Release of New Brunswick report on animal cruelty at zoo in limbo

Justice Deborah Hackett has reserved her decision on releasing a third-party report into allegations of animal cruelty at Saint John’s Cherry Brook Zoo.

In January, allegations that a “number” of guinea pigs died at the hands of a zookeeper began circulating, prompting an investigation by the New Brunswick SPCA.

Officers with the New Brunswick SPCA gathered information and evidence, with the organization ultimately recommending that charges be laid for inhumane euthanasia and causing unnecessary pain and suffering.

But in April a review by the Crown concluded that there would be no charges laid.

A subsequent investigation by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) found no evidence to support the accusations.

Now, Ken Hopkins, a member of the New Brunswick SPCA, is hoping that a judge will order the release of the N.B. SPCA report into the incident.

“Rather than the focus being on the complaint and what had taken place at the zoo, the focus kind of turned around on the zookeepers on them making the report and I don’t believe that’s too fair,” said Hopkins.

Hopkins had filed a request under the province’s freedom of information legislation but the SPCA did not respond, saying they did not believe they were a public body and did not fall under the bodies governed by the act.

Ken Hopkins with Mission Pawsible after court proceedings.

In court on Thursday, Hopkins argued that not releasing the report will create more victims.

“I would like to have some access to the file if not all of it, I really don’t want information that violates people’s privacy obviously or interferes with the operations of the N.B. SPCA but just the basic info of what took place at the Cherry Brook Zoo,” he said.

The New Brunswick SPCA has pushed back on the release of the report, arguing that they do not want the report released as they feel it will impact future investigations and expose sensitive third-party information.

The New Brunswick SPCA declined to comment outside court. Hopkins had support in court from an animal activist group.

“It’s taken him weeks and weeks to do what he’s done today and we’re so proud of him for standing up for the welfare of animals,” said Wendy Hallihan, a member of Mission Pawsible.

Ken Hopkins wants the Cherry Brook Zoo SPCA report released.

Both sides will now wait for Justice Hackett’s ruling.

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