Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Ontario's Roadside Zoos

April 2, 2012 The Current Situation; Just another UBC Blogs site, posts by Jaquie 

Adherence to the revised OSPCA Act 

Zoocheck Canada conducted on-site investigations of several Ontarian zoos during the summer of 2011 in order to determine whether they were in compliance with the revised OSPCA Act. They found that few changes had been made, and the animals’ welfare was still very poor. This suggests that zoos are not subject to a sufficient frequency of detailed third-party investigations. 

Public Opinions 

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association does not condone the possession of native or exotic wild animal species or hybrids as pets. Because many Canadian citizens look to this association, as well as the OSPCA and CAZA, when considering animal welfare problems, the views of these organizations will influence those of the public. To that end, in recent years the driving pressure for the continual changes to the standards of zoos over the years has been the public pressure to move away from menagerie-type collections. 

 Ethical Viewpoints 

1. Peter Singer

Our moral consideration for animals should dictate that keeping them in small, barren, unclean cages without the proper enrichment, nutrition, or safety, is morally wrong.  It should be obligatory that roadside zoo owners provide the best for all of their animals in order to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of animals. As improved conditions would result in a greater professionalism on the part of the zoo, it would also result in increased revenue, which would be beneficial to all involved. 

2. Tom Regan

The fundamental wrong is the system that allows humans to view other animals as our resources.  However, as the majority of these animals do not have the ability to survive in the wild if the zoos were completely dissolved, Regan’s call for the dissolution of the system is not a plausible solution. Instead it should be ensured that the animals’ inherent value is respected by providing them with all of the amenities required for them to have excellent welfare.  It must be recognized that they do not exist to be used by humans. 

3. Barbara Smuts

Because this view is closely related to the soft feminist approach, it is probably the more popular view among Canadians, especially those who have not given philosophical views much thought. Smuts’ view is that we must treat animals with respect, attentiveness, care, and in a humble manner. 

4.  Bernard Rollin

Rollins’ proponents would believe that animal cruelty concerns alone are insufficient as they only address intentional pain to animals, and neglect to address the suffering caused by inappropriate environments.  In order to embrace his beliefs we must allow animals to behave according to their nature, which necessitates providing them with appropriate environments that replicate the beneficial aspects of their natural habitats. 


1)  OSPCA Act

On November 18, 2008 the OSPCA Act was updated, for the first time since its enactment in 1919 by passing of the Provincial Animal Welfare Act – Bill 50.

It now includes the following alterations: 

It is a provincial offence to cause or permit any animal to be distressed.

The OSPCA has the police power to inspect animal facilities, without a warrant, to ensure that they comply with the newly established animal care  standards.   If they are not in compliance, the OSPCA has the power to confiscate the animals. 

The punishments vary, but include fines (ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars), and prohibition orders (violators may be prohibited from owning animals). 

2)  Ontario Regulation 60/09 – Standards of Care

New standards of care for all animals were passed under the OSPCA Act in 2009, which include specific requirements for captive wildlife.

These include standards regarding food, water, medical attention, physical safety, ability to exercise and move naturally, cleanliness, appropriate enclosures and structures or material inside, and the stimulation of natural movement and behaviour. 

3)  Bill 125 – Exotic Wildlife in Captivity Act

Bill 125 – Exotic Wildlife in Captivity Act was presented by Dave Levac (a member of provincial parliament), and the first reading was carried in 2010. However, no date has been set for its second reading, and three readings are required for a bill to be passed.

If passed, it will require the mandatory licencing of those who own captive exotic wildlife, and will prohibit the breeding of animals without a license. 

4)  CAZA Accreditation Program

In order to become a CAZA member, institutions must adhere to standards regarding nutrition, enclosures, security, enrichment, exercise, veterinary care, and visitor contact.

CAZA members are inspected by zoological experts in operations, animal management, and veterinary medicine every 5 years. 

Although CAZA accreditation is not mandatory under the law, it does serve to enhance the public’s confidence in a zoo or aquarium, which results in an increase in business for the CAZA members. In addition, accreditation makes establishments eligible for funding and grants from foundations and corporations, and exempts them from some government requirements.

Only 8 of the 52 public animal displays in Ontario are CAZA certified. 

Why protest against roadside zoos? 

Roadside zoos should not be supported for four main reasons: They are not educational, they do not contribute to conservation efforts, and both safety and animal welfare concerns abound. 

They are not educational 

1.  Informational signs are typically poorly designed are are typically only sparsely informative.  For example, many signs indicate only an animal’s name, age, birthdate, acquisition date, and species name – if that.

2.  Visitors are only able to observe the animals exhibiting unnatural behaviours in impoverished conditions and unnatural environments, which may result in nothing more than a devaluation of wildlife. 

They do not contribute to conservation efforts and are not sanctuaries 

1.  Efforts to breed threatened, endangered, or extinct animals in captivity typically fail, especially in the stressful environments of roadside zoos.

2.  Successful breeding efforts usually entail the unintentional births of common animals or hybrids, that are then sold to other roadside zoos or as pets, thereby perpetuating the problem of animals in poor environments.

