An open letter to the Senate of Canada

When we take a look at the five accrediting associations for US and Canadian zoos and aquariums, we begin to see the importance that membership and accreditation plays.

“Thanks to its comprehensive accreditation program and Code of Professional Ethics, CAZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are recognized for their high standards of animal care.”

– Canadian Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA)

“We promote cooperation between zoological gardens and aquariums with regard to the conservation, management and breeding of animals in human care and we encourage the highest standards of animal welfare and husbandry.”

– World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA)

“Accreditation:

  • Provides the public with essential connections to the natural world;
  • Develops public confidence by means that an institution meets or exceeds current professional standards;
  • Provides a publicly recognized badge signifying excellence in, and commitment to, such things as animal management and welfare, safety, conservation and education; and
  • Distinguishes AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums from ‘roadside zoos’ and for-profit menageries.”

– Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA)

“ZAA Accreditation is a rigorous, multi-phase process. The applicant must support the mission, vision, and goals of ZAA.”

– Zoological Association of America (ZAA)

“The Alliance administers a stringent accreditation process for its members. Accredited members must uphold Alliance Standards and Guidelines to optimize the psychological and physical health of, and environmental conditions for, individual marine mammals under their care, and to maximize the educational and scientific value of their collections as a whole.

– Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums (AMMPA)

Tomorrow, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in Canada will vote on Senate Bill 203, which would outlaw cetacean captivity nationwide. Only two display facilities are directly impacted by the bill.

One, the Vancouver Aquarium, is accredited by the AZA, CAZA, and AMMPA.

The other, Marineland Canada, near Niagara Falls, is not accredited as a zoological care facility at all. In fact, the park dropped its membership in CAZA in May, citing major construction in the park during the Summer, evidence of which has not appeared.

Typically, when a zoo, aquarium or animal attraction drops its membership, it immediately seeks out accreditation with a different organization. Such was the case with the Pittsburgh Zoo when it opted to drop out of AZA over a concern on elephant husbandry standards and joined ZAA.

This is not the case with Marineland. It now exists as one of the largest unaccredited animal parks in North America.

Yesterday, Marineland filed a C$21 million lawsuit (complaints currently undisclosed) against the Ontario SPCA, the organization mandated by the Ontario Parliament’s OSPCA Act to enforce animal welfare law in the province. As someone who supports zoos and zoo reform, and as former zookeeper myself, I urge the Senate to consider both the lawsuit and lack of accreditation as red flags, and to take into account that the park may now be operating as a roadside zoo which does not meet the established husbandry standards set forth by the five zoo and aquarium accreditation associations for the US and Canada.

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