Quebec zoo owner pleads guilty to animal welfare violations, criminal charges dropped

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MONTREAL — The former owner of a zoo in central Quebec has pleaded guilty to animal welfare offences, but will avoid criminal charges.

Normand Trahan pleaded guilty to four infractions today under Quebec's Animal Welfare and Safety Act after the Crown dropped the criminal charges against him from 2019.

Trahan pleaded guilty to violations including inadequate conditions and lack of veterinary care involving the zoo in St-Édouard-de-Maskinongé, Que., about 120 kilometres northeast of Montreal, which was sold earlier this year.

He will have to pay more than $6,800 in fines and is prohibited from owning animals for five years, with the exception of pets at his home.

The Montreal SPCA, which oversaw the probe, says more than 200 animals were removed from the facility in 2019 and placed permanently in new homes in Canada and the United States.

The animal welfare group says it is happy with the guilty pleas, adding that the case involved the largest seizure of zoo animals in Canadian history.

Trahan's lawyer, Michel Lebrun, told reporters in Trois-Rivières, Que., today that his client was ready to turn the page.

"I would tell you that Mr. Trahan is relieved and very happy to move on and be able to consider a peaceful retirement," he said following the hearing.

Chantal Cayer, head of investigations at the Montreal SPCA, said in an interview today the group is "very satisfied" with the outcome of the case.

The zoo once housed lions, tigers, zebras, bears, wolves, kangaroos and primates. The investigation was triggered by a complaint from visitors to the zoo in 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2021.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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