OSPCA began investigating Michael Hackenberger after video surfaced last December
The owner of a private zoo east of Toronto is facing animal cruelty charges after video footage surfaced that appeared to show him hitting a tiger with a whip during a training session.
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says it began investigating alleged abuse at the Bowmanville Zoo immediately after reviewing the footage that emerged in December.
The agency says the zoo’s owner, Michael Hackenberger, is 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.
The OSPCA says it will conduct another inspection of the zoo and continue to closely monitor the animals there.
Jennifer Bluhm, a senior inspector with the OSPCA, says the video, which was released by PETA, gave them a basis to lay charges.
“Animal cruelty is a serious offence. Our investigative unit has spent significant time reviewing the facility and interviewing all involved. Our priority is always the health and welfare of the animals,” she said in a release.
PETA said it was pleased that charges had been laid against Hackenberger.
“We hope that this case will result in an end to his torment of animals made to suffer for human entertainment,” the organization said.
Hackenberger posted a public statement to Facebook maintaining his innocence and advising his supporters that he will be standing down as Director of Bowmanville Zoo until the matter is resolved.