ST-EDOUARD-DE-MASKINONGE, Que. — In what they’re describing as a Canadian first, animal welfare officials announced Tuesday that they were charging the owner of a Quebec zoo with criminal animal cruelty and moving to seize over 100 wild and exotic animals from the rural property east of Montreal.
On Tuesday afternoon, some 20 animal welfare investigators worked busily behind the fences of the barricaded St-Edouard zoo evaluating the condition of lions, tigers, wolves, deer and dozens of other species.
A spokeswoman for Humane Society International Canada said the animals’ living conditions were worrying.
“There were animals that didn’t seem to have access to adequate food and water, dilapidated enclosures, animals that appeared to be in need of veterinary care,” Ewa Demianowicz, the group’s senior campaign manager, told a news conference in front of the zoo.
The Montreal branch of the SPCA said Tuesday that St-Edouard zoo owner Normand Trahan faces two charges under the Criminal Code — one count each of criminal animal neglect and criminal animal cruelty.
Sophie Gaillard, a lawyer and spokeswoman for the SPCA, said it’s the first time that animal cruelty charges have been laid by way of indictment in the province. That means tougher potential sentences — a maximum of five years behind bars and a lifetime ban on owning animals in the current case.
She also said that to her knowledge, it was the first time in Canada that a zoo owner has been charged with criminal animal cruelty. The charges stem from a visit in August 2018, when the SPCA said it noted several alleged violations. In a subsequent visit in October, officials seized two alpacas that were in poor health and found four deceased animals, including two tigers.
According to charges filed in court in Trois-Rivieres, Que., the alleged infractions are alleged to have taken place between May 2016 and October 2018.