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Animal welfare body investigating Edmonton Valley Zoo

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Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) has launched an investigation into the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

CAZA says it was made aware of a complaint lodged by Animal Justice on Jan. 20.

The complaint cites a number of concerns stemming from the zoo's request for funding during Edmonton's most recent budget deliberations, and the subsequent budget report from the city.

Zoo officials asked council for approximately $50 million in December to renew existing infrastructure and meet licensing requirements.

Zoo spokesperson Roger Jevne told council "several" animal habitats do not meet CAZA standards.

Council eventually voted to slash the funding in half, giving the zoo $25 million.

In a separate budget request, an additional $10.9 million to repair enclosures for several other animals, including Lucy the elephant, birds of prey and zebras was also granted.

The complaint says the zoo has failed to meet standards required by CAZA and Alberta Zoo Standards, as well as breaching provincial laws, including the Animal Protection Act and the Animal Protection Regulation.

“CAZA members work very hard to adhere to a stringent set of accreditation standards, which are recognized as best practices worldwide. Our standards provide important science-based safeguards for the animals in our members’ care, the people tasked with caring for them,” Jim Facette of CAZA said in a written release. “As a result, we take complaints alleging failures to comply with those standards very seriously.”

CAZA is a self-governing body that purports to be the leading organization in Canadian animal welfare standards and development.

The Valley Zoo received its CAZA accreditation in October 2022.

At the time, Facette called the zoo an "exceptional facility," and said he had complete confidence it would continue to be.

The City of Edmonton released a written statement on the investigation on Friday.

"No animals in our care are housed in facilities that do not meet standards; we continue to be accredited and compliant with all CAZA and provincial standards," the statement says.

"The Animal Enclosure Renewal and Enhancement funding request inaccurately stated a number of enclosures do not meet the CAZA standards. They do. The request should have more accurately identified these enclosures need replacement due to their age and the condition of the infrastructure to ensure we continue to comply with CAZA standards into the future. This error was acknowledged and clarified with members of city council, media and citizens in late 2022."

The city says the $36 million will support critical infrastructure renewal to ensure the zoo continues to provide adequate habitats for its animals.

"We believe this complaint has come forward because of the inaccurate statements in the funding request, despite having been clarified since then. However, CAZA is required to investigate and Edmonton Valley Zoo leadership fully supports this effort and is confident in the outcome." 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Adam Lachacz and Jessica Robb. 

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