Staff at a controversial rural Alberta zoo say they will fight in court to allow visitors to once again pet animals the province previously deemed too dangerous for public interaction.
It is unclear when a judicial review concerning GuZoo, which has operated for more than 20 years in central Alberta near Three Hills, will get underway but senior staff are already working to revamp their development plan, according to Bill Gustafson, son of the owner.
“There’s something to be said for people being allowed to touch the animals here,” he said. “One woman described what we have here as organic, it’s not like the other zoos.”
Gustafson said for 17 years GuZoo visitors were granted the opportunity to pet baby lions, tigers and bears.
However, documents obtained by the group Concerned Albertans for Animal Welfare and Public Security through a freedom of information request that was shared with Metro indicate provincial inspectors took issue with the level of animal interaction at the facility during a review in 2008.
Gustafson said soon after that GuZoo was ordered to only allow petting of domestic animals.
Critics have claimed zoo staff continue to allow visitors to get up close and personal with potentially dangerous animals — namely a full-grown lion.
Alberta Sustainable Resource Development spokesperson Dave Ealey said the restrictions remain in place for a reason.
“These zoo animals are not petting animals . . . they are all potentially dangerous,” he said.
- Other concerns raised in a 2008 review of GuZoo’s operations included procedures for off-premises display of animals and escape of animals from their enclosures, according to documents obtained by Metro
- GuZoo was issued subsequent permits after the concerns were raised; however, provincial spokesperson Dave Ealey couldn’t speak to whether the issues raised had been resolved, citing ongoing legal matters.