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Ontario charges Marineland over care of its black bears

Ontario has charged Marineland over the care of its black bears.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General said it laid the charges against the Niagara Falls, Ont., tourist attraction on Tuesday.

"Marineland of Canada, Inc. in Niagara Falls, Ontario, has been charged with three counts of failing to comply with an order, related to the care of American Black Bears," said Brent Ross, a spokesman for the ministry.

Ross said the charges have been laid under a section of the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act that allows an inspector to issue an order to help animals that may be in distress. The facility must comply with the order or otherwise face charges.

The ministry declined to provide more details.

"Given this matter is now before the court, it would be inappropriate for the ministry to comment further," Ross said.

Marineland said it was working on providing comment.

It has previously said it treats all its animals well and exceeds the standards of care as prescribed under the law.

The park houses an unknown number of black bears that live together in an enclosure with dens and water. Visitors can feed the bears corn pops.

In 2016, when the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals enforced animal cruelty laws, Marineland was charged with one count of failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care for about 35 American black bears, including failing to provide adequate and appropriate food and water for them.

The Crown later dropped those charges, saying there was no reasonable chance for a conviction.

Marineland is shown in Niagara Falls, Ont., Monday, August 14, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tara Walton

In 2013, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued an order to Marineland to build separate habitats to protect bear cubs from being mauled and devoured by adult males. Marineland said it would develop a birth control program, which the OSPCA agreed to. The park said it complied with the order.

The province took over the enforcement of animal cruelty laws in 2020 after the OSPCA abdicated that role.

Since January 2020, provincial Animal Welfare Services anti-cruelty officers have been inspecting Marineland regularly, although details of the ongoing probe have not been released.

In 2021, Animal Welfare Services officers found that the marine mammals at the park were in distress due to poor water quality. On May 10 that year, they issued two orders to Marineland to repair the water system in the pools that house beluga whales, dolphins, walruses, sea lions and one killer whale.

Marineland appealed the order on May 18 that year, denying the animals were in distress, and noting that an unknown number of whale deaths at the park were not related to water issues.

Earlier this month, a beluga whale and a bottlenose dolphin died at the park.

That came following the death in March of Kiska, Canada's last remaining captive killer whale, at Marineland.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2023. Top Stories

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