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Changes made at petting zoo following public complaints

Last Updated Mar 20, 2016 at 8:33 pm EST

A photo showing a camel in a tight pen, surrounded by his feces has prompted a petting zoo operating in Toronto to make some changes.

On Sunday, the owner of Tiger Paw responded to concerns that animals weren’t being taken care of at his petting zoo.

In a statement to CityNews, Tim Height said, “A camel doesn’t move around a lot, they like to lie down. To us it’s not an issue, but if we find out the public has an issue, we don’t mind changing it.”

Height said his company hasn’t received any complaints over the treatment of the animals, but following the CityNews story Saturday night, the zoo has already made some improvements to the camel’s pen.

“We’ve made the cage bigger, we increased it by 20 more feet on the side, as a result of the story,” Height said in a phone call. “But come to us with your concern, if it’s an issue we don’t mind to rectify it or explain why we need it the way it is.”

The photos of the camel and new footage of a cub shown pacing back and forth in his cage have started a conversation.

Are petting zoos a safe place for exotic animals, and does the province have enough regulations in place?

Julie Woodwer, a campaign manager with Zoocheck and a former SPCA Agent, said there’s a lack of enforcement when it comes to petting zoo owners.

“There are some regulations, the OSPCA is interpreting them in the most conservative possible way,” she said. “They’re not working for the animals and they’re not working for the public.”

Woodwer adds that anyone can own one of these businesses, as the provincial government currently has no legislation in place for the licensing of petting zoos.

“In other provinces like Alberta, you have to have a license,” she said. “And in order to get the license, you have to prove that you have sufficient facilities to both contain the animals safely and to meet the animal’s biological and behavioural needs.”

As to why animal businesses like these are able to operate in Toronto, Wooder says the city could be to blame.

“There’s a loophole to bring them into the city from outside for the purpose of education, but if you actually look at that facility, there’s virtually no education.”

Josh Matlow, Councillor for Ward 22, says the city and province need to implement stricter guidelines for businesses of this nature.

“We as a city need to look at how these animals are being treated, who is allowed to run these facilities, what criteria should we be setting to ensure that these animals, if they are here, are treated well.”

Woodher said Zoocheck is planning on reaching out to city leaders this upcoming week to push for stricter local and provincial guidelines.

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