A zoo with a history of controversy has been closed for good.
Irene Gustafson said on Thursday that their zoo is closed permanently and her family is likely done with having any other type of public attraction on their farm near Three Hills.
The Gustafsons had long operated the controversial GuZoo, which attracted not only criticism from animal rights activists, but also saw government agencies such as Alberta Energy and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) take action.
Gustafson, daughter of GuZoo owner Lynn Gustafson, said that most of their zoo animals — about 24 — went to a broker to be dispersed. A few were sold privately, such as wolves and a lynx, but all 12 deer were euthanized. The zoo had such animals as bears and lions, as well as farm animals. They still have their farm animals.
She said that in order for the zoo meet all ESRD requirements before applying for this year’s zoo permit, they would have had to spend about $500,000.
ESRD information officer Jamie Hanlon said a final visual inspection by ESRD was done of the former zoo on Wednesday.
Last month, GuZoo owners advised ESRD that they were going to cease operations rather than apply for their annual zoo permit.
Following this week’s visit, the GuZoo was provided notification that their permit had been cancelled, Hanlon said.
During the inspection, the GuZoo provided ESRD with a disposition list on the licensed and wildlife animals, how they were disposed of and where they went.
Gustafson said they had 42 conditions to meet within 30 days before the zoo permit would be extended and they could not have met them in that time frame.
She believes her family was treated unfairly by government and there was a “vendetta” to close them down.
She has contacted the provincial ombudsman by letter about her concerns but has not received any response. “I’m not done yet.”
“As for the zoo, even if they give us a zoo permit back, we won’t take it. … We’re done. We’re through, until they change the regulations that protect us more.”
The Gustafsons now have to come up with some other source of income.
“We are farmers … we are probably going to pursue farming in some avenue. We’re just not sure exactly what.”
Voices for Animals Humane Society and Zoocheck Canada had been working through the courts to have the GuZoo licence cancelled because they believed the zoo failed to meet minimum standards.