Skip to content
Follow us:
Fact check | About Guzoo | Public Health | Guzoo photos | Future of the animals | GUZOOleaks!

Quick answers to common questions about the Shut Down Guzoo campaign and our own organization, Concerned Albertans for Animal Welfare and Public Safety (CAAWPS).

The Animals | CAZA | Guzoo Q & A | Guzoo (pre-closing) | Questions about CCAAWPS |
The Animals
Questions related to the future of Guzoo's animals.
Questions about CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums), who were contracted by Alberta SRD to lead an investigation that led to the Guzoo's closure on June 1, 2011.
Guzoo Q & A
Questions and answers still relevant since Alberta SRD chose not to renew Guzoo's operating license on June 1, 2011.
Guzoo (pre-closing)
Questions and answers relevant before Guzoo's June 1, 2011 closing.
Questions about CCAAWPS
Responding to questions (and sometimes, accusations!) about CAAWPS.
The Animals

Questions related to the future of Guzoo's animals.

The summary of the final report from the CAZA-led investigation reads:

GuZoo has domestic animals in direct contact with controlled (wildlife and exotic) animals. As a result, none of the animals can simply be released or sold.

Because of co-mingling concerns cited in the report summary, moving Guzoo's animals off of the property sans testing is far too great of a risk for disease and parasite transfer. Exotic diseases and parasites could devastate our livestock and agricultural industries, affect our household pets, and even human health. Although the chances of this occurring are low, the possible consequences are far too great to take any chances.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Multiple statements by government officials and departments have indicated nothing but the desire to place the animals in appropriate facilities. They wish to work with Guzoo to find placements and go through the proper procedures to safely move each animal from the premises while controlling the potential spread of disease and parasites. Although they have made statements regarding animals not being able to be sold or given away through traditional means, nowhere have they stated that the alternative to this is to be killed, merely that they must follow certain guidelines for the animals to be moved.

As for the cervids (antlered animals), these animals merely have to go through a testing and quarantine period and be recorded as individual animals, just like any elk or deer on Albertan farms have to be prior to moving. If Guzoo is denying the quarantine and testing, these animals will indeed have to be euthanized. But that is through no fault of their own, the governments, or ours. Euthanization of any of Guzoo's animals will solely be the fault of the Guzoo owners and their unwillingness to cooperate with modern animal management methods.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

As for older Guzoo animals like Wallace the lion, we have yet to hear from any experts or registered veterinarians that he would have to be euthanized instead of moved. Alberta SRD, in our conversations with them, steadfastly denies having singled out any animals for unavoidable euthanasia. It appears to us that the Guzoo owners are using Wallace's age as an excuse or rationale to keep the Guzoo open, while in the same breath saying that he is healthy.

Many lions and other big cats in terrible conditions have been moved from poor situations to more appropriate facilities without a problem. These moves are undertaken by experts and attended by veterinarians, all of which could be paid for by Zoocheck and/or Bob Barker.

One of the sanctuaries capable of taking Wallace, PAWS, has great experience in transporting elderly cats. They recently undertook the rescue of over a dozen cats, including a sickly 16-year-old lion, transporting them by plane from Bolivia to the United States. All of the lions did extremely well in transport and are thriving in their new home, despite their age.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. The Ministry of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development is working with Lynn Gustafson to find homes for the animals. The only person who has mentioned the animals being killed is Lynn Gustafson himself. This Calgary Herald article states he is thinking about sending each one of his species of animals to a taxidermist.

The SRD has recently posted its own statement and FAQ online and some questions concern the future of the animals. Nowhere does it state that they are going to be putting down ANY animals. Lynn Gustafson has complete control to sell his collection of exotic animals, and the Alberta Government is attempting to help with the decomissioning of Guzoo.

In this June 10, 2011 article in Metro News, Dave Ealey of Alberta SRD is quoted accordingly:

Dave Ealey of Alberta’s Sustainable Resource Development said the animals not covered by the decommission permit are considered pets or farm animals, and owner Lynn Gustafson’s property.

But talk of putting down or stuffing animals is not part of the government’s plan, he said.

“The requirements under the decommissioning permit are no animals can come or leave without notifying our staff,” said Ealey. “That includes deaths of animals.”



↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. Organizations and individuals have long stepped up to the plate to offer free help to the Guzoo owners re-home their animals, particularly ZooCheck Canada, who have re-confirmed the offer in this letter to pay for the complete costs of relocation and transportation to accredited sanctuaries.

Guzoo friends and family sometimes try to say that ZooCheck "proved" the offer isn't real by their "refusal" to take a snow macaque. Prior to the Guzoo's closing, ZooCheck negotiated with Guzoo owner Lynn Gustafson to take a snow macaque (Bugaboo, who has developed 'stereotypic' behaviours). The side of the deal that ZooCheck has always insisted upon, however, that Guzoo not simply replace the monkey with another one, since that would simply be enabling the Guzoo. It is Guzoo that refused, and so the deal was off.

Now that Guzoo is closing, for the animals' safety, the owners really need to spend their time seriously considering offers like ZooCheck's instead of playing games like changing their status to a religious society in an attempt to keep the SPCA, Fish and Wildlife, and police out.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. Guzoo friends and family sometimes cite a newspaper article dating from September 2010, in which R.A.S.T.A. spoke of financial hardships, to support the Guzoo's case that "the animals have nowhere else to go." While this Alberta-based all-animal sanctuary likely can't take all of Guzoo's animals, director Lucie Cerny has recently confirmed:

The R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary is in a better financial position than it was back in September of 2010. We have the space and resources to provide for more animals and are hoping to help with the re-homing of as many GuZoo animals as possible that are in need of placement; whether that be temporary holding for other reputable sanctuaries as well as providing permanent refuge at the R.A.S.T.A. Sanctuary.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Most of Guzoo's animals will likely be leaving Alberta. Most provinces don't require a license to keep these species. Only if they are going to stay in Alberta or going to British Columbia will they need to be licensed. He could even sell or give many of them away as pets, since most provinces have no standards or permit system.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

During the decommission period, the Guzoo has complained that the government is 'blocking' the sale or transfer of animals from Guzoo to unspecified Ontario zoos, while the government has stepped into check for disease. Somehow, Guzoo has spun this into a story of the big, bad old government putting animals at risk (or interfering with the right of businesspeople to do whatever they want with animals), while they, the truly caring farm-zoo operators, were trying to rehome them. 

