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Crown not pursuing animal cruelty charge against Marineland

Crown prosecutors stayed a criminal charge against Marineland in a Niagara, Ont. courtroom Wednesday that alleged the facility was hosting dolphin shows without the authority to do so.

Charges are “stayed” when a judge or the Crown decides that it would be against the public interest for the case to continue.

The charge was initially placed by Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) in December 2021 after activists filed a complaint claiming that the facility, located in Niagara Falls, Ont., was using its mammals to host for-profit entertainment.

The passing of Bill S-203 in 2019 made it illegal under the criminal code to use mammals for entertainment performances. This is the first instance NRPS has laid this charge, the force confirmed in a statement to CP24.

“Our officers regularly received video and photographic evidence from a variety of sources.” The force said its investigators believed the video evidence provided them with “reasonable grounds to substantiate the charge.”

NRPS said it respects the court and Crown’s decision in the matter.

To date, the park has denied all allegations of animal cruelty, claiming their mammal shows are of "educational nature."

“Marineland of Canada Inc.’s educational presentation was designed by experts to provide Canadians with an accessible opportunity to learn about marine life,” the statement issued by the park in December 2021 read.

“Our animal presentation contains marine mammals undertaking behaviours they exhibit in ocean environments.”

Advocacy group Animal Justice, one of two organizations to provide evidence of Marineland’s alleged mammal misuse to the Crown, says it is shocked and disappointed to learn the charge has been stayed.

“Animal Justice obtained video footage of Marineland’s dolphin performances in 2021, which featured pop music like “Mambo No. 5”, trainers announcing a “dolphin dance party”, and dolphins performing tricks that included jumping out of the water, spinning in the air, and pushing trainers through the water,” a release issued by the organization Wednesday said.

“It has been a criminal offence since 2019 to use whales and dolphins in performances for entertainment [..] but the ban didn’t stop Marineland, which continued to use dolphins and beluga whales in daily shows that it described as “educational performances.”

In response to the court’s decision, Ontario Greens Leader Mike Schreiner issued a statement Wednesday, calling on the facility to end the beluga whale and dolphin shows.

“To learn that Marineland is not only not being held accountable for their actions, but that they also shamelessly continue to have “educational” presentations with belugas and dolphins advertised on their upcoming season is distressing,” Schriener said.

These marine mammals are highly intelligent beings that should not be held captive for personal entertainment.”

According to lawyer and executive director of Animal Justice Camille Labchuk, the decision to stay the charge “sends the message that animals don’t matter to the legal system.”

“It’s deeply disappointing that there will be no justice for the dolphins used in entertainment shows at Marineland—something our country outlawed in 2019," Labchuk said.

'What’s the point of passing new laws to protect animals if prosecutors refuse to accept that animal cruelty is a serious matter of public interest, and won’t bring Marineland to trial?”

CTV News Toronto has reached out to Marineland for comment on the stayed charge, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Marineland opened to the public in 1961. Top Stories

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