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Justin Bieber’s family denies involvement with controversial Bowmanville Zoo fundraiser

Justin Bieber poses with a tiger at his father's engagement party. George Pimentel/WireImage

Despite having sold tickets online with Justin Bieber’s image on them, it appears the Canadian pop star will not be making an appearance at a fundraising event for the Bowmanville Zoo, which announced it was closing in June after its director was charged with animal cruelty-related offences.

Bieber Family Fun Day, or BFF Day, was scheduled to take place on Sunday to “help fund the care of the animals during the rehoming process,” at a cost of $295 per ticket.

“Over the last few months, Justin Bieber and his family have met some of our amazing animals,” a statement on the zoo’s website said.

“We are delighted to announce that the Bieber Family will be attending the Bowmanville Zoo fundraiser along with [family members] Jeremy, Chelsey, Jaxon and Jazmyn, with the goal of raising money for the successful rehoming of our animals.”
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READ MORE: Bowmanville Zoo to close after former director charged with animal cruelty offences

Angus Carroll, director of communications for the zoo, initially said in an email to Global News Wednesday that Bieber will attend the fundraiser, which he added was “planned as a meet and greet” and not a performance.

“Zoo attendance picked up briefly when it was first announced the zoo would close, but has not held and the zoo still plans to close at the end of the season,” Carroll said.

“The event with Justin is meant to raise money to help place the animals at other facilities – a much more difficult and expensive proposition than it might first appear to be.”

At 3:25 p.m. ET, Carroll emailed another statement to Global News that said it is “not guaranteed that Justin Bieber will be at the Bowmanville Zoo on Sunday.”

READ MORE: Justin Bieber gets warning from Toronto Animal Services after appearing with lions

“He may or may [not] attend with his family,” Carroll said, backtracking on his earlier statement that the appearance would be a meet and greet with fans.

“And if he does attend … he will be there simply as a guest.”

But Bieber’s father, Jeremy Bieber, said in a tweet at 4:07 p.m. ET Wednesday that the family seemingly has no knowledge of the event and is in no way connected to the zoo. The zoo has since deleted its Facebook post about the event and the webpage for buying tickets online.

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Ingrid Newkirk, the president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said in an emailed statement to Global News that if Bieber attends she hopes the money raised will end up in the “right hands” of “accredited sanctuaries” that can properly take care of the animals.

“We encourage Justin Bieber to ensure that these funds will be used to help these inmates directly and maybe then find himself some new ‘company,’ because aligning himself with owner Michael Hackenberger, who is currently facing cruelty charges, and a zoo that is constantly in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons will lead only to trouble,” she said.

“Various accredited sanctuaries have offered to retire these animals, and we hope that for once, the Bowmanville Zoo will do the right thing.”

WATCH: PETA video shows questionable training practices at Bowmanville Zoo

Click to play video: 'New PETA video shows questionable training practices at Bowmanville Zoo' New PETA video shows questionable training practices at Bowmanville Zoo
New PETA video shows questionable training practices at Bowmanville Zoo – Jan 7, 2016

Bieber was recently caught up in controversy over reports that he appeared at two Toronto events with young lions, which Toronto Animal Service said came from the Bowmanville Zoo.

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The singer and the zoo were each sent a notice of violation after receiving two complaints that Bieber “exhibited” lions.

Bieber was also photographed posing with a leashed tiger at his father’s engagement party in May. According to PETA, the tiger was on loan from Bowmanville Zoo, northeast of Toronto, for the festivities.

Carroll said in June the facility will be forced to close on Oct. 10 after attendance fell by more than 65 per cent following the allegations of animal mistreatment, which stemmed from a video released by PETA in December. 

READ MORE: Justin Bieber slammed by PETA for posing with leashed Bowmanville tiger

The hidden camera video appeared to show zoo director Michael Hackenberger hitting a tiger with a whip during a training session, while he was overheard saying he can use it to “carve my initials in their side.”

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it began investigating alleged abuse at the Bowmanville Zoo immediately after reviewing the PETA footage.

On April 13, the agency said Hackenberger was charged with four counts of causing an animal distress and one of failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care for an animal. Three of the distress charges relate to the use of a whip.

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“The untrue allegations made by PETA in regards to a tiger incident have created a climate in which the zoo can no longer operate. People are staying away because they believe PETA’s allegations,” Carroll said in June.

“The fact is, PETA released only a short piece of a long video and then misrepresented what transpired, even in that short part. What they said is not true, but it doesn’t matter. The damage is done.”

READ MORE: PETA claims giraffe shot several times with BB gun at Bowmanville Zoo

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement to Global News in June that Hackenberger was “caught on camera mercilessly whipping a tiger and boasting about the pleasure that he derives from intimidating and dominating animals,” adding that the “animal prison” should never have been opened in the first place.

Carroll said in June the zoo was working to find new homes for certain animals, with large predators taking priority.

“The large cats, wolves, baboons. We believe we’ll find homes for all the animals but that may take some time,” he said. “There probably will be animals on this property for a year, maybe more.”

The OSPCA also launched an investigation in July into claims a staff member at the Bowmanville Zoo had repeatedly shot a giraffe with a BB gun.

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PETA notified the OSPCA after they said an alleged eyewitness saw a woman in what appeared to be a zoo uniform fire seven times at the giraffe, after closing time at the zoo on June 25.

Carroll said in June the Bowmanville Zoo – established in 1919 – is the oldest private zoo in North America and was sad to see it closing three years shy of its 100th anniversary.

With files from The Canadian Press

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