Ontario 'animal welfare' announcement good first step, more needs to be done: Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums

Statement by Massimo Bergamini, Executive Director of Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) on the 'animal welfare' announcement today by Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

OTTAWA, Oct. 25, 2013 /CNW/ - "Canada's accredited zoo and aquarium community welcomes the Ontario government's commitment to animal welfare evidenced in today's announcement by Community Safety and Correctional Services minister Madeleine Meilleur.

Our members, in Ontario and across the country, work hard to ensure that their institutions meet the highest standards of animal care while promoting education and species conservation. Greater oversight and registration of unaccredited facilities is a welcome development and we applaud the government's announcement.

We understand and appreciate the legislative context in which today's announcement was made. Which is why we see this as a first step.

More needs to be done to address the full arrange of issues—including public safety--that relate to the keeping of exotic animals and the operation of zoos and aquariums in the province.  For example, 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.

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, and municipal capacity to adequately enforce new or existing rules must also be bolstered.

There also needs to be a commitment to an accreditation-based licensing regime for zoos and aquariums informed by internationally accepted standards of animal care, public and employee safety, education and conservation.

In and of itself, an objective, enforceable accreditation-based licensing regime would go a long way toward greatly improving animal welfare, in addition to ensuring that zoological institutions play a larger societal role in education and conservation.

The government took an important first step toward animal welfare today. Our community and association look forward to working with the Government and all parties in moving this important agenda forward, in Ontario and in the rest of the country. "

SOURCE Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA)

For further information:

Massimo Bergamini (613) 290 5317, by e-mail mbergamini@caza.ca or on Twitter @CAZA_ED