It's exactly the opposite. We at CAAWPS applaud the government's move for two reasons. First, many of us suspect Guzoo of attempting to sell their animals to another roadside zoo or zoos, which are numerous in Ontario (though we cannot prove it) - the Gustafsons stubbornly insist that they will only sell their animals, not give them away. Secondly, we think checking Albertan animals for disease before export is a really good idea that should be common sense (think of the headaches and ways that Alberta has suffered economically when diseased animals have been found to have been exported). Stepping in for this last reason is especially important given Guzoo's disinterest in "paperwork" over the years. 

The animals who were dropped off and accepted at Guzoo over the years with no paperwork is further evidence of non-compliance of zoo standards. It is crucial to remember that in a contemporary society where there are centres for disease control, etc., paperwork is animals' lifeline. Animals brought to rescues must be quarantined, vet checked, and have documented records! Authentic animal rescues do not take in animals, and introduce them into their population without quarantine and vet checks. When pet rescues take in dogs and cats they are vet-checked, vaccinated and quarantined from the other animals to ensure the rest of the animals are not at risk of exposure.

Guzoo should have been doing all of this. These demands of zoos have been written into Alberta Zoo Standards since 2005. The Government should have been making sure they were doing this long ago. Now, there's a mess to clean up. Guzoo is shut down, and at least the government is taking the time to make sure the animals are tested and healthy before they risk sending them, contaminated, to other facilities. The Alberta government could have just gone in and culled the entire collection of animals (which no one wants), so they're giving themselves and Guzoo time to sort this out.

As an addendum, our best guess is that this animal testing is happening at taxpayers' expense (please write and correct us if you know this not to be the case). Guzoo frequently likes to brag that as a private zoo, no costs are borne by the taxpayer for its operation. But all zoos have some measure of public costs. We could ease burdens like this in the future by properly setting reasonable expectations upon owners for documentation and transparency around exotic and non-exotic animals.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Questions about CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums), who were contracted by Alberta SRD to lead an investigation that led to the Guzoo's closure on June 1, 2011.

The full CAZA report — very ridiculously — has only been seen by the Alberta SRD, and certain friends and family of the Guzoo. The biggest mistake in this entire process, we feel, is that only a vague summary of the final report has been released to Albertans. (Who has ever heard the results of an investigation involving a massive public controversy only issued to the investigated party?) 

To date, the Guzoo owners have refused to release the report to the public. We are confident that this is because the report is thoroughly devastating to them. At very least, it would demonstrate that they are negligent managers of a zoo with systemic problems in all categories. However, because the report is only in the hands of the Guzoo owners and their allies, this has allowed them to tell us "what the report says." 

We are criticial of this situation for a number of reasons. We think all Albertans are entitled to view the report, right now. The Guzoo owners would be free to put out a media release with lengthy annotations and criticisms, if they desired. (We would actually be interested in knowing specifics where the Guzoo is critical of the report.)

We are also critical of the fact that the reason that the report cannot be publicly released. According to our conversations with Alberta SRD, this is because it contains "confidential business information." Neither public or private zoo owners and operators should not be able to hide behind this confidentiality, especially when the "confidential business information" is probably something that is already well-known, which is that Guzoo is broke.   

As well, we think that the report's confidentiality is dangerously eroding the legitimacy of the government's authority to police animal welfare (probably a situation that the Guzoo owners favour). The hidden report has already led to the fomenting of conspiracy theories about the investigation. 

Last but not least, we think that the report has a lot of implications for the direction of animal welfare legislation in Alberta and Canada. We as citizens are all entitled to a democratic, rational, fact-based discussion on animal welfare. For that reason, the report needs to be out now, and until then, all statements by the owners of "what the report says" should be responded to with requests to see the full report.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Guzoo friends and family often say that the CAZA-led investigation vindicates the Guzoo because of this line in the summary of the final report:

The review showed that the animals are in good condition and most are in suitable social groups. The operator did care for the animals.

We think that Guzoo's defenders hang way too much good news on this statement. In context, "good condition" means that they are not in "poor condition," meaning that they would have to be seized immediately. This really says nothing about the animals' condition over time.

CAAWPS has confirmed with Alberta SRD that the CAZA investigation was only a visual check. Interestingly, for Guzoo's defenders, a visual check is supposedly not good enough when it leads to criticism from photographs, or vets who assess the Guzoo animals visually.  

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

We don't even know what this means. Given that the Guzoo inspection team found the Guzoo wanting in "108 elements" from "all categories" of Alberta Zoo Standards, we highly doubt that this is the case. Some friends and family of the Guzoo are citing this three points figure and, to date, there has been no clear explanation of where this figure comes from.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. CAZA was contracted by Alberta Sustainable Resources and development to review Guzoo according to Alberta Zoo Standards, not CAZA standards. Many people are not aware, though, that CAZA standards are weaker than Alberta Zoo Standards, not stronger. If CAZA made mistakes, it would've been in the direction of being too lenient, not too tough.

Sometimes, when friends and family of Guzoo assert "bias" on CAZA's part, they are talking about an alleged conflict of interest, double standard, or advancing a conspiracy theory that CAZA want to shut down all non-accredited zoos. We deal with those questions at those links, this answer is about bias.

First, it seems likely to us that CAZA, involved in a contentious and controversial debate over the Guzoo, would likely already be thinking that they could be charged with bias, because Guzoo has no accreditation at all. If anything, this another reason why CAZA's evaluation of Guzoo would be too lenient— erring on the side of caution.

Furthermore, every possible investigating party might have "bias" about the Guzoo. To date, the Guzoo have not offered up a realistic alternative to CAZA as the party who investigated them. Given the long list of outfits who Guzoo claim to have a "vendetta" against them, including us, the SPCA, HSUS, ZooCheck, we suspect that complaining about "bias" is another way that the owners are throwing a roadblock in the way of closing the Guzoo, perhaps as a first step in seeking a judiciai review of Guzoo's closure.

When friends and family of Guzoo assert "bias" about CAZA as a way of discrediting them, it also denies expertise on the part of CAZA. It views CAZA members as indoctrinated, rather than educated. It doesn't give them the credit of being able to comprehend different zoo standards, and denies the possibility that individual CAZA investigators might be even critical of their own organization's standards. We see no reason why CAZA investigators couldn't leave their own standards at the Guzoo gates and objectively evaluate the Guzoo against Alberta Zoo Standards.

Read more about this question »

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. The Guzoo's third party inspection was a contract that the Alberta Government entered into with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) to grade the Guzoo with regards to Alberta Zoo Standards only, not CAZA standards.

Since Guzoo is non-accredited and does not pay fees into CAZA, CAZA makes no money from Guzoo whether it is open or closed. Zoos and aquariums also cannot just give money to CAZA and be in CAZA - they have to meet relatively rigorous standards of accreditation.

