and “would never survive”. it has been repeated many times that the Wildlife Sanctuary in Colorado would not be putting the lions in with others. They would be kept together in their OWN large territory away from the other big cats.

    The sanctuary has onsite veterinary care, dietitians, and they even provide heated beds for the comfort of elderly animals. They have had years and years of experience and they know what they are doing and provide the very best care possible.
    True, the animals may die sometime after they have been moved, but not from the move. They are elderly animals and they probably have a few years left. Can’t you understand that it would be the most wonderful, best thing for these animals to have a few years where they had room to roam, walk on grass, explore their territory, and not be condemned to a life of pacing in a small cage??

    As for helping the Marshalls, why would I? I would never help someone who is doing something that I do not believe in. Even if the Marshalls increase the size of their cages, these animals will not have the kind of life that is fulfilling.

    As for the break in at the zoo, I never said it didn’t happen. I just pointed out that we have not seen a police report about what exactly happened. As I mentioned before, in the Sault Star article it was suggested that the high snowbanks may have helped the wolf to escape.

    If you truly felt any compassion for these animals Robin you would know that it is in their very best interest to be moved to a wonderful place where they could enjoy their remaining years. People all over the world are now aware that these small roadside zoos should be shut down.
    Places like Sea World are now getting the message that holding wild animals in small spaces does damage to the minds of animals kept in captivity.
    Animals need room to roam and have places where they can go for privacy.

    The animals at Spruce Haven have given the best years of their lives so that the Marshalls can profit from them. They have lived in small cages all this time and only now when the pressure is on, do the Marshalls say they will enlarge their cages…after 25 years!

    It is time for people like you to do your research and learn about the habits of wildlife and the best ways in which we can help these animals who have been sold to small zoos for the entertainment of the unenlightened .

  2. I would like to answer to some of the accusations leveled against those of us who wrote the letter to Council.

    First of all none of us were responsible for the wolf escaping. As animal lovers it is absurd to think that we would try to help the wolf escape knowing it could be shot, hit by a car, or killed by other wolves in the area. That would go against everything we are trying to do. I am sick and tired of people blaming this on us.

    An article in the Sault Star published after the wolf escape mentioned that the high snow banks may have helped the wolf escape. Ken Marshall thinks the pen was vandalized and maybe it was. We have seen no police report so we don’t know if there were strange footprints around, if the fence was cut or if it was just bent.

    Robyn Hunter and others have accused us of shooting at the wolf with a pellet gun. In Ken Marshall’s own words, it was a neighbor shooting at the wolf. Also “Student at Korah”, the wolves DID have pups. Maybe you could ask the Marshalls about this when you are volunteering.

    Which brings up another point. What happens to the wolf cubs? Are they sold to other substandard zoos? Are they kept forever now by the Marshalls ? and are they being sterilized so that no more cubs will be born? No one asked. Who will be following up on this?

    Watching Frank Fata ask Ken Marshall questions was extremely frustrating. He just took everything Marshall said as gospel and did not even ask one follow up question

    You tell us to move on, but that is not going to happen.

    We aren’t qualified to deal with the addiction problem in this city. We aren’t mental health experts, police or psychiatrists. Those are the people who are trying to deal with that problem..

    If you really believe these animals are not suffering, please go visit the zoo. Look into the eyes of those animals and tell me what you see. Does the cougar look happy in his little cage with nothing to do? Does he snarl and hiss at you , or just pace back and forth in frustration? Does Ben the bear do anything in his cage other than pace or sleep? He has been in that same cage for over 25 years. that is a very long time being with a tire as your only companion.

    The lions pace as well because they have nothing to do either.

    All of these carnivores should be in a sanctuary where they have room to explore, feel the grass under their feet and be allowed to be the wild animals that they are.

    City Council failed to do their homework and research and by doing so have condemned these poor animals to live out the rest of their lives in prison . It’s disgusting that so many questions were not asked and that so many of Ken Marshall’s answers went unchallenged

    I for one am not a coward Don Gagen. I don’t care who knows my name, but I resent you saying we were harassing the Marshalls and vandalizing their property. None of this is true. I don’t know where you accusers get your information but you are totally wrong.

