Saint John’s Cherry Brook Zoo celebrated its 45th anniversary on Saturday, even as online allegations of animal cruelty continue to haunt the zoo.
Despite two independent investigations failing to produce any charges, allegations on social media have had an impact on the zoo.
“Unfortunately there has been an effect on the zoo with what this small group of people have been doing in the background,” said executive director Martha McDevitt.
“There’s no wrongdoing here. We just keep telling people to come out and see for themselves and talk to the staff and talk to me and rest assured that we care and love for these animals deeply.”
WATCH: (July 11) Release of New Brunswick report on animal cruelty at zoo in limbo
In January, a complaint that a “number” of guinea pigs had been inhumanely euthanized by a zookeeper prompted an investigation by the New Brunswick SPCA. After collecting evidence and statements, the SPCA recommended that charges be laid for inhumane euthanasia and causing unnecessary pain and suffering, but after being reviewed by the Crown prosecutor’s office in April, it was decided that no charges would be laid.
Another investigation was performed by Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums in April, and they too found no evidence of wrongdoing.
But rumours and allegations continue to circulate on social media.
McDevitt says the zoo remains focused on its long-term vision and hopes it can continue to provide a family recreation space in a city where that type of facility is lacking.
“We’re at a crossroads, we really are at a crossroads, of success and failure,” McDevitt said.
“We need the community to see this place here, this little place in Rockwood Park, as their own and to fight for what we have,” she added. “The greater Saint John area deserves something beautiful and that’s what we want to show people — that we actually have a vision.”
While the zoo is trying to look forward and move on, others are still trying to get answers surrounding the original SPCA report. The New Brunswick SPCA has continually declined to comment on the investigation and the report and attempts by Global News to obtain a copy through a freedom of information request were also unsuccessful.
On Thursday Ken Hopkins, a member of the New Brunswick SPCA, appeared in court to argue that the report should be released.
WATCH: (April 7) Protestors gather outside Cherry Brook Zoo as allegations of animal cruelty persist
“Rather than the focus being on the complaint and what had taken place at the zoo, the focus kind of turned around on the zookeepers on them making the report and I don’t believe that’s too fair,” said Hopkins.
Hopkins had filed a request under the province’s freedom of information legislation but the SPCA did not respond, saying they did not believe they were a public body and did not fall under the bodies governed by the act.
But Hopkins believes that the report needs to be released to get to the bottom of what happened at the zoo.
“I would like to have some access to the file, if not all of it,” he said. “I really don’t want information that violates people’s privacy, obviously, or interferes with the operations of the N.B. SPCA, but just the basic info of what took place at the Cherry Brook Zoo.”
The SPCA is arguing that releasing the report would impact its ability to perform future investigations and expose private third-party information.