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In April 2006, Alberta introduced a set of standards for all provincial zoos, to ensure that each facility meets at least the same basic requirements. These standards emphasize a safe, educational experience for visitors and make operators more accountable for the animals in their care.
Alberta developed the zoo standards with assistance from the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, the Alberta Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the licensed provincial zoos.
To begin complying with the standards, zoo operators were required to update their zoo plans within six months. They were required to make any necessary facility upgrades within one year.
Zoo Standards in Alberta
Q1. Why do we need zoo standards?
These standards help to ensure that all zoos are operating the same way – providing the same level of protection for visitors and level of care for animals. Albertans can be assured that zoo animals are receiving the same basic minimum level of care in provincial zoos.
Q2. What do the zoo standards cover?
The standards set out basic requirements to be met by all zoos within Alberta. They address the management of the following:
- Animal collection management
- Animal transportation
- Care of animals
- Conservation education
- Containment standards
- Off-site displays of animals
- Record keeping
- Species conservation
- Visitor and zoo staff safety
- Zoo staff experience and training
These standards also provide details on zoo application and renewal procedures, and the cancellation of zoo permits.
Q3. What do the zoo standards accomplish?
The standards accomplish the following:
- Guide department staff in the regulation of zoos and provide clear licensing expectations to the industry
- Help ensure a safe, enjoyable and educational visitor experience
- Ensure a suitable environment for the animals
- Ensure an appointed Alberta Zoo Advisory Committee provides advice to government relating to licensing and standards
Q4. What are the names of Alberta's seven zoos and where are they located?
- Alberta Birds of Prey Centre – Coaldale, Alberta
- Calgary Zoological Society – commonly called the Calgary Zoo – Calgary, Alberta
- Discovery Wildlife Park – Innisfail, Alberta
- Valley Zoo – Edmonton, Alberta
- West Edmonton Mall – Edmonton, Alberta
Q5. What details can I find about Animal Care within these standards?
Exhibit enclosures must be of sufficient size to provide for the physical well-being of an animal, and allow an animal the opportunity to withdraw from contact with other animals or from the view of visitors. Animals should have access to sheltered areas.
Animals should be displayed when possible in exhibits that replicate their wild habitat and in numbers that meet their social and behavioural needs.
Animal "enrichments" are measures and features that provide a more stimulating environment for animals, for example, rope ladders, tubes, burrows, logs, pits, scratching posts, and walls.
Visitors will not be allowed to feed animals except in specific circumstances where food is prepared by the zoo and amounts are carefully controlled.
Q6. Do all seven licensed zoos in Alberta have zoo permits?
Yes, they are all holding current permits.
Q7. How long are zoo permits issued for?
Zoo permits are normally issued for one year running April 1 – March 31. This permit must be renewed each year and development plans will be amended as required.
Q8. How much do permits cost under these new standards?
Annual permit fees are unchanged and cost $100.
Alberta Zoo Advisory Committee
Q9. What is the role of the Alberta Zoo Advisory Committee?
The committee provides expert advice on zoo operations and is responsible to review the individual zoo development plans and provide advice to the Minister (or delegate) concerning licensing and renewal.
The committee reviews animal care protocols required for non-accredited zoos.
Recommendations on amendments to the standards may be brought forward by the committee to ensure that the standards are kept up-to-date with changing circumstances of zoo operations.
Q10. Who sits on the Committee?
Committee members include representatives from a national zoo association, Alberta zoos, government officials from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, and possibly a member of the public. Presently, there are five (5) members on the committee.
Departments and agencies
Q11. What departments within the Government of Alberta deal with the regulation of zoos?
Provincial zoos require a zoo permit to possess live animal species whose possession is regulated under the province's Wildlife Act (the species regulated include categories of species listed as wildlife, controlled animals and endangered animals).
Alberta Sustainable Resource Development administers the Wildlife Act and zoo permits are issued through the department's Fish and Wildlife Division. Zoo permits are issued for the purposes of public viewing and education only.
The well-being of animals (animal care issues) falls under the jurisdiction of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (Technical Services Division), which administers the province's Animal Protection Act.
Concerns about animal care at zoos are handled by Special Constables employed by the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for investigation under the Animal Protection Act. The RCMP will investigate any reported violation relating to animal cruelty under the Criminal Code.
Local development permits are required from municipal governments for zoos to be established.