By: Laura Goldman
November 3, 2017
For many years, advocates have voiced their concerns about the welfare of the captive animals at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
In November 2016, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) filed five animal cruelty charges against Marineland in regard to the theme park’s failure to provide prescribed standards of care for its bears, guinea hens and a peacock. Two months later, the OSPCA filed six additional animal cruelty charges related to the treatment of the park’s elk, red deer and fallow deer.
Marineland called the charges a “publicity campaign at the behest of a band of discredited activists with little relevant expertise or knowledge.”
All 11 animal cruelty charges were dismissed in August by the Crown in Provincial Offences Court, which said there was no “reasonable prospect” of conviction for eight of the charges and the other three were “not in the public’s interest” to pursue. But when the OSPCA conducted a surprise inspection of Marineland a week after the charges were dropped, it said it found 11 items requiring action regarding the park’s veterinarians, according to the Niagara Falls Review.
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Marineland issued a statement saying the OSPCA’s inspection found “no signs of abuse, distress, mistreatment or neglect” of its animals.
Two months after the surprise inspection, Marineland has filed a $21 million lawsuit against the OSPCA on the grounds of malicious prosecution, negligent investigation, injurious falsehood, and abuse of power and process. It alleges that the animal charity “maliciously targeted the theme park in order to curry favor with animal rights activists and boost fundraising,” CBC reports.
The OSPCA’s purpose in filing the animal cruelty charges “was not the enforcement of the law,” according to Marineland’s statement of claim. “It was motivated by a series of improper objectives, including a desire to accomplish its own policy agenda, to mollify the animal activist community, to please its donors, and to effectively destroy Marineland.”
In a statement, the OSPCA said it “vehemently denies all of the allegations and will defend itself.”
MARINELAND ‘NOTORIOUS’ FOR LAWSUITS AGAINST WHISTLEBLOWERS
Marineland is “notorious for suing anyone who opposes its cruel facility,” according to In Defense of Animals, which ranked the park at No. 2 on its list of the 10 Worst Tanks for Dolphins and Whales.
In the past five years alone, Marineland has filed 10 lawsuits, including the following:
In 2012, Marineland filed a $7 million libel lawsuit against the Toronto Star for its investigative report about the neglect and mistreatment of animals at the theme park.
In 2013, Marineland filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against former employee Phil Demers for “plotting to steal a walrus” after he spoke out against the park’s treatment of animals. It also sued animal activist Mike Garrett for $1.5 million after a series of protests.
In 2014, Marineland filed $1.2 million in defamation lawsuits against the Digital Journal and The Georgia Straight for publishing stories about the death of sea lions at the theme park and the health of Kiska, its last remaining orca.
Last year, Marineland sued marine biology student Zach Affolter for $1 million because he used images “illegally taken” inside the park in his documentary, “Black Water.” Marineland said the film would “secure income for animal activist organizations and, as such, is for a commercial purpose.” Marineland is never mentioned in the film, which Affolter had intended to post on YouTube for an educational purpose.
None of the lawsuits have been settled. Marineland is “leveraging the publicly funded court system in an attempt to silence any criticism they don’t like about their facility,” Garrett said in 2014.
And now Marineland wants a whopping $21 million from a charity that protects animals. Hopefully a judge will have the good sense to toss this frivolous lawsuit. There are probably 21 million better ways all that money can be used to help animals instead of putting it in Marineland’s pocket.
Photo credit: Robert Dewar