Crown stays animal cruelty charge against Marineland
Posted December 22, 2022 1:14 pm.
Last Updated December 22, 2022 4:42 pm.
An animal cruelty charge against Marineland have been stayed, prompting outrage from animal welfare groups who had filed complaints against the Ontario tourist attraction.
Niagara Regional Police had charged the Niagara Falls, Ont., park last December for allegedly using dolphins and whales for entertainment.
Marineland denied the charge at the time, saying it provides education, not entertainment. The park did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The Ministry of the Attorney General said Crown attorney Michal Sokolski gave the case careful consideration and determined a stay of the charge was appropriate.
Two animal rights groups, California-based Last Chance for Animals and Toronto-based Animal Justice, had filed complaints with police in 2021, alleging the park was using dolphins in a show for entertainment purposes.
The groups had handed over lengthy videos of the Marineland dolphin shows to police and provided investigators with statements.
The videos, shared with The Canadian Press, appear to show dolphins in a pool with an audience watching as the marine mammals do flips and other moves and get food from staff standing nearby.
“We view this as completely unacceptable and ignoring animal abuse,” Miranda Desa, the Canadian counsel for Last Chance for Animals, said of the stay.
“I’ve never seen a dolphin dance party in the wild.”
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The federal government’s anti-captivity legislation passed in 2019 made it illegal for dolphins and whales to perform.
The Niagara force investigated the allegations involving Marineland and several months later laid the first charge of its kind under those laws. Marineland faced one count of using a captive cetacean for performance for entertainment purposes without authorization.
Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, said she was shocked by the Crown’s decision to stay the charge.
“If the Crown is unwilling to proceed in a straightforward and clear-cut case, that leaves me feeling very pessimistic about the importance of animals to the justice system,” she said.
Both Labchuk and Desa were in court as the charge was stayed and said the Crown told court it did not proceed partly because it believed the video evidence was biased. They also said the Crown told court there was a reasonable prospect of conviction, but that the case would require many resources.