    As long as these animals continue to suffer I will stay in the fight.
    As long as City Council turns a blind eye to this situation , I will be here to remind them about doing their research so they can truly understand what is going on here.
    As long as there are animals in need I will be here trying to help them.

    Remember , they have no voice so we will speak for them. Loudly

    • The wolves never had pups at the zoo lol get your facts straight , they arrived there as pups , there have not been any wolf pups at the zoo since those ones arrived there and that was years ago . I have never mentioned any names of who was shooting at the wolves , it did happen and for you to assume it did not is ridiculous, the fence since has been fixed there are cameras now and a blind spot was built so they are protected from being shot at .Also the lions cannot go to a sanctuary they are declawed and would never survive . I think you need to get some facts straight before you comment because now you are just spewing untruths . Instead of going against the Marshalls why don’t you just help them ? The enclosures are being built bigger this year and Zoo Check did sign off of the animals when they were moved from Bellview Park . This is not the first attempt from Zoo Check to close the Zoo down , they have tried a few times and they think that as long as the animal arrives there alive it is a good move , even if the animal dies not long after the move .

      • In 2017 when Dr Obbard visited the Zoo, he observed a male and female wolf. He was told that there were a litter of pups, but in fact he himself did not see them. When the wolf escaped, the sootoday article stated that the Human society counted 5 wolves.

        It makes no difference where the wolves were born or how they arrived , the fact remains, there are wolves on the premises. There are many unanswered questions and issues to consider now that our City is going forward allowing this situation to continue.

        It is not unheard of for Wolves to escape with even the most secure of measures in place while in captivity.

        As far as the allegations of sabotage go, while none of us know if this has been proven true, it serves as a convenient go-to for supporters of this place to demonize those of us who dare speak out on the issues of this substandard operation.

        Even if this were true, the bottom line is that if the Zoo were in compliance, the Wolf escaping off the property, the “trespassing” would have been much less likely.

        As far as the declawed Lions go, I urge you to do your research and contact the two sanctuaries that have offered their services as far as the proposed plan for them goes. The professionals there are more than qualified to deal with elderly animals with special needs; it is the reason they exist in the first place.

        While I think it’s great that you think the Community should all pitch in and help, this is just not sustainable or reliable.

        An accredited Sanctuary can offer everything these animals need, and they deserve this.

        In any case, our City has grandfathered your Zoo to allow these Carnivores to remain as part of it. There have been many things said, unchallenged claims and promises made. I guess it remains to be seen as we go forward.

        I anticipate there will be more questions and issues to consider.

  3. Transfer the animals to the sanctuary; get these cutthroats off the high-chair, slactivist response train, and demolish that zoo. I’d love to see the owners strung up on a bunch of charges, but people actually ENJOY this stuff. Oh yeah, some idiot even brought their kids along because they just LOVE seeing animals caged up in substandard living conditions, and they’ll pay for it too. With smiles on their faces and empty spaces between their ears.


  4. Regardless of what you think of the animals and the zoo the fact is that city council did not speak to specialists, did not even visit the zoo, and failed to get basic education on the subject. If this is how they handle “minor” issues, how will they fight the drug crisis? The rising rates of youth depression and suicide? Will they even bother to speak to social workers or will they just think up an idea and shove off the expert opinions? With people like this at the forefront of our city – these larger issues everyone is so concerned about are not going to be dealt with. So far city council has what? Agreed to have more green spaces? What about the green spaces we already have that are littered with needles every spring and our beautiful boardwalk that is home to addicts in mid day… City council, real winners..

    • I took my Daughter there too, and she was very upset at the size of the cages for the large Carnivores and the fact that they were pacing. She is part of the reason I speak out on the inadequacies of this Zoo. And yes, you’re right…I have nothing better to do right now 🙂

  5. I think some of you folks with your usual knee-jerk and hysterical responses in support of this Zoo have completely missed the point of this letter.

    The purpose of this letter is two-fold.

