Marineland's top vet says the welfare of animals who live at the Niagara Falls park is the staff's "number one priority".
The attraction is on the defensive after ex-trainers came forward with allegations of mistreatment of Marineland animals & sub-par infrastructure.
But Dr June Mergl tells 610 CKTB News she believes trainers past & present would agree Marineland's veterinary staff of 3 treats animals to the best of their ability.
In an exposé in Wednesday's (Aug 15) Toronto Star, ex-staffers blame exposure to unhealthy water for causing blindness or other vision problems in 6 of Marineland's 7 seals.
But Mergl says eye problems are common in seals & sealions, both in captivity & in the wild. She says it's especially common among older pinnipeds & many of Marineland's animals are getting on in years. Mergl says the Star article leaves out that many Marineland animals are elderly & under veterinary observation. She adds that photos & video that accompany the article show behaviours that are normal for animals of that species & age.
There are no firm regulations around the care of sea mammals at the provincial or federal level. Ontario's NDP is calling on the government to oversee the treatment of sea mammals in captivity.
Marineland passed an inspection by industry watchdog the Canadian Association of Zoos & Aquariums last summer. CAZA's National Director says the group has no complaints about Marineland on file.
Bill Peters couldn't say if the publicized allegations from past trainers would be enough to have CAZA take another look at Marineland. That's up to CAZA's Accreditation Commission. The commission's chair is away for a family emergency.
Ont. NDP: more protection for sea mammals
Industry watchdog: No complaints against Marineland
Ex-trainers allege abuse at Marineland