GuZoo owner says still in control despite deadline to remove animals

GuZoo owner Lynn Gustafson has been given two more days to start finding new homes for his animals.

GuZoo owner Lynn Gustafson has been given two more days to start finding new homes for his animals.

Gustafson said on Wednesday that he has been negotiating with Ron Bjorge, executive director of wildlife management for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

Gustafson met with Bjorge on Tuesday to talk about decommissioning his private zoo.

He was ordered last Wednesday by provincial officials following a review by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Although the negotiations continue, Gustafson said he is doing the work and research to declare the facility a parsonage and that it will be reopened for public visits on Friday.

“We’re not waiting for them (the province), really, to make a decision one way or another. We’re in control of the place now,” said Gustafson.

“Under the Charter of Rights, we have the right to control our own destiny, so that’s what we have taken. Under God’s domain, we are in charge of the animals.”

Gustafson said all of the animals on his farm will be available for public viewing.

While stating that the negotiations he has had with Bjorge have gone well, Gustafson said the government has not given him written notice of the order to decommission his zoo and that it does not have any jurisdiction over the animals under his care.

“What decommissioning? We should be able to have something written to us, not read it in the newspaper. If you’ve got something in writing, then you’ve got something to argue about.”

Alberta’s Wildlife Act gives the province authority over private ownership of wild and exotic animals while the Animal Protection Act, administered by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, extends that same level of authority over farm animals, said Dave Ealey, issues manager for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

Zookeeping is covered under rules covered within those two pieces of legislation, said Ealey.

Therefore, regardless of any declaration Gustafson wants to make concerning his property, the province maintains jurisdiction over the animals, said Ealey.

He confirmed that a two-day extension has been granted on the order issued last week.

“We’re continuing to work toward finding a decommissioning procedure and to find safe and secure homes for those animals,” he said.

Decommissioning plans are included in the development plan of every zoo in the province, said Ealey.

“We’re following his plan, that was part of what was in his zoo development plan. We’re going to continue to work with that,” he said.

“I don’t know under what basis he can declare his land a parsonage but that has, really, no bearing on our action here.”

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