Quebec zoo owner pleads guilty to animal welfare offenses

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MONTREAL — Following a 2019 investigation by the Montreal SPCA, the former owner of the St-Edouard Zoo pleaded guilty to four animal welfare offenses but avoided criminal charges.

Normand Trahan will have to pay nearly $7,000 in fines and is prohibited from owning animals for commercial purposes, a judge determined Wednesday morning at the Trois-Rivières courthouse.

“The result obtained in court today demonstrates how essential this work is,” said Élise Desaulniers, Executive Director of the Montreal SPCA.

More than 200 animals were seized from Trahan Zoo in 2019 – including lions, tigers, zebras, bears, wolves, kangaroos and primates – after the investigation revealed evidence of cruelty and animal neglect.

The largest seizure of zoo animals in Canadian history, the process took weeks.

According to court documents released in 2019, the animals were deprived of adequate food and water, placed in cramped and unsanitary enclosures, and did not receive proper veterinary care.

“The Montreal SPCA’s Investigations Division is pleased to have obtained an admission of guilt in this matter,” said Division Director Chantal Cayer.

The St-Édouard Zoo, which closed in June 2019, was sold earlier this year.

SICK ANIMALS HIDDEN FROM THE PUBLIC

The SPCA investigation began in August 2018, after zoo visitors complained about conditions at the facility.

Veterinarian Dr. Marion Desmarchelier served as an expert during the investigation, visiting the zoo in October 2018 to assess the animals’ welfare.

In court documents from 2019, she allegedly said that in her career she had “never seen anything approaching the conditions” of the St-Edouard Zoo.

Desmarchelier said many animals at the zoo were at short-term risk of starving or freezing to death, limiting themselves to eating foods that were unsuitable for them. [that is] heavily contaminated, often with their own excrement, frozen and sometimes toxic to them.

Although Trahan initially denied the allegations of abuse, he admitted to investigators that animals in hot climates were not provided with heated enclosures and that most of his animals did not receive veterinary care – in fact, he said sick animals were usually hidden from the public. eyes or sold to avoid backlash.

Trahan even admitted to shooting and killing both a lion and a tiger, and killing a bird by stepping on it.

As for the zoo residents who were rescued, Élise Desaulniers says they have been moved to new facilities across Canada and the United States where they “receive all the specialized care they need.”

With files from The Canadian Press.

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