In The News

A fair and just society must protect the animals who live among us: Ontario to create animal welfare special investigations unit

National Post


Peter Kuitenbrouwer | 25/10/13 | Last Updated: 25/10/13 6:29 PM ET

The Ontario government will give $5.5-million a year to the Ontario SPCA to create a bspecial investigations unit that will lead enforcement of zoos and aquariums and puppy and kitten mills,b Madeleine Meilleur, minister of community safety, told reporters at the High Park Zoo Friday morning.

The OSPCA will also use the cash to also set up a round-the-clock call centre to help enforce animal welfare rules.

The government also announced a voluntary registration regime for the 60 zoos and aquariums in Ontario.

bA fair and just society must protect the animals who live among us,b Ms. Meilleur said, while llama and geese looked on from a pen behind her. Honking from the geese drowned out some of her remarks.

Rob Godfrey, chair of the Ontario SPCA, called the announcement ba watershed moment.

bIt is our job to protect those in our society who do not have a voice,b Mr. Godfrey said. bWe will now have a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week call centre to take calls of abuse and neglect. It is this minister and this government that have taken the first step.b

The OSPCA will schedule inspections at zoos and aquariums twice a year, Mr. Godfrey said. He said there could also be surprise inspections.

Ms. Meilleur said the province would establish standards of care for all marine mammals in captivity.

bI care deeply for these wonderful creatures, including whales, dolphins and seals,b she said.

Asked about Kiska, a killer whale at Marineland who has suffered in captivity, according to news reports, Mr. Godfrey said, “We are looking at engaging an expert to look at what the proper move is for standards of care.”

Ms. Meilleur added, bI am expecting the report from the expert in June.b

Cheri DiNovo, the local MPP for High Park, who is a New Democrat, told reporters that bmore money is not going to solve the problem. What we need is a law change.

She added that, “Whistleblowers [of conditions at Marineland] are being sued and nobody has supported them.”

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Ontario brings in sweeping changes to protect animals

Ontario brings in sweeping changes to protect animals

Ospca gets more power and money, zoos and aquariums will get inspected twice a year

By: Linda Diebel Canada, Politics Liam Casey, Published on Fri Oct 25 2013


The province has introduced sweeping reforms to protect animal welfare in Ontario.

Changes, revealed Friday morning by the Star, include more power and money for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, twice-a-year inspections of all zoos and aquariums in the province and specific standards of care for the well-being of marine mammals.

The changes, more than a year in the making, were announced Friday by Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur. Her ministry is responsible for the OSPCA.

“It’s just the start,” said Meilleur, at times drowned out by the geese at a morning press conference at the High Park Zoo.

Meilleur began a review of animal laws in Ontario in the wake of a Star series in which former trainers blamed health problems at Marineland on sporadically poor water and insufficient staffing. John Holer, owner of the Niagara Falls animal park, has always denied any problems or staffing shortages. He told the Star last year that bwe take care of the animals better than I would take care of myself.

The changes, including more power and money for the OSPCA, have been more than a year in the making.

Meilleur said of the Star investigation: “If it weren’t for their work, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Meilleur told the Star she quickly realized the OSPCA lacked the power and ability to deal with the kind of large, complex investigations the province now requires.

Ontario will give the OSPCA $5.5 million annually to bcreate a team of specially trained investigators’ to inspect the province’ 60 zoos and aquariums, which in future will be registered. The team will also deal with bpuppy and kitten mills,b and the OSPCA will bprovide regular progress reports to the government.

The marine mammal standards are being drafted by a team of experts, with a deadline of June 2014. In the meantime, inspections of marine parks will be carried out under the existing animal laws of Ontario.

“Our government cares very deeply for the well-being of animals wherever they live in this province,” said Meilleur. The money will help enforce animal welfare laws in under-served areas such as rural and northern communities.

Official inspections are a big change for Ontario.

Currently, the OSPCA goes in only when a problem is reported. Inspections are done every five years by Canadabs Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, the industry’s self-governing association. But it has only eight member facilities in the province.

