Despite some opposition, plans to bring educational zoo parties to the County are officially a go.
Tuesday night, council granted Wild Zoo Parties owner Marc Cunningham an exemption to the exotic animal bylaw so he can hold private and public educational shows for the months of June, July and August. However Cunningham must now provide the County with two weeks notice on all of the parties including dates, times, locations and animals attending.
Council agreed that the Belleville based business owner provided confirmation of compliance with regulatory bodies such as the Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and the Ministry of Natural Resources. The shows typically have amphibians, parrots, small and large lizards, snakes, small exotic mammals, tarantulas and tortoises.
Animal activists Annette McIntosh and Angela Lammes took to the podium before council granted the exemption voicing their concerns about such shows being cruel to animals, posing potential harm to children and a possible risk of salmonella from handling the reptiles.
“They arrive in cages, crates and tanks and are displayed draped over someone’s shoulders,” said Lammes. “What concerns me is the three month blanket exemption. There were posters and news ads printed with shows already booked before council ever granted an exemption. I don’t care about the business’s bottom line. The only thing I care about is the safety of animals and children.”
“Most of the animals in our care are rescued animals as there are less people willing to take them into their home,” explained Cunningham, who was been operating for 16 years. “We have staff that work full-time to take care of the animals.”
He said they have never had any injuries as they have trained handlers and have $5 million in liability insurance in case a problem does arise. He added the shows are equipped with wash stations and there is limited food and drink allowed in the areas where the animals will be.
Cunningham said it’s because of the shows that they are able to financially take care of all the animals including the ones they rescue.
When it comes to advertising ahead of being granted permission, Cunningham said he made plans not to bring five animals not allowed in the County which include, Harris’s hawk, Cuvier’s dwarf caiman, boa constrictor, ball python and curly hair tarantula.
Councillor Dave Harrison put the amendment on the table to have Cunningham provide the County with party details citing concern for agriculture and livestock.
Cunningham admitted originally it was his idea to go to the bylaw office so this is something he can abide by.
Wild Zoo Parties will be at the upcoming Park Day festivities at Medieval Fest in Ameliasburgh on August 13.
Former councillor and current president of the Consecon Ratepayers Association Nik Nowitski also addressed council on behalf of the Ameliasburgh Recreation Committee stating he looks forward to having the show come to the village and have them put on ‘one heck of a show.’