The popular Zoo St-Édouard in Quebec is at the centre of a controversial case after reports circulated that the zoo's owner, Normand Trahan, has been arrested by the Montreal SPCA for animal cruelty and neglect. The Zoo St-Édouard is located in the municipality of St-Edouard de Maskinongé in the Mauricie, about 60 kilometres west of Trois-Rivières. The zoo has been open to the public for 30 years.
Home to monkeys, lions, and tigers, among other exotic animals, the zoo is a frequently-visited attraction in Quebec, according to the zoo's website.
The SPCA stated that it will take numerous weeks to relocate the animals - with the assistance of the Humane Society International - due to the "complexity of the operation". The zoo has previously received numerous warnings and accusations from the provincial government.
The arrest warrant of Trahan alleges that he "willfully caused the animals and birds in captivity pain, suffering and unnecessary injury" and "willfully neglected or omitted to provide food, water, shelter and sufficient care” to the animals in his charge."
Trahan could face a maximum sentence of two to five years behind bars if convicted. He is expected to appear in court this afternoon. The SPCA announced that this case will likely set a precedent for future animal cruelty and neglect cases.
The Montreal SPCA conducted a criminal investigation and said in a statement that "This is the first time in Quebec that an animal cruelty lawsuit has led to a criminal procession, reserved for the most serious offenses, thereby allowing much more severe penalties. "
According to the Humane Society International of Canada, this could be the largest case of animal cruelty in Canadian history.
During a press conference this afternoon, Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of HSI / Canada, said, "We are pleased to be actively contributing to keeping these animals safe with the incredible support of the Eric S. Margolis Family Foundation. It was disturbing to see this establishment."
"Some animals were confined in dark, dilapidated enclosures. Others lived in completely inadequate facilities with minimal protection of weather conditions. Some animals did not even seem to have access to water and adequate food and appeared to have different health problems."
"Some animals showed signs of significant psychological distress, such as steadily and compulsively pacing. Dead or sick animals have been seized or evacuated from this property in recent months. This case demonstrates the importance of having strong animal welfare provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada, especially when they apply to cases of gross negligence."
Eric Margolis, the founder of the Eric S. Margolis Family Foundation, which funded the animal seizure, said, "Our foundation supports organizations that provide care for abused, neglected and abandoned animals, both domestic and wild. We will always support the work of organizations like HSI / Canada and Friends of HSI, who advocate for those who cannot do it themselves. "