The government’s goal is bensuring animals live free from abuse and neglect,b said a ministry statement obtained by the Star.

The OSPCA will implement a 911-style phone dispatch service to provide around-the-clock response to reports of animal abuse throughout the province.

Revamping the rules was a massive task for Meilleur, who consulted cabinet colleagues, travelled across the province talking to industry officials, animal welfare activists and whistleblowers, and dealt with a labyrinth of competing interests and legal problems.

The ministry looked hard at licensing zoos and aquariums b her first choice b but it would have required legislation. That would have been time-consuming and might have failed in a minority Liberal government.

Instead, Meilleurbs team decided to set up a registry immediately with twice yearly inspections, which a ministry aide described as breal surprise visits.b That route doesn’t require a new law.

bItbs a registry b for now,b said the aide, bWebll be closely examining it and, if it’s not working, webll move forward with a bill. In practice, it’s the same as a licensing regime.b

The aide was unclear about how  or if  results of inspections would be released to the public. The source said one idea bandied about was Toronto’s DineSafe’ program, with restaurants given passes, conditional passes or being closed.

Another major problem was that the OSPCA lacked expertise when dealing with marine mammals, agricultural livestock and exotic animals. The inspectors will get special training.

The OSPCA is a registered private charity that currently receives about $500,000 annually in government funding. The society investigates reports of abuse and neglect and can order changes in animal care or lay charges under both the OSPCA Act and the criminal code.

The aide said the OSPCA signed a contract with the government to cover its new authority and funding, but wouldn’t reveal details. A contract is also being completed with a specialist who will head the marine mammal team.

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Province announces more money to help animals at High Park Zoo

Province announces more money to help animals at High Park Zoo

Bloor West Villager


As the llamas and geese at High Park Zoo looked on, the minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services announced the government is taking significant action to enhance animal welfare during a press conference Friday, Oct. 25.

“I’m proud to announce new measures that will strengthen animal protection across the province,b said Madeleine Meilleur, crediting the bdedicated staff” at High Park Zoo and adding, “this zoo has been the first introduction to animals of this nature and the start of a love of animals for so many children.”

The government was prompted to strengthen regulations and protective measures in the wake of a Toronto daily newspaper’s expose last summer into animals’ living conditions at Marineland, Meilleur said.

The government is committing to conducting regular inspections of the 60-plus zoos and aquariums in Ontario, to boosting enforcement of animal welfare laws, while cracking down on puppy and kitten mills and augmenting standards of care for marine animals.

The government is investing $5.5 million annually so the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) bcan build on its successes,b Meilleur said.

This includes establishing a 24-7 centralized dispatch to ensure timely response to alleged animal abuse and neglect across the province, enhancing the responsiveness of investigators to animal welfare complaints from rural and northern communities, creating a squad of specially trained investigators to crack down on puppy and kitten mills and delivering specialized training for investigators in the agriculture sector.

“Animals offer so much and in return, they deserve to be protected from harm,” Meilleur said.

Rob Godfrey, chair of the OSPCA, called Oct. 25 ba very proud day.b

“This is a watershed moment for us that the government has come together with the OSPCA to recognize that it’s our job to protect those in our society that do not have a voice, to ensure animals are safe from neglect and abuse,” Godfrey said.

Investigations into animal cruelty amount to half of the OSPCAbs business, said Godfrey; the other half is shelter.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I can tell you we’ve taken 1,000 steps that no other government has taken,” he said.

In addition to conducting regular inspections of the zoos and aquariums in the province, the OSPCA will establish a registry of these. The organization has committed to regular progress reports and transparency.

Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo attended Friday’s event, but revealed her disappointment.

“This announcement will change absolutely nothing. There are a number of jurisdictions in the world that treat animals better.”

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Ontario to toughen enforcement of animal welfare laws

Ontario to toughen enforcement of animal welfare laws

The Canadian Press

Published Friday, October 25, 2013 11:29AM EDT

Last Updated Friday, October 25, 2013 3:24PM EDT

TORONTO — Ontario will spend $5.5 million a year to toughen enforcement of animal welfare laws, crack down on puppy and kitten mills and improve care for marine mammals in the province, the government announced Friday.

