Victory! Whitby Roadside Zoo Withdraws Animal Bylaw Exemption Request

An exciting win for captive animals! Nova’s Ark, a roadside zoo masquerading as an animal-assisted therapy camp, has withdrawn its request to be exempt from a Whitby, Ontario bylaw that bans keeping exotic animals. Nearly 100 wild and exotic animals are currently being held unlawfully at the facility. Numerous wolves, pythons, camels, kangaroos, and monkeys are now set to be rehomed.

In 2018, the Town of Whitby took the bold and responsible step to ban keeping many exotic animal species. Ontario’s exotic animal laws are some of the worst in the country, which is why many local municipalities have passed laws to prohibit the ownership of these animals.

But Nova’s Ark ignored the bylaw and accumulated dozens of animals illegally. They got caught, but instead of following the law, they thought the law shouldn’t apply to them. Nova’s Ark requested an exemption, which would defeat the very purpose of the bylaw.

Town staff recommended no exception for Nova’s Ark, but several councillors seemed to be siding with the roadside zoo.

Animal protection groups Zoocheck and World Animal Protection organized an urgent campaign to stop Nova’s Ark, and Animal Justice joined the fight by submitting a letter and mobilizing local supporters to contact the Town of Whitby, requesting that the exemption be rejected. Nova’s Ark was clearly feeling the heat, and took it upon themselves to withdraw the request before a council meeting this week.

While we celebrate this win, we will continue to keep our eyes on Nova’s Ark. It’s not yet clear where the animals will now live, and we will be working to make sure they are sent to sanctuaries, and not simply other zoos where they will be displayed for entertainment.

Image shows captive camel.
Numerous camels, pythons, kangaroos, and other exotic animals held unlawfully at Nova’s Ark will be rehomed.

Ontario is the Wild West for Exotic Animals

In Ontario, zoos in the province don’t need to be licensed, and there are no laws regulating the breeding, keeping, and exhibiting of exotic and wild animals for entertainment. Authorities can’t even shut down a zoo—no matter how bad the conditions—because the laws are so inadequate.

In 2022, Animal Justice conducted the largest-ever zoo exposé in the country, visiting nearly every zoo in Ontario. Our video footage revealed widespread suffering, injuries, death, and troubling threats to public safety. Please join us in pushing for national laws to tackle Canada’s zoo crisis! Together, we can create a kinder future for the countless animals behind bars for our entertainment.