World Society for the Protection of Animals

World Society for the Protection of Animals

February 19, 2007 17:39 ET

97% of Ontarians Surveyed Want Zoos to Meet Professional Standards

MPP David Zimmer's Bill 154 aims to protect animals and people

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 19, 2007) - A province-wide poll released today indicates the vast majority of Ontarians believe zoo operators should be required to obtain a license and comply with professional animal welfare and public safety standards. The poll (conducted by Oraclepoll(1)), asked 1,000 Ontarians across the province a series of questions on issues relating to animal care in Ontario.

More zoos are known to exist in Ontario than anywhere else in Canada, and many of these are substandard roadside facilities. The poll was conducted in support of Willowdale MPP David Zimmer's Regulation of Zoos Act (Bill 154) which aims to address problems in these "roadside zoos" by setting standards of animal care and public safety for all Ontario zoos.

Dubbed the Zimmer Zoo Bill, it proposes a number of important standards that the current Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act overlooks. The Bill would ensure every animal has adequate food, water, space, shelter and stimulation to satisfy their physical and behavioural needs. It would also put in place safety standards for the benefit of zoo staff and volunteers, the visiting public and neighbouring communities.

In explaining his rationale for introducing the Zoo Bill, Willowdale MPP David Zimmer said, "The proper treatment of animals is a mark of a sophisticated, compassionate society. Ensuring that all zoos meet professional standards will help the animals, the visiting public, and those who live near zoos, as well as improve the bottom line for zoo owners across the province."

The poll asked 1,000 Ontarians of voting age a number of questions concerning the current regulations concerning animal treatment and public safety in zoo enclosures. Some of the findings included:

- 97% agree that zoos should be required by law to meet professional standards of animal welfare and public safety.

- 90% agree that residents keeping wildlife such as tigers and monkeys in a zoo should be licensed.

- 83% support having a provincial agency inspect zoos to ensure they are safe.

- 87% agree that zoo operators should have formal education and training in animal care.

- 89% agree zoo operators should be required to have a business plan and base level funding.

- 67% of females polled said they would have a favourable opinion of their local MPP if they voted to support Bill 154.

"The poll results don't surprise me," said Pat Tohill, Campaigns Manager with WSPA. "Ontarians have shown again and again that they care deeply about the well-being of animals, wild and domestic. What does surprise me is that we've been operating so long without any standards for captive wildlife whatsoever."

Mr. Tohill added, "perhaps most interesting is the percentage of people polled who said they would have a much more favourable opinion of their MPP if they voted to support Bill 154. Sixty-three percent of male and female respondents said they would favour an MPP who supported the Bill. It seems that MPPs stand to score some valuable political support if they vote 'yes' to Bill 154."

WSPA is hosting a series of public information sessions beginning this week aimed at explaining the benefits of the Zimmer Bill. The first was held last night in Chatham. Others are being held in Barrie on Tuesday night, London on Wednesday and Brantford on Thursday. For more information see www.ontariozoos.ca/townhalls.html or call 1-800-363-WSPA (9772)."

A petition in support of Bill 154 can be found on the website.

(1) The survey polled 1,000 Ontarians between January 20th and January 27th, 2007 and has a margin of error of 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

WSPA (pronounced wis-pa) works in cooperation with over 400 member organizations in more than 90 countries to promote animal welfare and conservation.

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