Madeleine Meilleur, minister of community safety, said there will be regular inspections of zoos and aquariums to ensure the health and safety of animals in captivity.

Speaking at Toronto’s High Park Zoo, Meilleur said the annual funding will go to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help it strengthen its animal protection work.B tos

She said the government has come up with several ways to help OSPCA investigators respond better to complaints, such as a centralized dispatch service enabling officers to respond to animal abuse calls from anywhere in the province.

A squad of specially trained investigators will also be created to crack down on puppy and kitten mills, and the government says the OSPCA will conduct twice-yearly inspections of zoos and aquariums.

Massimo Bergamini, executive director of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, said Meilleur’s announcement is a good “first step” but more needs to be done.

He said there are other issues, such as public safety, related to the keeping of exotic animals in the province.

“It is unclear how today’s announcement addresses the regulatory and enforcement gaps that in the past have come to light — in Ontario and in other provinces — sometimes with tragic consequences,” he said.

“A new legislative and regulatory framework is needed to replace the current patchwork of municipal animal control bylaws and bring province-wide consistency to the keeping and care of exotic animals.”

There also should be an accreditation-based licensing regime for zoos and aquariums, Bergamini said, adding this would involve “internationally accepted standards of animal care, public and employee safety, education and conservation.”

Meilleur said the new measures will strengthen enforcement of animal welfare laws in areas that have been under-served, such as rural and northern communities, and address concerns about proper inspections of facilities where animals are held in captivity.

“Our government cares deeply for the well-being of animals wherever they live in this province,” she said.

There are more than 60 zoos and aquariums in Ontario, more than any other province, according to government figures.

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Cheer on marathon runners in support of High Park Zoo

Cheer on marathon runners in support of High Park Zoo

Bloor West Villager


Friends of High Park Zoo invite you to help cheer on runners participating in this weekendbs Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as part of its 120th anniversary.

Situated at Ellis Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard at the 13-kilometre mark of the race, the cheering section will have entertainment, including DJ Woods, Fit2Dance Dancers and singer Cyndi Carleton to help encourage neighbourhood champion runners Chris Diceman, treasurer and Friends of High Park Zoo board member, and Charles Jewell. Funds raised by the marathon champions will be used in support of the zoo.

There will be refreshments as well.

Come out and join in the cheering Oct. 20 between 9:15 and 11:15 a.m.

For more details visit

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Ford votes at parks committee to stop blefties spending like drunken sailors’

Ford votes at parks committee to stop blefties spending like drunken sailors’

Mayor votes against service improvement proposals in 2014 budget

City Centre Mirror

ByDavid Nickle


Mayor Rob Ford made an impromptu appearance at the city’s parks and environment committee Monday, Sept. 16, to vote down motions that would have seen possible service improvements in the 2014 operating budget.

It was the second time in a week Ford attended a committee meeting for the purpose of shifting a vote.

Last Monday, Sept. 9, Ford attended the government management committee to defeat a motion that would have looked at improving wait times for taxpayers calling into the city’s finance department to pay their bills.

This week, Ford cast the deciding vote against motions to provide funding for the Riverdale Farm and High Park Zoo, speed up tree pruning and turf maintenance by city workers, and refurbish aging playgrounds across the city.

Ford said he came to the committee meeting to stop blefties’ from putting unaffordable service enhancements into the budget, in advance of the 2014 budget being introduced at budget committee.

“We can’t have these lefties spending like drunken sailors,” said Ford outside his office, next to a television showing a campaign-style video of the mayor’s summer highlights.

“They’re reckless. They just don’t care. They have no respect for the taxpayers whatsoever. They never have and they never will. But the day of reckoning’s coming soon.”

The motions from the committee came as city departments are presenting the results of a service review, with the intention of generating suggestions that might go to the budget committee.

But some councillors have said they want to set budget parameters earlier, and at the next meeting of council want to have as many services as possible on the table.

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks moved a motion to look at refurbishing 30 playgrounds across the city.

