Media Releases

Undercover Video Shows Shocking Animal Cruelty at Papanack Zoo

OTTAWA—Disturbing video footage secretly recorded at the Papanack Zoo in Wendover, Ontario was released this morning by Animal Justice. The footage shows zoo management admitting to beating a lion cub, baby animals stolen from their mothers to be tamed for use as selfie props, and animals performing repetitive, stereotypic behaviours. In one particularly disturbing scene, a skunk and raccoon have their mouths pried open with a cord by zoo management during a photo shoot for the reality TV show ‘Billy Goes North‘.

Papanack Zoo last sparked public outrage in February, 2016 when the owners gunned down a lion named Zeus who escaped from his cage.

The video footage was shot by a whistleblower who worked at Papanack Zoo, approximately an hour east of Ottawa.

The graphic footage shows:

  • A zoo manager describing how he trained a lion cub by repeatedly hitting the baby animal in the face.
  • Baby animals, including a baby cougar and baby fox, stolen away from their mothers so they can be handled by the public and used as selfie props.
  • A raccoon, skunk, and bobcat prodded and forced to pose in a photo shoot for the reality show ‘Billy Goes North.’ The raccoon and skunk have their mouths forced and held open with a cord by zoo management.
  • Zoo management stating that several Père David deers (extinct in the wild) broke their necks after running into the fence of their enclosure.
  • Animals engaged in repetitive, stereotypic behaviours such as pacing and rocking, including a spider monkey, baby coyote, and several large cats.

Ontario has become the roadside zoo capital of Canada because it is the only province that does not license or regulate zoos. Any person can confine wild animals in a public zoo or private menagerie without obtaining a license, following zoo-specific standards, or submitting to government oversight. Unlike other provinces, there is no way for the Ontario government to shut down a zoo no matter how disturbing the conditions might be for the animals unwillingly kept in captivity.

“This video shows that vulnerable animals endure appalling conditions at Papanack Zoo,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Public opinion is rapidly turning against confining animals for entertainment, yet the government continues to leave animals out in the cold. Even a hairstylist needs a license to operate in Ontario, yet anyone can open up a zoo without a license or government oversight. Animal Justice is calling on the Ontario government to introduce a comprehensive zoo licensing regime to protect animals from some of the worst forms of captive cruelty, and ensure that abusive zoos and aquariums can be shut down when appropriate.”

There has been significant public outrage over Ontario’s failure to regulate zoos after a Crown prosecutor in Niagara Falls withdrew animal cruelty charges against Marineland this week. Animal cruelty charges against Bowmanville Zoo owner Michael Hackenberger were also withdrawn earlier this year, and the Bowmanville Zoo has since re-opened under a new name.

Animal Justice is also calling on Country Music Television to cancel future airings of Billy Goes North, a highly-staged ‘reality’ TV show starring ‘exterminator’ Billy Bretherton.


Fast facts:

  • Ontario is the only province that does not license or regulate zoos. Other provinces typically require zoos be licensed or permitted for some or all aspects of their operations, and adhere to zoo-specific standards.
  • There are no legal rules or animal welfare standards for the use of animals in film and entertainment, such as TV and film productions.
  • A 2015 Insights West poll found that half of Canadians oppose keeping animals in zoos and aquariums.

A compilation of footage prepared by Animal Justice is available here.

Broadcast quality footage and images are available upon request.

Animal Justice is encouraging the public to ask the Ontario government to license and regulate zoos at the following advocacy page.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
[email protected]