    1. To identify where Council fell short of their duty to obtain all relevant information; where they failed to obtain evidence of claims and statements made by the Owner at the last City Council Meeting in which a motion to reconsider the Grandfathering clause was withdrawn
    2. To request as Concerned Citizens, since this motion was defeated, that questions relevant to public safety and welfare of the animals be considered and answered regarding the operation of the Zoo

    This letter is directed to Our City Council. As Taxpayers and concerned Citizens we have a right to ask about the things going on in our Community, and plan to continue to do so.

  6. How much time is enough on this subject ?? It has been discussed at length at city council…presentations were made…council listened and made a decision. You cannot please everyone. I for one want to see council move on to other issues that affect our city. The Marshalls are fine people with good intentions and need to be left alone to continue looking after animals that come into their care.

  7. The zoo is non-compliant with numerous OSPCA regulations, and there is no formal budget plan laid out for necessary changes to be made. Public safety has already been compromised by a wolf escaping. The 5000 acre sanctuary that experts have offered to move the animals to would offer much more to the animals, in terms of space and comfort, and would also comply with all OSPCA regulations. I hope council will address the specifics of the “plans” in place.

  8. I guess the majority of people who read all of SSMs online news are braindead. Spending time accusing the “writers” of this “article” of vandalizing the wolves cage…. the LETTER (not an article) itemizes one of the things they are hoping gets done is that the police report from this incident is made public.

    Stop bullying people online and telling them they are “whack jobs” and to “get a life”. Only people who bully others behind the safety of a screen need to be told those things. This was a publicized letter that printed facts, not even opinions. No one needs to get a life, what needs to happen here is the citizens of our city need to respect other people’s opinions and views even when it doesn’t match their own.

    GROW UP.

    • Brain dead? rather insulting don’t you think? I call what people have to say OPINIONS…and contributors on this site are entitled to theirs just as you are entitled to yours.

    • Over 200 000 people signed the petition to help these animals – the town of ssm only has approx. 80 000 people living in it – meaning an even smaller amount suffer from mental health issues and addiction – do you think that if 200 000 people couldn’t get the attention of city council, that the addicts will be able to? This city needs help, I completely agree, but we need to re elect officials who will actually care and not shove off the issues.

  9. Open letter huh ?
    What a bunch of cowards! Is this the same group that were harassing and vandalizing spruce haven after council made its decision to allow them to continue?
    Council listened to the people of Sault Ste. Marie, you know, the ones who elected them, like they should have.
    Sault Online, if you’re going to print garbage like this, make sure the names of those people are printed as well, unless you don’t fell it’s worth trying to maintain your integrity.

    • “council listened to the people of Sault Ste. Marie” …
      More people than the population of Sault Ste. Marie petitioned on this subject…
      They did not listen to the people. They did not even listen to wildlife care professionals and zoologists. You can be for or against the animals and the zoo, but you certainly can’t say that they “listened to the citizens.”

  10. Some very good commentary on this article. All I am going to say is………………AMEM !!! Now let’s get on with our lives.

    • Thank you Mr Fata for your response.

      Now that the Zoo will continue to operate in our City, I look forward to your attention to these issues and others may arise. I will be sure to be in touch when I have concerns and questions.

  11. I see some readers are tired of hearing about this issue.

    Well I say, that’s too bad.

    The issue has not been resolved, simply because Council has been unable to show appropriate leadership.

    Our City has allowed the Spruce Haven Carnivores to remain part of an outdated, substandard roadside zoo, ignoring the opinions of Experts and refusing the help of Accredited Wildlife Sanctuaries.

    The OMNRF and OSPCA have also been irresponsible in simply rubber stamping permits and approvals for clearly identified violations of their own required rules and standards.

    This issue is far from over. As long as these animals remain in these conditions, and our City condones this, I as a Resident will continue to ask questions, advocate for the wellbeing of the animals and expect that those at City Council remain accountable for these decisions.

  12. I have to disagree with the statement that councillors are not responding to the public. I have had a number of lengthy conversations with multiple councillors who have openly addressed my questions regarding the zoo and their personal stance on it.

    In my personal opinion I believe the best thing for our community is to provide support to the Marshall’s to ensure the quality of life of the animals is the highest it can be.