“We here from the public that our playgrounds are in terrible disrepair. They only get repaired once every 80 years. We just want the information from staff to be there. The mayor doesn’t even want us to have the information. He came out of his office to make sure he doesn’t want the public to know what good public service costs,” said Perks.

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette asked that the city consider funding the High Park Zoo which is currently being funded by donations.

She said if the city funded operating costs, then fundraising could go toward repairs and capital costs more effectively.

She said the issue will come up again one way or another.

“If the mayor hadn’t come to the meeting, our motions would have been dealt with today,b she said. bBut this doesn’t eliminate any suggestions. They’ll still come to the budget. All webre doing here is saying to the budget chief, take these things into consideration.”

Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher was championing more effective branch-trimming by city staff.

bCurrently it’s six months from when you ask for a tree to be trimmed and when it gets trimmed,b she said.

“I don’t think that’s a service level we should tolerate in Toronto. The mayor came in and nixed all of that. It’s a little surprising to come in and take out any service improvements before we get to budget. The budget committee will deal with everything, but a budget committee doesn’t have a high view like the parks committee. I think that’s why it’s so disconcerting. What is wrong with having that conversation? Is the mayor afraid of council?”

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Friends celebrate High Park Zoo’s 120th year

High Park Zoo celebrates its 120th anniversary


September 8, 2013

Bloor West Villager

ByLisa Rainford


Unbeknownst to the Friends of High Park Zoo, the popular tourist spot was about to reach a milestone birthday. This year, the zoo is celebrating its 120th anniversary.B bWe were putting dates together and realized, wow, we’ve been here 120 years,b said Friends of High Park Zoo spokesperson Chris Diceman.

In recognition of the zoo’s 120th, its bFriendsb have launched an awareness and fundraising campaign called b120 Years of High Park Zoo.b The initiative will not only celebrate the longevity and legacy of High Park Zoo b one of the oldest zoos in North America where admission is free b it will seek support from the thousands of visitors each year to ensure the zoo remains open for another 120 years.

Operating funds were provided by the City of Toronto through two world wars and the Great Depression in addition to all the ups and downs of the last half century, according to the group. It wasn’t until last year that the city halted funding to the zoo citing budget constraints. That’s when citizens rallied and the Friends of High Park Zoo formed to raise funds to keep the zoo open and operating.

A successful Honey Family Foundation matching initiative brought in $103,387 since January. With subsequent funding raised, the aim of 120 Years of High Park Zoo is to collect $120,000 towards the $228,000 needed for the zoo’s continued operations and enhancement.b(The zoo, said Diceman, has gone through a brapid development. From crisis to stability mode.b

bWebre trying to build the foundation for the Friends of High Park Zoo so webre able to fund the zoo going forward,b he said. “Webre trying to get visitors to sign our petition so the city does restore funding to the zoo.”

The group has further activities and events planned, which it will announce in the coming weeks.

“Thank you once again to the Honey Family Foundation for their $50,000 match for 2013,b said Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette in a statement. bWith the support of visitors from Toronto and beyond we reached, in fact surpassed, that goal. With restored funding, any extra funds that Friends of High Park Zoo has raised will then be used to enhance the zoo.”

Supporting the zoo has become much more convenient for visitors since two Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation Donation Stations were installed, one outside the llama pen and the other outside of the Grenadier Cafe. Like parking machines, the donation stations accept cash or credit cards and immediately issue a printed voucher that can be redeemed for a charitable tax receipt for donations of more than $10.


The zoo is open every day from 7 a.m. until dusk with the llama pen open on weekends and statutory holidays allowing visitors to feed and pet the llamas from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from March until the end of October.

Established in 1893 for deer, the zoo currently boasts 11 paddocks where species from around the world, including bison, llamas, peacocks, reindeer, highland cattle, wallabies, emus and sheep live. As many as 250,000 people visit annually.

Friends of High Park Zoo is a registered not-for-profit corporation created expressly to generate support for High Park Zoo. It accepts donations directly and through Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation, a registered charity.

