Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Owner of roadside zoo fined for keeping game without a licence

The Globe and Mail - Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Tyson, the red kangaroo who lived a lonely existence at a roadside zoo before mysteriously disappearing last fall, is likely dead, animal-rights activists say, and a fine levied against the zoo's owner yesterday is not enough to remedy that.

Shirley McElroy, who operated the Lickety Split Ranch and Zoo in London, Ont., was fined $4,000 for having live game in captivity without a licence.

Ms. McElroy, 66, had refused to renew her Ministry of Natural Resources licence last year, court heard yesterday, but continued operating the zoo where Tyson lived in a cage the size of a garage, sheltered during the winter season by just a tin roof.

Ms. McElroy was not in court yesterday, but during her trial in December, she delivered a defiant speech about God and her own "dominion over the animals."

Calls to her London home were not returned yesterday.

Melissa Tkachyk, programs officer for the Toronto office of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, which spearheaded a long and ultimately successful campaign for Ontario's more than 40 privately run menageries to be scrutinized and policed, said this was the first time someone had failed to renew the licence to keep native wildlife in captivity.

"Unfortunately this fine had nothing to do with how the animals were housed at the zoo, and it has nothing to do with the fact that many cages were not safe for the public either," she said.

"I think it's quite telling that if she wasn't able to follow Ontario's minimum basic regulations to renew her licence, she's not likely to follow future regulations that the province is interested in bringing forward."

Tyson's plight last year caught the attention of the news media in Australia, where headlines rebuked Canada's "abysmal exotic animal laws" and called for reform. The Lickety Split Ranch and Zoo did not reopen last summer, after a blizzard of negative publicity.

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