|Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ont. (MATT DAY/QMI Agency)
NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. - The agencies that oversee the care of animals in captivity have given conflicting reviews to Marineland Canada after inspecting the park in August.
While a report issued Wednesday by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums cleared the amusement park of mistreating its marine mammals, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals updated the public on its investigation and gave a less positive outlook on the condition of animals, generally.
The two reports come 41 days after a joint, pre-announced inspection of Marineland on Aug. 23 by officials from CAZA, the OSPCA and the Niagara Falls Humane Society.
CAZA, which is funded by its membership of accredited animal parks, sent three inspectors to the park in August but focused only on marine mammals, which were the focus of an initial complaint by former trainer Phil Demers, who went public with allegations of poor conditions and animal mistreatment.
"At the time of the site inspection, the animals in question in the Marineland collection, including the marine mammals, were in overall good health and there was no evidence of animal abuse, that water quality in all the pools was very good, and it appeared that staffing levels were adequate," CAZA national director Bill Peters said in his agency's report.
But the OSPCA update paints a different picture of Marineland.
Brad Dewar, the OSPCA's investigation and communications officer, said in a statement inspections of both the marine and land animals resulted in "some areas of concern where certain deficiencies exist."
The report did not specify what the concers were. But Dewar said the OSPCA investigation is still ongoing and that additional experts are being brought in to look at the results of the inspections.
"At this point in the investigation, recommendations have been made to Marineland, and the Ontario SPCA will be following up to ensure that these areas of concern are being addressed," he said.
However, Dewar pointed out that any animals found to be under the care of a veterinarian are exempt from the OSPCA's investigation.
He couldn't say how many of the park's animals were exempt because they were deemed to be under the care of June Mergl, a vet on staff at the park.
"At this point, that is part of the finer details we can't comment on, but we will provide an update at an appropriate time," Dewar said on the OPSCA's behalf.
CAZA's Peters, meanwhile, called Marineland's veterinary program "comprehensive" but said there was room for the park to improve its pools' water-quality systems.
"In examining the logs, there were several times when levels exceeded industry standards, and while each incident was brought under control, the (CAZA) commission expects to see a solution that will maintain water quality in the longer term," the report said. "While the water-quality issues appeared in some instances to impact on the well-being of the animals in the pools in question, there was no evidence of animal abuse and the animals affected were under veterinary care and treatment."
He said the park has agreed to independent inspections of the water-quality systems, and CAZA will conduct unannounced visits every four to six weeks.
Dewar said the OSPCA also plans to conduct "several unannounced visits throughout the year to ensure animal care compliance."
"While the way these issues were raised through the media was very difficult and personally upsetting for many of us here, our primary concern continues to be providing a safe and healthy environment for our animals and a welcoming one for our guests," Marineland said in a statement Wednesday.
The park is scheduled to close for the season on Sunday.