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Owner of roadside zoo hit with summons

June 27th, 2007, 01:07 PM

Lickety-Split has been a target for animal-rights activists

The province of Ontario is taking a controversial roadside zoo to court.

But not for the reasons animal-rights activists want.

Lickety-Split Ranch and Zoo owner Shirley McElroy has received a summons to appear in Provincial Offences Court in London July 23 to answer a charge the zoo has failed to renew its $100 yearly licence to care for wildlife.

If convicted under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, she could be fined up to $25,000, said David Critchlow, regional enforcement supervisor for the ministry of natural resources.

But a group fighting for changes at roadside zoos said the minor legal dispute will do little to prevent mistreatment of animals.

“This isn’t a deterrent of any kind,” said Melissa Tkachyk, spokesperson for Toronto-based World Society for the Protection of Animals.

“It doesn’t matter how you treat a fox or other native animals.“

The society wants the province to toughen regulations safeguarding native species and create new rules to protect exotic species kept at small roadside zoos.

In a letter to the Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay May 31, Tkachyk asked for an investigation of Lickety-Split’s licence.

She also asked that “enforcement staff be dispatched immediately to ensure that any animals (under ministry jurisdiction) are well cared for.”

The ministry of natural resources investigated Lickety-Split in September and found it met provincial standards.

But the zoo gained international attention last month when Australian media jumped on the story of Tyson, a red kangaroo held in a barren cage with no room to hop.

McElroy shut down the zoo, apparently temporarily, soon after. She has refused to talk to The Free Press.

A London group recently posted a reward for information on the whereabouts of Tyson.

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Randy Richmond is a Free Press reporter.