THREE HILLS — The owner of a beleaguered private zoo in Alberta says people who secretly shot a behind-the-scenes video of his cages and animals are nothing but domestic terrorists.
Guzoo owner Lynn Gustafson said he has filed a trespassing complaint with RCMP over the video, which was shot on the Canada Day weekend and has been posted on YouTube.
The video, shot by a self-proclaimed unidentified whistleblower, shows graphic pictures of dirty cages, maggots in a feeding bowl and dead animals at the facility near Three Hills in central Alberta.
“Domestic terrorists is what they are,” Gustafson said Monday. “The government has six months to do something about this group … or I will shut my gates to the public. It will be for my family and my friends.”
The video is just the latest problem facing the family-owned facility.
In May, Gustafson called RCMP after someone cut holes in the fences around Guzoo, which is home to more than 400 animals, including a lion, a tiger, wolves, bears, bison, lemurs, camels, coyotes and emus, as well as domestic critters.
Guzoo has been the focus of animal abuse concerns since it opened in 1990. In March 2011 someone posted pictures of a goat with its face covered in blood on Facebook.
The Alberta government ordered Guzoo shut down in 2011 over concerns about animal care, but later reversed its decision. The province granted the zoo a new one-year operating licence in April.
Officials with Alberta Environment, which regulates zoos, could not immediately be reached for comment. Last fall a government spokeswoman said an inspection of the zoo’s operations in July 2012 showed no problems with the health or condition of the animals.
Gustafson declined to comment on the content of the video or the animal welfare activists.
“They have been here about four times now. They have escalated. When this started out it was just a verbal thing a couple of years ago,” he said.
“Now they start damaging property and breaking and entering. Who knows what will be next?”
A group called the Council of Concerned Albertans for Animal Welfare and Public Safety posted still photographs of Guzoo on its Facebook page along with a link to the video.
Council officials could not be reached for comment. The group posted a statement about the images on its website.
“CCAAWPS feels this is the most damning evidence to date, depicting the extremely neglectful and substandard operations at Guzoo, that have always existed and continue to exist,” reads the message.
Over the years people have lodged complaints with the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the province.
Gustafson said an ASPCA officer was at Guzoo on Friday to investigate a complaint that was sparked by the video, but he said no charges were laid.
The association said it investigates complaints, but won’t comment on investigations unless a charge is laid.
Gustafson said the ongoing controversy over Guzoo, which promotes itself as a “Licenced Zoo and Animal Sanctuary,” is not hurting business.
“This is the best summer we have had,” he said, estimating the zoo draws around 500 people on a busy day.
“Mother’s Day was a record day for attendance and yesterday (Sunday) beat that again.
“It is kind of gratifying. We must be doing something right.”