EDMONTON—Animal Justice has written to Edmonton City Councillors, the Office of the City Auditor, and the Edmonton Police Service to alert them to potential misrepresentations by the Edmonton Valley Zoo during the city budget process late in 2022. The move comes after an investigation by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) was “unable to substantiate” claims by the Edmonton Valley Zoo that it required public funding because many of the animal enclosures did not meet CAZA accreditation standards.
Last year, the Zoo requested roughly $61.2 million of City funding, claiming that the facility urgently required funds because “a number of animal enclosures” did not comply with CAZA animal care standards—including enclosures for Lucy the elephant, zebras, camels, takins, birds of prey, and seals. The city’s budget report noted that these deficiencies jeopardized the health and welfare of animals, and put human safety at risk.
Animal Justice filed a complaint, requesting that CAZA investigate whether accreditation should be suspended or revoked in light of the admitted non-compliance. This week, CAZA confirmed to Animal Justice that after visiting the zoo, reviewing documentation, and interviewing staff, its investigation was closed and no action would be taken, stating:
The budget report pertaining to the Edmonton Valley Zoo’s alleged deficiencies contains statements we were unable to substantiate. The funding request to Council seems to have been written to look to future investments. The investigation team understands it can be a challenge to present a case for future investments yet let the reader know they meet CAZA accreditation standards.
“CAZA’s statement suggests either that the Zoo misrepresented conditions in order to secure City funding, or else CAZA has not properly addressed accreditation problems at the Zoo,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Both possibilities are troubling, and highlight a lack of transparency and oversight at the Zoo. The City should immediately launch an inquiry to examine the conditions for animals at the Zoo, and determine whether the Zoo presented false information to secure further funding.”
CAZA is not a public enforcement or oversight body, but is an industry association that represents the interests of its members, whose membership fees provide a significant percentage of the organization’s funding.
A copy of the letter from CAZA to Animal Justice is available here.