Controversial private zoo in Alberta shuts down
A controversial private zoo in central Alberta is closing its doors and getting rid of its animals, because the owner says he can't afford the cost of fixing issues required for the renewal of an operating licence.
Lynn Gustafson, the owner of the Guzoo Animal Farm, made the decision on Thursday, just a day after the province gave the company a temporary 30-day operating permit.
Officials gave the animal park, which is located roughly two hours northeast of Calgary, the 30-day permit so it could address problems relating to animal care, as well as public and staff safety.
But after running the business for 25 years, Gustafson says he simply can't afford the money that would be required to keep the park open.
"When you get to my age, I'm not going to spend half a million dollars," Gustafson told CTV Edmonton.
Over the years, the Guzoo has been subjected to numerous animal neglect allegations and complaints. The 30-day permit was given to Gustafson after the zoo's one-year licence expired, and in light of a government inspection of the property last month.
"What the order was intended to do was to bring him into the zoo regulations that all operators have to follow in Alberta -- it's as simple as that," said Duncan MacDonnell, a public affairs officer at Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
Gustafson says that some of the main expenses included three kilometres of chain-link fencing, as well as well as a new bear pen.
According to the Alberta's government, conditions of the permit did not require Gustafson to get rid of any animals, but if deficiencies were not addressed a new operating licence would not be granted.
"Nobody said, 'You're going to have to get rid of your animals,'" said MacDonnell.
Over the years, the Guzoo has drawn the ire of animal rights activists, who have protested conditions at the park.
"I want the facility to be completely shut down and I don't want (Gustafson) to have any animals at all, whether they be livestock … (or) domestic," said Stephanie Belland, a spokeswoman for Voice for Animals Humane Society.
"I just don't think he has the capacity to care," she added.
In the meantime, Gustafson says he's working on finding new homes for his more exotic creatures, and plans to sell them to other zoos.
However, he hopes to keep many of the domestic animals, and perhaps one day open a petting zoo.
"It's going to be sad for me, but I think it will be more so for all the supporters we've had for years," Gustafson said.
Gustafson has until April 15 to formally notify the province that he's decommissioning the zoo, and until the end of June to get rid of all of the wild animals.
With reports from CTV Edmonton and CTV Calgary