Donations can be made through Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation online, on site or by mail. Visit

cheques can be made payable to Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation (memo: High Park Zoo) and mailed to:

Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation b High Park Zoo, 157 Adelaide St. W. Suite 123, Toronto, ON, M5H 4E7.

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High Park Zoo wallaby has a name

High Park Zoo wallaby has a name

July 1, 2013

Bloor West Villager


The High Park Zoo has a new resident, a baby wallaby named “Zoomer” after Moses Znaimer’s “ZoomerMedia.” Earlier this year, Znaimer donated $10,000 to the Friends of High Park Zoo.

A female baby wallaby that popped her head out of her mother’s pouch at the High Park Zoo in April has a name.

The wallaby has been christened “Zoomer” after Citytv founder Moses Znaimer’s company, ZoomerMedia. Znaimer donated $10,000 toward the Honey Family Foundation earlier this year.Zoomer can be seen most weekends in the paddock next to the llama pen at the High Park Zoo, said Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette.

“Zoomer likes to lick people,” Doucette said. “Shebs adorable, so sweet. She loves people and loves to be hand-fed.”

The Friends of High Park Zoo recently reached its goal of $50,000 within hours of its June 15 deadline for the Honey Family Foundation to match that total amount donated by the community.

bWebve given the city $228,000. Now we just have to pay for the rest of the year,b Doucette said.

Enthusiasm to save the zoo was high, Doucette added. It has been much harder to maintain the initial momentum of that first year, she said.

bCorporations have said, ”Where’s the city? Why is the city not funding this?” Doucette said.

The Friends of High Park Zoo are circulating a petition calling on council to restore city funding of the zoo. Visitors and residents have donated the full amount to operate the zoo since July 2012.

However, the group will continue to fundraise for capital expenditures such as improving the llama pen and sidewalks at the zoo, Doucette said. To sign the petition and for details, visit or

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High Park Zoo benefits from $12K in new donations

High Park Zoo benefits from $12K in new donations

May 30, 2013


Bloor West Villager

Two more organizations have stepped up in support of the High Park Zoo.

During a special ceremony at the zoo, The Grenadier Group presented a $5,000 cheque while CUPE Local 79 presented a $7,000 cheque to Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette on behalf of the zoo. The funds will be matched by the Honey Family Foundation up to $50,000. The influx in funds brings the zoo’s grand total to date to $35,000.

“It’s fantastic, a great boost,b Doucette told The Villager on Monday, May 27. bWithout the Honey Family Foundation, the zoo wouldn’t be here.”

The local councillor credited the foundation for inspiring a number of groups and individuals to make a donation. Donations made to the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation before June 15 will be doubled by the Honey Family Foundation.

Donate online at

Lisa Rainford


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High Park Zoo welcomes baby kangaroo

High Park Zoo welcomes baby kangaroo


May 15, 2013

Bloor West Villager

One of the High Park Zoobs latest additions has made an appearance in recent weeks, much to the delight of visitors to the popular family spot.

A baby kangaroo has popped its head out to get a peek of its new home, Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette said.

“This joey was born sometime in December and only over the last few weeks has stuck its head out of its mother’s pouch,” said Doucette, who was at the zoo on Wednesday to see the little marsupial, born to mom, Sydney and dad, Taz.

Another draw to the zoo is the llama pen at the zoo, which is open until Sunday, March 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be various activities, in addition to the opportunity to feed the llamas. Zoo colouring books, buttons and peacock feathers are available for a donation. All funds are going toward keeping the zoo open. For the second year in a row, the Honey Family Foundation has pledged to match dollar for dollar to a maximum of $50,000.

“We have raised approximately $50,000 towards the match so far,” said Doucette.

Since February of last year, residents have donated more than $100,000 towards saving the zoo. Meanwhile, Friends of High Park Zoo, the advocacy group formed in response to keeping the tourist attraction open, raised more than $139,000. Residents will be able to double their donation until June 15. To operate in 2013, the zoo needs $228,000, which is funded only by public donations.

To make a donation, visit

~ Lisa Rainford


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