Lions And Zoos

Seeking Doctor Doolittle: A private zoo with 450 animals for sale

Lack of regulation raises questions about a buyer’s ability to operate a facility safely

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A recent real estate listing offering a small business near the shore of Lake Erie is attracting attention not for the 50-acre property as much as for the chattel concerns that will come with the sale.

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Owners of Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo in southwestern Ontario are selling the family property with its 450 animals. Goats, llamas, birds and a handful of big cats, among others, will be transferred with the sale, as will the cattle barns, reptile pavilion, gift shop, restaurant, playground, the paddling pool and the bungalow. It even features a miniature village of Stratford, England, the birthplace of Shakespeare.

Brothers Brian, Ken and Scott Daly, owners of the private zoo, told CBC News the family would only consider serious offers for the business they built over nearly four decades in Morpeth, Ont. ensure the well-being of their charges.

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But animal rights activists wonder how this can be done, given that Ontario has no laws governing the ownership or breeding of potentially dangerous animals – or training standards for their care.

“It leaves animals in a dangerous situation and it leaves people in a dangerous situation,” Julie Woodyer, director of campaigns for ZooCheck Canada, a charity dedicated to protecting wild animals, told CBC.

Brian Daly would not say how the family will determine if a buyer is qualified to handle animals, especially in a jurisdiction where there are no regulations on training or qualifications for public display of lions and tigers.

“We’ll find out when the time comes,” he told CBC. “If someone wants to buy a zoo, they should know what they are doing, right? I mean it’s just common sense.

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Not according to Woodyer. “Anyone can buy this. They don’t need to have any training or understanding of animal biology or how to handle them,” she said.

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Ontario has no provincial rules governing public safety and the keeping of dangerous animals. Each municipality is responsible for monitoring the welfare of these animals and the safety of the public. Chatham-Kent, where Greenview is located, passed a responsible animal ownership bylaw in 2015 but maintained Greenview’s existing exemption from its bylaws.

Don Shropshire, the municipality’s chief administrative officer, told CBC News on Monday that the exemption would be transferred to the new owners.

The zoo “has been operating successfully for many years. I am not aware of any safety or animal care concerns,” he said. “Hoping that whoever buys the company will continue this tradition.”

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“Hope”, however, is a loose requirement when it comes to housing bears, wolves, lions, tigers and the like.

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If the brothers can’t find a qualified buyer, they’ll likely keep the business going, Daly said. Although he called his career a “labor of love”, he said he was ready to retire after 38 years of working seven days a week. Both are important points for a potential buyer to keep in mind.

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Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo is listed with Cody Kraus of Century 21 Erie Shores Realty for $4.5 million.

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