    Continuously dragging both the Marshall’s and council back to the table is counter productive and costly. All these efforts, financial costs could and should be used towards the animals. I invite the 280,000 signatures to take the time to meet with the Marshall’s. They are good people and although unintentional they know the enclosures require work.

    What is truly sad though is it members in support of the author of this letter which are inflicting property damage and further harm to the animals.

    It needs to stop. These animals deserve more than to be caught in the middle of this conflict.

    • Well said! I think people should go there and see what can be done rather than running your mouths! I’m not 100% but I’m pretty sure this sanctuary is all donation and volunteer! I’m also pretty sure that the people that run the place genuinely care about the animals and do the best they can. To be honest with you I’m going to go there for myself one of these days and find out for myself what is going on, because the only reason they use it as a zoo is to raise money for the animals and the property. I’ll probably go and help out and donate time, these animals are animals that cannot be released into the wild. They have to be cared for!

      • More people like you should go and see for themselves. Then you will see first hand what this is all about and that they do not care about the animals. The animals are clearly in misery and have been offered free relocation by specialists to sanctuaries where they would have acres and acres to roam in natural habitat. If you love something, let it go.

        And before someone replies saying they would die if relocated, that has been proven not to be the case.

      • Hey Mike, I think that’s great that you are concerned and want to go find out for yourself why some of us are “running our mouths”. And yes, I admit to lots of mouth running lately.

        As you conduct your own research, you might want to also read last year’s assessment from Wildlife Expert Dr. Martyn Obbard:

        Also, it is great that you want to help out and volunteer to make the animal’s lives better. If you want the best for the animals, it’s worth it to check out this Sanctuary, and see what it too, would offer. It is one of two Sanctuaries that have offered their Expertise and help. They are also very receptive to answering your questions and concerns should you wish to contact them.
        Some of us have come to the conclusion that this is a great solution to care for these aging animals, rather than have them remain in the current conditions.

        As far as releasing these animals “into the wild”, don’t worry, that would not part of the plan for these animals.

        These Sanctuaries are staffed by Professionals and would have a specific plan according to each animal’s needs.

        I respect your plan to get involved and make up your own mind on this issue. Even if you reach an opinion different than mine after looking into all the relevant information, well at least you’ve done more than some of our City Councillors.

        Good Luck, and let me know if you’d like any more info from us 🙂

  13. It’s the same do gooders back at it again. Wow we dont really care about signatures from all over the world, it just goes to show more whack jobs without a life that are out there. I would really like to see the Marshall’s sue this group and take them for everything they are worth. This crap needs to stop and leave the poor animals and the Marshall’s alone. Let’s worry about the bear problem locally or the opiate crisis. I’m not sure the whack jobs are aware of this but there are wolves, coyotes and bears that are more of a threat than a wolf that’s more like a pet dog who knows where his meals come from regularly. Get a life people quit wasting our councils time and money because we chose do to what is right for our community.

  14. I am only commenting since I would normally dimiss something like this as a temper tantrum but this has gone on long enough. This is absolutely ridiculous and frankly it is stupid that the “article” even went up. Calling the Marshall’s liars and animals abuser and saying the wolves had pups and council didn’t do their job just because you did not like the outcome of a vote is entirely childish. Please grow up or find something actually worth your time to bitch about. If you cared about the well being of these animals, you would do what I have since I was 12 years old and offer your help in any way shape or form. Moving them at their age will kill them and if the tranquillers somehow do not then the stress of a move will. Donate your time in a more positive manner if you are so concerned rather than a witch hunt.
    A student at Korah

  15. Oh not again. let’s move on and begin to find ways to grow our economy. Council made its decision and that’s what we elect them to do..Move on to pressing problems that affect the most taxpayers.

    • It’s this mentality that continues to drag the city down, it just never ends. Why they seem to fancy beating a dead horse into hamburger is baffling when there are many and far more important issues to address.

        • Actually none of these facts are true !!! The wolf got out because someone cut the fence and then starting shooting at them with a pellet gun , so that was obviously their plan . Maybe people should be concerned about who would do that also to make sure it does not happen again they have put in cameras made the fence higher and put up a blind , also the enclosures are being built bigger this summer .

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