In doing their investigative report, CAZA were obviously paid the same whether they gave Guzoo positive or negative marks. Since even the Guzoo, "Canada's largest roadside zoo," does not get corporate grants, CAZA-affiliated zoos and aquariums are not even competing with Guzoo for significant grant or large donor money.

Finally, representing the largest 25 zoo destinations in Canada, it is not really likely that it would be worth CAZA's time and trouble to bother with closing non-accredited zoos. Closing relatively small, remote zoos would not "bump up" customer traffic significantly at CAZA zoos. As is well known, Guzoo itself did not have the traffic to ever cover the costs for staff (it relied on volunteers to do core infrastructure work). Zoos are regional, and not really in competition - the Edmonton Valley Zoo does not compete with the Calgary Zoo. In fact, most accredited zoos co-operate with each other in regards to the loaning of animals for display and breeding purposes.

The closure of Guzoo also will not increase visitor numbers at the Edmonton Valley Zoo or the Calgary Zoo, as Guzoo was a zoo people went to where they could handle baby wolves, lions, tigers, to name a few. No CAZA zoo in Alberta allows this practice with exotic animals and visitors. (For more information on Guzoo's "theories" regarding breeding, taking baby animals from their mother before their eyes even open, disease management, please visit the Guzoo's own website and blog which thoroughly explain the way they say they run the Guzoo.)

Finally, Guzoo's supporters and allies who cry "financial conflict of interest" never seem to consider the opposite possibility, that CAZA might have had something to gain from Guzoo remaining open, including financial interests! After all, Guzoo might one day pursue CAZA accreditation and pay membership fees. Given that Guzoo once misrepresented itself as affiliated with CAZA, this suggests that Guzoo would actually find CAZA accreditation valuable, as there are benefits to being a member.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Many friends and family of the Guzoo assert that CAZA has a "double standard," as one of many unfounded allegations of bias on CAZA's part, in the hopes of dismissing the independent CAZA-led investigation (contracted by Alberta SRD) that shut down Guzoo.

CAZA was the best choice available to the government as Guzoo's investigator because it does not have a conflict of interest with Guzoo (and if it did, it would likely favour the Guzoo). Hypothetically, if Guzoo were CAZA-affiliated, sending in CAZA investigators would be a problem, since they might be tempted to go easier on their own affiliates. But in this were the case, the government would certainly not have selected CAZA. 

The "double standard" charge is also a weak excuse for Guzoo's continued existence for several reasons. Even if it was 100% true, think about this for a second: it is the same as arguing that Guzoo should have its license re-instated, because other places are just as terrible.

The "CAZA has a double standard" charge often involves picking out an aspect of some other zoo, like animal deaths that have occurred at the Calgary Zoo, to say "why pick on us?"  But no Canadian zoos in Guzoo's class are as bad as the Guzoo on so many levels (including animal deaths). This is why the Guzoo was even in the position of being closed. Other zoos in Alberta meet Alberta Zoo Standards, or can be induced through public attention to redress wrongs (even if they have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into making improvements). 

It again needs to be said that Guzoo have never even proposed a set of evaluators who would be more appropriate. When government has to rely on a third party, it needs to find a body of adjudicators who are neutral for that situation. It is impossible to find a single evaluating body who would never have a conflict of interest in 100% of all situations.

Read more about this question »

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) was the Alberta government's independent third party contracted to review the Guzoo according to Alberta Zoo Standards (not CAZA standards). Their indepedent review was largely responsible for having Guzoo closed.

Obviously, many Guzoo supporters are unhappy with the report, and some have circulated unfounded conspiracy theories about CAZA. A popular one is that CAZA wish to shut down all non-accredited zoos in Canada. Others involve CAZA being too biased to do a review because they are for some reason too fixated on their own standards, that CAZA have a double standard, or that CAZA have a conflict of interest with non-accredited zoos. Sometimes, these allegations verge on accusations of CAZA blackmailing Guzoo ("become accredited or else we'll give you a bad review").

We're not calling Guzoo's allegations of a desire on CAZA's part to close all non-accredited zoos a "conspiracy theory" to make fun of Guzoo or its supporters. These often-repeated allegations actually meet some definitions of a conspiracy theory, in which speculation is confused with fact and "evidence to the contrary" is rarely considered. The allegations have a mythical quality sustained by the fact that, because they rely on speculation about the inner motivations of everyone involved, we can never fully disprove them.

No evidence of conspiracy

First, neither CAZA's latest annual report nor future plans show evidence of a master plan to make all zoos CAZA-accredited. CAZA is a "non-profit organization established to promote the welfare of animals and encourage the advancement of education, conservation and science." The accreditation also what it appears to be on the surface: a guarantee of standards for animals housed in zoos so that animals' needs are met, and a "draw" for the modern zoo-going public, who is much more concerned with animal welfare than they were in the past. In this way, CAZA accreditation works like "Fair Trade" accreditation on coffee and other products.

No financial conflict of interest or evidence of bias

Since Guzoo is non-accredited and does not pay fees into CAZA, CAZA makes no money from Guzoo whether it is open or closed. Zoos and aquariums also cannot just give money to CAZA and be in CAZA - they have to meet relatively rigorous standards of accreditation. You can read more about what we think about allegations of conflict of interest, double standard or bias on the part of Guzoo.

CAZA also does not have competitors in accreditation where it would be trying to claim "turf" over a rival organization that it might lose members to. So the conspiracy lacks a motive.

No consideration of possibilities to the contrary

It seems more likely to us, if anything, that CAZA might have an interest in the Guzoo remaining open. After all, perhaps one day, Guzoo might have seriously pursued CAZA accreditation and paid members' fees. Guzoo have also misrepresented their relationship to CAZA in the past, suggesting that the Guzoo would find CAZA accrediation valuable.

Secondly, simply because CAZA represent zoos and aquariums, it also seems likely that they would be concerned with "optics" and if anything, would go easier on the Guzoo. In spite of the fact that all these reasons why their member zoos don't "compete" with Guzoo, people will jump to conclusions because they are in the same industry.

Now, all of these points are refutable if there is evidence to the contrary. But to date, Guzoo supporters have offered no credible evidence or proof that CAZA inspectors are really some kind of "zoo mafia" on a mission to close down non-accredited zoos.

Over weeks of complaining about CAZA's investigation, the conspiracies strike us as powerful "wishful thinking" — that if CAZA could somehow be discredited, then the report would go away. They also strike us as resentment, that CAZA just arbitarily impose standards which are too high for a place like Guzoo to ever make. This seems revealed to us when supporters say things like CAZA imposes "whatever they think standards should be." While CAZA's standards are open for critique, we can't just simply deny their CAZA's expertise and training by saying that they are arbitrary standards.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A
Guzoo Q & A

Questions and answers still relevant since Alberta SRD chose not to renew Guzoo's operating license on June 1, 2011.

CAAWPS is committed to helping Guzoo's management with the relocation of the animals at Guzoo in the event of the zoo's closure. Guzoo management has expressed the need to euthanize the animals if the zoo closes and this is simply not the case. The vast majority, if not ALL of the animals, could be placed in new homes. But it will be up to management whether or not they will accept this help. Zoocheck Canada has generously offered to fund all aspects of the relocation of the animals at Guzoo Animal Farm to more appropriate facilities. Read more on this page.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Guzoo’s problems are/were not just cosmetic. Friends and family of the Guzoo like to say that photo-reportage just took place in spring when it was muddy. But Guzoo's Alberta Zoo Standards violations are an all-season issue. 

From the province's judgement:

Gaps were found in the areas of staff training, animal care, record-keeping, animal transportation and containment, public and staff safety, and conservation and education... The greatest concern was that domestic (pets/livestock) and controlled (wildlife/exotic) animals often intermingle and may spread disease and parasites that could affect public and animal safety.

As you can see from many of the photos on our site, dogs were roaming throughout the zoo continually. This isn’t a ‘cosmetic’ issue but it is a disease control one, as well as a psychological and stress-related issue for the caged animals. Painting a shed obviously in no way repairs the violation. 

If the zoo had just had mud and mess due to spring, visitors and witnesses would likely accept that. But animals require clean water to drink, fresh wholesome food, and enclosures that allow the various species more scope for their natures. They need grass to lie on, trees to shelter in away from the public, clean decent sleeping accommodations and a whole host of other items to meet their needs. For some, that also means enough space to run and things to do to combat boredom. The 'it’s bad because it’s spring and spring is messy' excuse is a defensive reply which has shown to us that the Guzoo, and even some of its volunteers we have spoken with, do not understand the gravity of the problems at Guzoo.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Again, from the province's judgement:

Gaps were found in the areas of staff training, animal care, record-keeping, animal transportation and containment, public and staff safety, and conservation and education... The greatest concern was that domestic (pets/livestock) and controlled (wildlife/exotic) animals often intermingle and may spread disease and parasites that could affect public and animal safety.

The problem with Guzoo supporters making the claim that it's "just paperwork" is that neither the government, nor the Guzoo owners who are in possession of the goverment report, will release the final investigative report, so that anyone can validate their claims.

Given the differences between the Guzoo owner and the government, and the Guzoo's history of 'minimizing' and rationalizing serious issues with their operations, we don't see any reasons to take the Guzoo owner's spin on the report at face value. What we see as much more likely is that documentation of animals was given some emphasis as a serious problem among many other serious problems at Guzoo. The Guzoo has been infamous for a lack of transparency, which supporters often try to meet by saying "Just ask Lynn if you have any questions!" But record-keeping is really crucial for zoos.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. In spite of this amusing 'latest twist' from Guzoo, it is quite difficult to obtain a religious exemption to law in Canada, as attempts to do this with marijuana use or refusal to perform same-sex marriages demonstrate. It also is dependent on the length of time a religion has been established and recognized (for better or worse). This move on the part of Guzoo strikes us as desperate or as taken under very, very bad advice.

Fish and Wildlife, SPCA, the RCMP and others the owners have said are not welcome on the Guzoo property, in fact, by law, are allowed on the Guzoo property under the same conditions they always have been.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. Some background needs to be recounted here. In March 2011, independent artist-photographer Nic Burgess, unaffiliated with any of us personally, took an enormous quantity of photos during a visit to Guzoo. Horrified by what he saw, he posted his photos online. This re-ignited the Guzoo controversy and put it into a context of social media. However, we all should be aware that many other visitors have taken photos over the years and photographed conditions that are basically the same.

The Guzoo owner himself said that Burgess' photos were an accurate representation of Guzoo. Nonetheless, great attention by some Guzoo supporters was showered on the fact that Burgess bills himself as a 'photo manipulation artist.' Supposedly, what Burgess calls himself or what his day job is "proves" the photos aren't real.

This myth of 'altered photographs' still persists among some supporters, who email us and say "did you know his photos are fakes" or "did you know Burgess is a photo-manipulation artist." It never seems to occur to many people that a digital artist can also just shoot and publish regular, unmanipulated photographs.

We can vouch for the fact that it would have been very difficult from the time of the photos being taken to posting them online to manipulate them realistically and undetectably. Two of us in CAAWPS work in Photoshop (a computer program) as part of our day jobs and can vouch that this would be very tricky for so many photos.

Regardless, nobody is relying solely on Burgess' photos to "prove" the Guzoo neglects animals. The story of the Guzoo's conditions are proven by a combination of other people's photos, accounts of their visits, reports, and anecdotes over many visits, not just one visit.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

While some abstract "right" to an appeal may exist, it is unlikely the Guzoo would win an appeal in any case, given the years of documentation of problems with Guzoo.

But as stated by SRD Minister Mel Knight, there is no appeal of Guzoo's closure. To those hearing about the Guzoo issue for the first time, the government's decision may seem heavy-handed, but for those that have been following the Guzoo debacle for many years, this decision is long overdue.

The right to appeal would only make sense if the Alberta government had truly just woken up one day, and decided to be mean to a roadside zoo owner. But that is not what happened. Guzoo failed in all 108 categories of zoo operations during a lengthy investigation, and the government has stated that it would NOT be possible, given the Guzoo's finances and situation, for it to improve sufficiently to regain its license.

Allowing Guzoo to appeal this decision when they have had ample warning over the past 20 years would only extend the time that the animals at Guzoo have to sit and wait to see better days.

To those who put "a man and his dream" above the thriving of the animals at Guzoo, the answer to "does Guzoo deserve an appeal?" seems like it should be a resounding "yes!" But animals are not used cars or lawnmowers— they are sentient, and can feel and suffer. When it comes to institutions like zoos, we must put animals' vital interests first. Modern zoos recognize this basic moral principle.

If you are interested, read our full editorial about Guzoo's so-called "right" to an appeal here.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

The reason the Guzoo owners find themselves running out of time is because they are attempting to subvert the decommission process. They are the ones throwing roadblocks into the process of getting the animals re-homed, such as by starting a church, locking out F&W / SPCA staff, investigating an appeal (which they will certainly lose), and coordinating semi-committed volunteers for the planned imaginary re-opening.

Comments to the media indicate that the Guzoo owner, Lynn Gustafson, is not understanding the gravity of a decommission. A decommission is the worst possible result of the revoking of a zoo license. A decommission, by design, is not an extension to a zoo permit. It says, "you are over, you are closed, and this time is used for you to go to absolute zero." It is not free time to plan your next business venture. It's designed to put time and economic pressures on a business owner so that you actually close as planned. As usual, the fault lies with Gustafson and his failure to take responsibility and blame everyone but himself for his woes.

Even as a business case, Guzoo is also just a failed business. The Guzoo has clearly never generated enough revenue to hire staff or look after animals properly. Volunteers have had to do core infrastructure that staff should be doing. This is why the Guzoo is falling apart, and having animal welfare-related issues, leading to a yearly cycle of complaints, negative attention, and actual non-compliance with Zoo Standards. Zoo Standards protect both the animals and the public who goes to visit them.

The reason the Guzoo has also fallen apart is just because it's not even attractive as a business idea. The Guzoo has always been driven by flaky ideas: that you learn about animals from touching them (false), or that it's "natural" for wild animals to gnaw on frozen carcasses in the winter while they are in cages (also false, it's something they'll do out of desperation). The Guzoo also adheres to a highly controversial policy of over-domesticating lions and other wildlife by separating them from their mothers so they become over-acclimatized to humans. This isn't to say everyone hates Guzoo (some obviously love it), but if you add all these factors together, you have an unpopular zoo that can't afford to keep its doors open, keep the public safe (there are numerous incident reports at Guzoo), and look after animals there.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Guzoo Animal Farm, for almost two decades, has been received numerous complaints (both minor and serious) and has been convicted of several animal welfare-related offenses. There have been many, many "chances to improve." For many years, violations of standards were documented on many visits. You can read a partial list of issues that continuously arose (and repeated failure to improve) here.

Read more about this question »

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

If animal welfare law should actually place the well-being of animals first, why does it make sense to make a special set of "rules for a smaller private facility?" Animal welfare law and zoo standards should be based on minimal capacity to care for animals, because that is what animals need, not because their owners can't afford amenities.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Many people involved with the Guzoo defend it and other roadside zoos by saying that seeing and touching the animals is an educational experience and that they are a vital part of establishing a persons respect and appreciation for animals. We would beg to differ.

Many zoos, especially roadside zoos, tend to mislead people more so then they do educate. They do not allow the animals the opportunity to act as is natural to them and do not replicate their natural habitat in any way. The only thing you could possibly learn is what they feel like, smell like, and look like. And really, is caging them, denying them what is natural, really justifiable, just so you can smell and touch them? You can see them just as clearly on TV or in a book.

What do you learn about them as a wild animal? How do they survive in the wild? Where do they live? What do they do? What sort of social groupings do they live in? What do they eat? How do they communicate? How much do they travel?

Do lions really live with dogs? Can bears really play on jungle gyms? Do monkeys really live alone? Is bread basically the staple of every species? Guzoo teaches us so much! (<-- sarcasm.)

Read more about this question »

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Just because Guzoo can achieve reproduction between two endangered animals does not mean that they are contributing to conservation efforts. It is not animals inability to reproduce that endangers them in the wild, it is the destruction of habitat, food supply, poaching, etc.

Facilities that breed endangered species are only contributing to the captive population, not assisting in the survival of the wild population, unless they are active participants in conservation efforts outside the zoo.

Most animals involved in conservation efforts are carefully chosen for purity and are registered in the Species Survival Plan. The facilities that breed them put money towards habitat restoration, introducing captive bred animals to the wild, public education and changes in laws and regulations in the animals native country.

It is a common cover for a facility like Guzoo to say "I am contributing to conservation, our endangered monkeys and tigers breed like rabbits!", when they are really doing nothing but lining their pockets. There is a lot more to conserving a species then filling substandard cages far from their natural home.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. Guzoo is lacking in all of the qualities required to be considered an accredited Sanctuary or Rescue. Guzoo hides behind the label of a Sanctuary/Rescue in an attempt to justify their existence.Yet at the same time, they perpetuate the cycle of abuse and neglect by breeding and selling their animals to zoos, private owners, etc. and keep animals in what are more like "farm animal" conditions.

Sanctuary guidelines are common sense but a pose high standards for animal care. In order to be accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries, these are the guidelines that must be followed.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Nobody is saying that the Guzoo owner is not a nice, friendly and charming person. However, the animals are sentient beings, not robots, and animal welfare laws must put them first.

If exotic animal owners have little to no training in the actual care and needs past the minimal needed to keep them somewhat alive, the animals need to be elsewhere— the same law applies to you and to me.

Also, while Lynn Gustafson, the owner, may indeed rescue some animals, he breeds, purchases and trades for others. Legitimate animal rescues will tell you that rescues don't breed more animals. Part of the reason some of the animals are hard to find homes for is the unethical breeding of exotic animals for the exotic pet trade. CAAWPS is working hard on finding homes for all of the animals at Guzoo where they will be better cared for and properly managed to prevent overpopulation.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

The white bread at Guzoo commonly fed to all the animals holds very little nutritional value - even worse, much of it is often stale or moldy. Many of the animals are fed the bread, leftover fruit and vegetables from local businesses that has expired as well as roadkill and processed, expired food. This 'diet' will keep the animals from starving to death. However, it is not balanced and healthy enough to provide good nutrition for many of the animals in Guzoo. Much like you could eat at McDonalds for all your meals and not starve, but become very unhealthy. The same holds true for the animals at Guzoo, they are not starving but most are not in the best health possible due to the poor diet. Even in some cases where the food may be suitable to one of the animals, it is often fed on the ground, without being removed from packaging or the uneaten food is left in the enclosure to rot for months at a time, increasing the chances of illness.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

It's unknown, really, why Guzoo is still in operation—despite ignoring requests and conditions to improve and change, it seems to be a combination of lax or ambiguous animal welfare laws, and government red tape as to who is really responsible for allowing this zoo to continue. However, with continued support and constant pressure we hope to finally shut it down and get the animals into better situations.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

First, contact Sustainable Resources and Development and other animal welfare enforcement branches of the government. We've made it easy for you to do so - please visit our Take Action section!

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A
Guzoo (pre-closing)

Questions and answers relevant before Guzoo's June 1, 2011 closing.

The institutions we put animals in matter to animals' well-being. Animals who live among people are forced to live in the institutions we give them and the care we give them. If Guzoo, or any institution, is a institution that fails animals, the animals need to be re-homed. We can't keep animals in kennels or enclosures that are slightly bigger than kennels their whole lives, and say that that serves animals in any way at all.

Many places and nonprofit societies do have volunteers (for instance, both the Edmonton Airport and Calgary Folk Music Festival have volunteers), but the Guzoo relies on volunteers (who drift away each year) rather than staff for major infrastructure that should be financed by business revenue.

It is not realistic to ask people to volunteer the Guzoo's problems away. Even the majority of people who live right in Three Hills cannot volunteer their time without neglecting animals, children and other adults in their own lives.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

We believe that the Guzoo has had lots of chances and time—decades—to get the zoo "violation free." They choose not to take animal protection acts or Zoo Standards seriously. The animals live, but they languish. Even as this happens, they take on or breed more animals.

Most of us already volunteer at other animal agencies, whose animals are also in need. We choose not to enable the cycle of non-compliance at Guzoo. We have made provisions for transferring the Guzoo's animals to sanctuaries and homes. IF Lynn Gustafson's zoo licence is not renewed, and he chooses to let them be placed in sanctuaries, as opposed to euthanising them, we will gladly volunteer our efforts there.

Historically, when the Guzoo gets negative attention, it gets volunteers who just want to help the animals and don't think about whether their efforts are long lasting or sustainable. Volunteers eventually drift away (usually within six months), likely because the owner does coordinate or involves himself much in the volunteering.

As a result, volunteering to help the animals at Guzoo serves only the short-term interests of animals there.

Meanwhile, animals are in need everywhere. If you wish to help animals, we recommend spending your hard-earned free time, donation money, and valuable skills at other animal agencies, where your efforts will serve the short-term AND the long-term interests of animals. Please see our list of animal agencies in Alberta to contact these places.

The Guzoo owners need to feel the pressure to reduce their number of animals and re-home their animals they cannot effectively care for. Please do not enable the Guzoo's "sputtering along" which occurs at the long-term expense of the animals there.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

If Guzoo stays open, we must continue the fight for the animals, the fight to be healthy and free of disease, the fight for them to be cared for with dignity, to have room to exhibit natural behaviours and so much more. We must not allow 22 years of suffering to turn into 44 years by volunteering there, which will let this for-profit business just "scrape by" for longer. It's time to close the zoo and transfer the animals to homes and sanctuaries.

The owners have made it clear by their statements in regards to killing the animals (if not allowed to continue to operate) that they do not have the animals' vital interests in mind. When making statements about getting $10000 for a stuffed lion, they show us their true colours - that Guzoo Animal Farm is a business based primarily on how much money it makes for its owners, and the well-being of the animals is of much lesser concern.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A
Questions about CCAAWPS

Responding to questions (and sometimes, accusations!) about CAAWPS.

Yes, the vast majority of CAAWPS' organizers have been on thorough visits to the Guzoo. We have seen and experienced it ourselves. Many people unconnected with us have also been to Guzoo and posted complaints, photography and mixed reviews to many places on the internet, like TripAdvisor. The rest of us believe in something called "evidence," gathered through many independent visitor accounts, many independent rolls of photography, Zoocheck reports, government documents, and now the final judgement, produced through the CAZA investigation. We believe that this evidence that shows Guzoo is indeed deficient and a poor place to house animals.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. We are interested in closing Guzoo, not because it is a zoo, but because it clearly violates Alberta Zoo Standards on so many levels. We are further spurred on to close Guzoo because the owner is so clearly not interested in taking visitor concerns or regulation seriously. Other zoos are amenable to working out problems as they are pointed out, and with responsible organizations like Zoocheck.

Guzoo family and friends, on the other hand, usually express hostility and resentment towards organizations like Zoocheck, dismiss negative reports of Guzoo visits, and (feebly) try to discredit the veterinary and zoo experts who detail visits to Guzoo and who author Zoocheck's reports.

We have been accused by some Guzoo supporters, who have no evidence of course, of having a "master plan" to close down a smaller facility like Guzoo, work our way up through larger private zoos like Discovery Wildlife Park, and then go "in for the kill" with big city zoos. This is a false, uninformed assumption based on how they think shadowy "animal extremists" operate (Update: the Guzoo has recently published a list of groups they think are extremist, which include the SPCA and the Humane Society of the United States).

Some of our members have reservations about zoos, and would like to see zoos move more in a "sanctuary"-like direction. Overall, however, we agree that it is possible for zoos to move in more enlightened directions than were practiced 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

CAAWPS' long-term interest is bringing a large number of Canadians together on the question of how well animals are treated (in zoos or anywhere else). We think animal treatment and needs themselves are where a conversation with Canadians about animal welfare should begin, not in launching campaigns against a type of animal institution across the board.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

We are not categorically against private zoos. City zoos are blends of large amounts public and private funding required to keep animals healthy. In theory at least, with enough funding and commitment to animal welfare, it would be possible for a wealthy corporation in Alberta— Syncrude for example— to open and maintain a totally privately owned-and-operated zoo that kept animals in equal or better conditions than the Calgary Zoo. Several members of accredited AZA zoos in the United States are privately owned, operated, or both. While it seems obvious that there might be certain challenges of transparency and accountability with regards to animal welfare in private zoos, public zoos may have similar issues.

Frequently, the accusation that we are "against all private zoos" is a veiled accusation that we have an "anti-business," "communist," or "left-wing" agenda, and pitched in support of the position that animals are nothing but property. People in CAAWPS are of truly diverse political persuasions, but the one thing we do have in common is the idea that animals cannot be reduced to property. Animals are not tractors or furniture. We think it is unlikely that any animal institution will consider the welfare of animals very seriously if animals as merely (or mainly) seen as property.

The challenges of private versus public zoos is a question that CAAWPS wishes to research further. If you can point us to resources, please drop us a line through the question form on the right.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

We remain to be convinced that any roadside zoo is a good situation for animals housed there. By the World Society for the Protection of Animals' (WSPA's) definition, a roadside zoo is 

a grossly substandard, usually amateur facility that lacks trained, experienced animal care staff, proper funding and safety practices. Animals are confined to small, barren, often filthy cages, with next to nothing to do day in and day out. Deficient in all respects, these cages are not typically designed with the needs of the animal in mind, but rather to enhance public-viewing and ease cleaning — though at many roadside zoos, cleaning of cages may not take place on a daily (or even a weekly) basis. Animals in roadside zoos suffer poor welfare as a result of inadequate housing, care and diet. Deprived of opportunities to exercise their natural behaviours, most animals experience some degree of frustration and boredom. In the most severe cases, these animals become psychologically disturbed and may manifest abnormal behaviours.

Thus, we are not opposed to roadside zoos on the basis that they "look different" from city zoos— we are opposed to them on the basis that they neglect animals essential needs. An infamous case of a roadside zoo you may have heard about is the truck stop tiger of Grosse Tete, Louisiana. You might also be interested in WSPA's full report of roadside zoos in Canada. From this same report,

Across Canada, dozens of roadside zoos operate with little or no regulation. Many do not meet the basic biological and ethological needs of their animals. Almost all pose significant health and safety problems to visitors and animals alike. Failure to enact regulations that would close down grossly substandard roadside zoos has resulted in a great deal of animal suffering and puts both animals and the public at risk.

It is time to leave this deplorable form of "zoo" behind. We remember that many of today's oldest and largest zoos began as "animal menangeries" and do not think it is impossible for some well-positioned "roadside zoos" to change. We implore larger "roadside zoo" owners, if they are realistically in the position make the well-being of animals in their care their number one priority and to simultaenously fund both expansive needs of animals and the construction and maintenance of a zoo, to bring themselves up to CAZA and AZA accreditation, or get out of the business of exhibiting animals. We recognize that this may seem like a colossal undertaking, but animals who spend their lives being exhibited deserve no less. We encourage fellow Canadians in other provinces to work to pass tough, unambiguous Zoo Standards, and limit ownership of exotic animals, so that dumpy "roadside zoos" cannot exist. 

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

We realize that the bulk of our new website is focussed on the closure of the Guzoo at the moment (well, we are running a campaign to close Guzoo!). But we actually are very concerned with other issues of animal welfare and law in Alberta and Canada as well. We will be expanding on other pressing concerns about animal welfare in Canada over the coming months.

Our first answer is that it is not just us who have a strong interest in the Guzoo. Many thousands of ordinary Albertans have followed the story of Guzoo for years. If we had to speculate about why so many people are fascinated, it's because we think that the whole notion of what "animal welfare" means in Canadian society is changing.

We believe that most Albertans and Canadians have collectively moved beyond the assumptions about animals' needs. We know more about animals and their capacities and needs that we did in past decades. As an example, today, many people recognize that caged animals suffer from boredom and take alleviation of this condition seriously, and that they need both enrichment and freedom to move. An animal being neglected through letting it lapse into boredom wasn't widely recognized as a problem a few decades ago.

Meanwhile, the Guzoo's treatment of its animals over the years represents an era where animals were not thought of as all that complicated. We certainly don't see the owners as mean. It is just that they don't seem to think animals are... all that complicated or important. People see these attitudes in action at the Guzoo and they are flabbergasted. Often, people find us and write us about their Guzoo visits and say, 'we had no idea animals could still be treated like this.'

A second reason we need to amass detail about the Guzoo is that in Alberta, people do not take the revokation of someone's business license lightly. And friends and family of the Guzoo owner (in particular) have always challenged us to present more and more evidence of our claims about Guzoo. So it has grown to quite a collection of reports and details. We have wanted to create a website where all of this material is amassed, and it's a big job.

A third reason we have collected this detail is that people are also skeptical of overly emotional appeals about animal welfare. Rather than "jumping on the bandwagon," when it comes to animal welfare, many people are in fact hard to convince, unless we amas a lot of evidence, before they'll sign a petition or email their MLA.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

We don't. As you can see in this article, the Calgary Zoo was also inspected by CAZA and an audit uncovered many unpublicized animal deaths from poorly designed exhibits. However, the Calgary Zoo, unlike the GuZoo, acknowledges mistakes, and has at least attempted to put in an action plan in response to the deaths of its animals. The big difference between Calgary Zoo and the GuZoo Animal Farm is that Calgary has what is called a postiive "institutional response" to animal deaths. Calgary Zoo has a positive attitude towards rectifying its mistakes and can be induced by negative reportage to change its practices.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

The short answer is: yes, we are aware that there are other problems, such as cases of deliberate cruelty to animals, and even more serious cases of animal neglect than Guzoo. Ontario, for instance, still has no Zoo Standards at all. However, we often notice that if we begin to address problems with any animal institution, the person or institution complained about always wants us to start with "the other guy" first.

We are well aware that there are places for animals even worse than Guzoo Animal Farm. However, we could play the game of "which is worse" forever, and do nothing about any problem as a result. Guzoo has interested many of us for years because its violations are well documented and it is something that some in government have already expressed reservations about. There have been so many independent reports and accounts of its problems, it is hard not to inquire as to why it was allowed to stay open for so long.

Also, the Guzoo Animal Farm is in Alberta. Most of us are Albertans. It is an issue for all Albertans. In addition to working on animal welfare issues in our own neighbourhoods, most of us want our province to respect modern understandings about animals and animal welfare. What Guzoo does reflects on all of us in Alberta. Call it "attachment to our home."

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

We really have no idea what this even means, and everyone we ask has a different definition of "professional activist." We think of ourselves as regular Albertans from different walks of life and political stances, who share a common interest in animal welfare and a willingness to do something about it.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

We think that our lengthy campaign proves that we're persistent, knowledgable and tenacious, rather than flaky bandwagon-hoppers.

We have no personal animosity toward the Guzoo owner, Lynn Gustafson, nor his family, friends or supporters. Many of us have met Lynn Gustafson and find him to be an affable fellow. However, who the owner is isn't an issue here— it doesn't matter if the Guzoo is run by P.T. Barnum, Jane Goodall or Mother Teresa. The question that matters is, how well are the animals doing in a place like Guzoo?

As annoyed as we get with their practices, we have nothing against the owners personally. We think the Guzoo owners are entitled to income and livelihood, just not doing something harmful to animals or humans — same as everyone else. We think that the owners are capable of doing good by animals! The institution that they're running, however, does not let them do this.

Update: It appears that the Guzoo owners think that many people have a "vendetta" against them. On this page, the owners claim that the CAZA inspection was done by "four individuals. Three of whom had a personal vendetta against Lynn Gustafson and the GuZoo." The idea that everyone just irrationally hates the Guzoo owners may be a comforting thought that allows them to think they're right, but it doesn't make it true.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

Listening to the Guzoo owners complain about their 'victimization' from animal welfare authorities and advocates, we have to wonder: how differently could it have turned out for the Guzoo, if, when people raised their concerns about the Guzoo animals, the zoo owners had just said: "You know what, people? We're sorry. We know you are concerned. We acknowledge there are problems. We'll fix them, or let the animals go."

Seriously. Every modern business at least attempts a "we hear you, we'll fix it" approach.

In recent years, we've seen story after story about how companies that aren't honest or accommodating with their customers (like British Petroleum, for example) don't do so well.

Yet to date, we have heard few friends and family of the Guzoo ever acknowledge an iota of responsibility, despite years of the owner's own flippant and inflammatory statements about animals, and attacks on people who complained, that no other business could get away with.

We also hear few defenses of the "the man and his dream" and "the man and his family," that ever acknowledge problems with conditions of animals. The animals are just assumed to be have been well-taken care of because their keepers are affable and charming.

The owner's stubbornness is being lionized as this real "virtue" for some reason. We see it as a case of a fatal inflexibility that has now led to a serious business failure and uncertainty about the future for Guzoo animals as he continues to attempt an appeal.

Why is it so hard for Guzoo to take at least some of the responsibility for what has happened?

Imagine a number of parents who leave their children with a daycare for the day, and one day, they confront the daycare with concerns about absestos in the building.

In Scenario A: the daycare says "Oh my gosh, you might be right. We'll look into this immediately and get someone down here as soon as is humanly possible— today if we can."

In Scenario B: the daycare tells the complaining people, "You're all anti-asbestos extremists."

In which scenario would the daycare be more likely to stay in business?

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

People in our organization have a wide range of personal philosophical perspectives on animals and many other issues, but the basis of our unity is that we all believe in fairly stringent conditions for animal care in "animal-based institutions" to promote the thirving of animals. A few of us are vegan (no use of animal products), others are happy steak-eaters. We tend to believe the statement that "animals' vital interests are sacrificed for humans' trivial interests," like animal testing for cosmetics, and that this is wrong.

We notice that it does not matter what 'label' we give our positions, other people will apply labels to us depending if they agree or don't agree with our campaigns. Thus for some opposed to our campaign to close Guzoo, we are shadowy, sinister, "animal rights extremists," and for people in favour, we're "regular Albertans" who just object to the neglect and mistreatment of animals.

We use the term "animal welfare" in our name because if you could 'average out' our positions, we would agree that it's not possible to totally refrain from human use of animals (at least at this point in our history). We notice that people also have strange associations with the term 'animal rights,' like it means we want to put people in jail for eating a hamburger or give our dogs drivers' licenses.

We think that a conversation about animal welfare with the largest possible number of Albertans and Canadians in this country is desperately needed. We think the way to do this is to start from questions of animal welfare. We could roughly define these questions as:

  • what would be an animal's best interest, from the perspective of the animal?
  • if animals have to be placed in 'categories,' what 'categories' should animals be placed in (pets? strays? zoos animals? food animals?), and what standards apply to them when they are in these categories?
↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

No. In fact, CAAWPS members spend their other time working on campaigns related to human rights, worker rights, and environmental issues. We just happen to care about animals too.

The "animals or people?" question is often thrown at CAAWPS like an accusation: "you care more about animals than people!" Um, no. We simply feel that there's no justification for treating animals poorly with excuses like "they're my animals, I do what I want with them." Animals are not toys, not even for our kids.

Why do we feel this way? Because animals are living creatures. It is obvious that animals do not reason like us, but they feel and suffer in ways very similarly to humans. We have a system of human "ownership" of animals, not so that we can treat animals like furniture, but so that animals are assigned to people who can care for them attentively. It is immoral to treat animals poorly just because they are "your property." We think that this is true even for animals that will eventually be food animals.

We believe we are living in a time when people's attitudes toward animals are shifting, as we learn more about animals' capacities to feel, to think, and to express caring. CAAWPS feels that we are merely following, not leading, these scientific and social developments in Canada.

A lot of people who say "CAAWPS doesn't care about human rights!" not only haven't bothered to ask us what we care about, but are really saying "You don't care about property rights!" or "You don't believe in business rights!" That's closer to the truth—slightly. If they would be honest about what they are asking, we would answer: any person with means who uses their business license responsibly, in accordance with applicable laws, and pro-socially should be able to get and keep a business license. We don't think that taking away someone's business license, or zoo license, is on the level of a major human rights violation. No one has an absolute "right" to a zoo license, any more than they have a "right" to a drivers' license.

See also the question on animal welfare and animal rights.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

CAAWPS is not affiliated with any other animal welfare or animal rights group or organization. We admire the approach of ZooCheck Canada. Animals and their well-being are not well-regarded in too many animal institutions. If these institutions do not have transparency with regard to their collection and treatment of animals, people should take it upon themselves to document and investigate and bring their concerns to the attention of the public and authorities.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

CAAWPS believes in the time-honoured tactics of coordinated social pressure, effective media communications, and market pressure to achieve change for animals and legislation around animal welfare.

CAAWPS respects traditions of nonviolent civil disobedience to achieve social change. We find it richly ironic when we are accused of civil disobedience— like that's a bad thing! However, we haven't found these tactics necessary for the campaign to close Guzoo. Coordinated social pressure appears to be working.

CAAWPS believes in "dialing down" personalized rage towards our opponents. While people may be righteously angry (with the Guzoo owners), it is misdirected if this simply turns into hatred towards them. We need to realize that places like the Guzoo exist because they can, through a combination of lackluster animal welfare laws and weak enforcement.

Though violence and threats of violence (ie. intimidation) have only been committed by a handful of people who consider themselves "animal rights activists," people ask us about this (or accuse us of this) a lot: "do you believe in violence in advancing your goals?" We disavow violence and believe that any acts like this are not only intrinsically shameful but counterproductive towards the cause of animal welfare.

As human rights / persons-with-AIDS group ACT UP said about nonviolent activism:

Our struggle is not easy, and we must not think of nonviolence as a "safe" way to fight... The strength of nonviolence comes from our willingness to take personal risk without threatening other people.

As it says in our nonviolence principles and policy section:

CAAWPS is committed to nonviolent means to improve animal welfare laws and enforcement. We are opposed to and do not associate with groups or individuals who use violence or threats of violence (intimidation) against humans to achieve improvements in animal welfare. We pledge to report credible threats of this nature aimed at the subjects of our campaigns (and ones that are aimed at CAAWPS as well) to relevant authorities.

Even though the Guzoo owner has made inflammatory statements, we are very concerned that the Guzoo owners have allegedly received threatening phone calls. As stated above we will be vigilant about reporting such threats we come across, removing comments from our Facebook page that can be misinterpreted, etc.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A

CCAAWPS, at one time, had 14000 members in our original Facebook group. We chose to migrate to our Facebook page entirely of our own accord, because Facebook was reducing the effectiveness of groups with respect to being able to communicate to members. At the same time, Facebook was making Pages a more effective tool for activists.

Facebook is a terrific communication tool, but it also is set up poorly in some ways. Because Facebook groups only allow you to message groups with fewer than 5000 members, one evening we very reluctantly had to delete 8000 members in the original group just to communicate with the remaining 5000. There was just no way to move the members over to the new page.

Oh! And if you like us and are on Facebook, please "like" our page.

↑ up to questions | Permanent link to this Q&A