Armed with rakes, wheelbarrows and leaf blowers volunteers and staff began to ready Saint John’s Cherry Brook Zoo for its spring reopening.
But outside the gates, protesters armed with bright signs and tag lines look to keep the focus on an alleged incident from the long icy winter.
“The zoo representatives just want this to go away, they just want this to quietly go away and they want to turn the attention to something else when really this can’t be ignored,” said Sarah Cusack, a protester, and former zoo volunteer.
Last week, the New Brunswick SPCA announced that it had recommended charges of inhumane euthanization and causing unnecessary pain and suffering after an investigation into an incident involving a number of guinea pigs in December.
But after reviewing the file, the Crown prosecutors office decided not to lay charges, spurring about two dozen protesters to gather out front of the zoo.
The zoo has insisted that the guinea pigs, which are euthanized three times a year to serve as feed animals, were put down humanely.
Cherry Brook Executive Director Martha McDevitt says that the fact the charges were reviewed by the Crown does not imply guilt and is happy with the decision not to pursue charges.
“SPCA has to do their due diligence, right. So I think part of what they had to do was put it towards them just based on, you know, doing their job. So when it went to the Crown and they said there’s no charges obviously just coincided with what we believed,” she said.
McDevitt says the zoo co-operated fully with the SPCA investigation and says she had been told by an investigator that everything looked fine and that she believes the file was sent to the Crown for a second opinion.
“When I said ‘Tell me, is there any evidence in what you’re finding in these necropsies that demonstrate any type of abuse?’ and he said ‘no,'” McDevitt said.
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But the protesters out front aren’t buying it.
“I can’t believe a person would do that is all I can say. Like, it’s hearsay, but the NB SPCA did say that it was inhumanely done, so it’s not really hearsay anymore, it’s just a matter of being accountable for it,” Cusack said.