Thursday, February 22, 2007

Concerns continue to surround proposed animal sanctuary

The Thorold News - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

By Allison Smith - Opinion

The Exotic Animal Rescue Society’s (TEARS) plan to house sick and injured exotic animals in what they deem to be a ‘sanctuary’ continues to stir hot debate among supporters and opponents.

Detractors of the proposal say the group’s idea sounds more like a roadside zoo that would put the health of sick and injured animals jeopardy, with the intention to disguise exploitation as public education.

After interviewing the group, we don’t believe they would intentionally hurt the animals, but the concept of the animal sanctuary is poorly conceived, and will be harmful to any species that reside there.

There were at least as many opponents as supporters in attendance at city council’s public meeting February 6. What disturbed us was the notably small number of supporters who took the time to write a letter in comparison to the many opponents who did. TEARS said they had 1200 signatures for council’s review in support of their mission. But where is the justification for their opinions? Supporters could have lent the project more credibility if they had put their thoughts on paper instead of letting the group pushing the sanctuary form a statement for them. The petition format provides only one standard opinion for the thousands of people behind those names. Seeing the (unbiased) thought process and reasoning behind these opinions would make TEARS’ argument more viable.

The proposal was ill-fated from the start partly because of public perception and opinion. Most people have a very narrow definition of ‘sanctuary’ because the only one that is widely known is the Humane Society, an organization that takes in unwanted, ill or injured animals and gives them a home until they can be adopted. They may be open to the public and put animals on display for that purpose, but they don’t charge a fee to get in. As soon as that line is crossed, to most that organization becomes a private business and should present itself as such. We resent the group misleading us and labeling their venture a ‘sanctuary’ when to most of us, it is a zoo. Why not just call it that from the start and avoid even the appearance of impropriety?

While intending to educate the public may be an admirable objective, TEARS first goal should be to raise the quality of life for the sick and injured animals they bring in. If people see only sick and injured species when they visit the facility, how will they learn how animals are expected to act within their normal habitat in the wild? Also, the group stated they wanted to put the animals on television documentaries and that they could only work up to four hours a day. This may be true for healthy species, but what about those that are severely malnourished or abandoned that arrive at the facility needing to be cared for without the condition that they must earn the attention they so desperately need?

Many valid concerns remain to be addressed before the proposal will be considered. We urge city council and the public to continue seeking answers to the questions surrounding this contentious issue.

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