Marineland Finally Convicted After Decades of Animal Cruelty

In a historic first, Marineland has been found guilty of provincial animal welfare charges for its cruel treatment of three young bears, who lived in cramped quarters with minimal access to water for months.  Ontario’s Animal Welfare Services (AWS) laid charges against Marineland in 2023, over failure to comply with legal orders to improve the care of these three bears—which included providing them with more space, clean drinking water, and vertical surfaces to fulfill their natural need to climb. 

The bears, born in 2020, were living in enclosures that measured just 48 square feet. Animal welfare inspectors informed Marineland that the bears required an enclosure that was at least 10,000 square feet if all three were living together, or 5,000 square feet if each bear lived alone. Marineland was also ordered to build climbing structures for the bears, as well as providing soil, bedding, or leaf litter to cushion any falls. Additionally, the park was told the bears must have permanent access to filtered water sources such as pools, streams, or ponds. AWS seized all three bears in 2022 and relocated them to sanctuaries, then laid charges against Marineland for ignoring the orders. 

Photo: The Canadian Press | Ho – Maddie Black

A History of Animal Abuse

While this marks Marineland’s first conviction, members of the public have been outraged for decades about the appalling conditions faced by animals at the notorious park. Yet until now, Marineland had evaded legal accountability for this pattern of unlawful animal cruelty. 

When Animal Justice visited Marineland in 2022, we saw bears—solitary animals by nature—forced to live together in a barren pit. They had visible gashes on their faces, which employees admitted were due to fighting. 

In 2016, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) charged Marineland with five counts of animal cruelty due to the improper care of black bears, guinea hens, and a peacock. In 2017, the OSPCA laid additional charges over the poor treatment of elk and deer. All charges were later dropped by the Crown prosecutor. 

In 2021, Animal Justice filed a legal complaint over illegal dolphin performances for entertainment purposes at Marineland, which led to a criminal charge. Again, the charge was dropped by the prosecutor, who claimed that going to trial was not in the “public interest” after Marineland threatened to make the trial long and complex. In 2021 and 2022, Animal Justice filed multiple legal complaints with AWS after devastating videos surfaced showing Kiska, known as the loneliest orca in the world, floating listlessly and slamming her body against the side of the tank in a clear display of extreme distress.

Kiska tragically died at Marineland in March, 2023 after suffering for over 40 years in a tank, with over a decade of that time spent in solitary confinement. Unfortunately, AWS has yet to lay any charges against Marineland for the appalling, unlawful conditions that Kiska was kept in. 

Since Canada banned any future captivity or breeding of cetaceans in 2019, one orca, 14 beluga whales, and one dolphin have died at Marineland. It is the last place in Canada that still confines these majestic marine mammals. Join us in urging the government to step in and help send them to sanctuaries! 

Banner: Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary