An Ontario police service said it was investigating two complaints against Canada’s Marineland regarding the facility’s use of animals during public appearances.
The Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) told CP24 that complaints were filed by members of the public in the fall.
“An investigation has been opened and is being conducted by detectives from our Niagara Falls 2nd District Detective Office. As the investigation continues, it would not be appropriate to provide further details of the investigation and potentially jeopardize the investigation, ”said NRPS spokesperson Constable Phil Gavin. .
A complaint has been filed by an attorney representing Last Chance for Animals (LCA), a United States-based animal rights organization.
Miranda Desa told CP24: “LCA has filed a complaint based on concerns that Marineland may violate Section 445.2 (4) of the Penal Code, the cruelty to animals provisions regarding the use of whales and of captive dolphins in shows for entertainment purposes. “
The Criminal Code provision prohibits the use of captive marine mammals for entertainment or entertainment unless a permit has been authorized by the provincial government.
CTV News Toronto has contacted the provincial government and various government departments for information on applicable licenses that may have been granted to Marineland.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General told CTV News Toronto that the ministry “has not issued a license to Marineland that would allow the use of captive cetaceans for entertainment purposes.”
Marineland did not return a request for comment on the licenses they hold, but on its website it says, “Our marine mammals are empowered to decide for themselves whether they wish to participate in every presentation, and our plans change depending on which animals choose to participate. before each show.
Desa says this is inconsistent with what their group observed.
One of LCA’s Canadian members, whom the group calls a “licensed private investigator,” attended shows from Marineland on August 3 and 16. The member says dolphins and beluga whales have been made to perform in front of the public, displaying behaviors not found naturally in nature.
Desa says photos and videos have been turned over to Niagara Regional Police.
“Last Chance for Animals got footage of dolphins doing flips, spins and having what they call a ‘dolphin dance party’,” she said.
“[Belugas] were fed by the pool in front of observers, and beluga whales were asked to do tricks, food stuff. You can see the people working for Marineland instructing and rewarding the behavior with food.
The police investigation comes as animal rights groups call for more transparency on the health of the park’s marine animals.
A separate investigation by the Animal Welfare Services (AWS) of the Department of the Solicitor General is also underway.
In July, The Canadian Press reported that AWS inspectors discovered that all marine mammals in the tourist attraction were “in distress” due to poor water quality.
Two months earlier, AWS inspectors had ordered Marineland to repair the water system.
May 18, Marineland appealed against these orders and denied the animals were in distress, noting that “an unknown number of whale deaths in the park was unrelated to water problems.”
Desa told CP24 that she filed her complaint with the police at the end of September. The LCA member who attended the shows filed a second police complaint a month later.
“I don’t feel that doing tricks and dancing for the public is an exemption, I think it’s a violation of the penal code,” they told CP24.
“How is an evening of dolphin dancing part of an educational program?” “
The LCA member said that when they saw the mammals “playing” they were disappointed, but not surprised.
“We are concerned that they will violate the penal code, but we do not know if they have a permit. “
CTV News Toronto has reached out to Marineland for further comment, but has yet to receive a response.