3.  If roadside zoos that participate in breeding do not sell the progeny their breeding efforts result in exceeding their financial and managerial abilities.

4.  Wildlife sanctuaries provide enclosures that closely resemble the benefits of each animal’s natural habitat, and do not breed the animals or exploit them commercially. Roadside zoos that call themselves sanctuaries continue to breed, sell, and exhibit animals in poor habitats. 

Safety concerns are common 

1.  By failing to provide stand-off barriers, injury to both the animal and the human may result – either through immediate physical damage or through the contraction of zoonotic diseases, which may be transferred through touch or respiration.

2.  Cages and enclosures are commonly chosen or created without taking into account the physical abilities (such as the ability to jump) and needs of the captive animals. Between 1985 and 2011 there were over 50 animal escapes from Ontario zoos or private collections, many of which resulted in attacks on people or animals.

3.  There are no standards regarding the knowledge level of handlers.  This has resulted in unsafe handler behaviour, such as entering the enclosures of big cats during feeding and walking them on leashes in public.  This in turn has caused injuries to people and animals. 

Animal welfare concerns are common 

1.  Cages are small, barren, and chosen only for the enhancement of public viewing and ease of cleaning.

2.  Due to the infrequent cleaning of enclosures, animals are housed in unsanitary conditions, making them vulnerable to disease and illness.

2a. Inappropriate flooring, such as concrete or wire floors, that damage the animals’ feet and joints, resulting in pain and infections.

3.  Enclosures typically lack any shelter or shade, making heat exhaustion and extreme cold a commonality in Ontario’s harsh climate.

4.  Hiding places providing privacy are unavailable, which commonly causes distress.

5.  Poor quality feed and unclean water are typical as the animals’ health is not a priority, and quality feed is expensive.

6.  Animals may be kept in inappropriate groupings, or isolated when they should not be.  This can cause aggression, injury, distress, and stereotypic behaviours.

7.  Barren enclosures cause the animals to suffer from inadequate physical and mental enrichment, making it common for them to develop stereotypies.

8.  Behaviours that are natural and beneficial cannot be exhibited due to the small, barren enclosures in which some animals can barely move.

9.  The failure to provide appropriate environments that meet the animals’ needs causes boredom, frustration, and chronic stress.

10. Veterinary care is commonly neglected due to its high cost as well as the untrained handlers’ inability to recognize when it is required. 

 How is the existence of roadside zoos justified?  

1.  They contribute to the public’s education: The lack of stand-off barriers allows viewers come into close contact with the wildlife. In addition, the small, barren cages allow the viewers to see the animals very clearly at close range, and some of the zoos offer petting areas or information signs about the animals.

2.  They contribute to animal conservation by providing homes for members of threatened or endangered wildlife.

3.  They function as wildlife sanctuaries – protected facilities where animals are able to live out their lives.

4.  They are trying to support rescued animals: Roadside zoos sometimes begin inadvertently when a few animals are rescued from other establishments, or from the wild, with only good intentions.  Eventually the collection becomes too large for the owners’ financial or professional abilities, and in order to increase revenue it is opened to the public. 

What makes Ontario different from the rest of Canada?  

Ontario has some of the weakest regulations in Canada when it comes to the control of zoos and wildlife displays.  As a result, as of 2011, there were 52 businesses and private individuals who possessed captive animals for public display in Ontario, most of which were classified as roadside zoos.  In contrast there were only 62 such establishments in the rest of Canada.

Ontario is the only province that does not have a licensing system for the possession of wildlife, which means that anyone at all may purchase exotic animals and open their own zoo.  In fact, between 250 and 500 mid-sized and large cats, such as tigers and lions, are thought to be owned by private Ontario residents. 

What is a roadside zoo?  

Roadside zoos are privately-run, substandard, amateur facilities that lack trained animal handlers, appropriate funding, and safety practices.
These zoos present themselves in a variety of ways to potential visitors:
Some use caged animals as a gimmick to lure travelers to other commercial enterprises such as gift shops. Some simply offer various animals for the view pleasure of paying customers.

May 18, 2022 Canada's dangerous 'roadside' zoo season is upon us

Animal attractions with little to no regulation, endangering animals and risking public safety, are set to open across Canada this long weekend https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canada-s-dangerous-roadside-zoo-season-is-upon-us-859839424.html

Senator Marty Klyne has introduced the Jane Goodall Bill in the Senate. If passed, it would significantly restrict the number of unregulated or under-regulated zoos in Canada and limit ownership of more than 800 animal species.

Read more: Aldor Acres petting zoo animals a cash grab, used for 'entertainment', then food

Petting zoos; E.coli; risky & outdated, Stanley Park farmyard closes; Park Board goat case, FVA; Dolittle probe, Maple Ridge; 2020 updates; Ontario's roadside zoos

The hellish exotic trade; BC's legislation; federal legislation needed; animal rental agencies; Cinemazoo & Urban Safari; exposing the truth behind animal businesses