On 22nd March 2022, Canadian Senator Marty Klyne reintroduced the Jane Goodall Act (Bill S-241), which could end the future captivity of some wild animals and restricts the licensing of zoos in Canada. The bill aims to amend the Criminal Code to create offences respecting great apes, elephants and certain other non-domesticated animals in captivity, including respecting captive breeding. It also amends the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act to require a permit for the import, export or interprovincial transportation and captive breeding of great apes, elephants and certain other non-domesticated animals.

The bill was introduced in 2020 by former senator Murray Sinclair, and it is now back in the Senate after being side-lined by the federal election in September 2021. It has many significant new policies that could be the first step to phasing out the zoo industry in the country. If passed as it is now, the Jane Goodall Act would phase out elephant captivity nationally as Canada did in 2019 with whale and dolphin captivity. Great Apes would gain a form of unprecedented legal standing, and their future breeding will also be banned. The bill supports bans on the trade of elephant ivory and rhinoceros’ horn, and it bans the transportation of sperm, eggs, or embryos of certain species to stop their future captive breeding. It also prohibits the captivity of certain animals for entertainment purposes. Apart from cetaceans, Great Apes and elephants, the “designated animals” many of the new policies will affect include crocodiles, big cats, several canids, bears, and several reptiles. 

Rob Laidlaw, Executive Director of Zoocheck Canada, said, “Zoocheck is extremely pleased to support the Jane Goodall Act. This thoughtful, proactive and long-overdue legislation will make Canada more humane for animals, as well as safer for Canadians, by reducing the number of dangerous animals held by unqualified people.” Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of the Humane Society International/Canada, said, “HSI/Canada has witnessed the suffering and deplorable conditions in roadside zoos, having intervened to rescue hundreds of animals from such facilities. We fully support this landmark Act, to help prevent cruelty and neglect, reflecting Canadians’ desire to protect captive wild animals.”

However, although significant, this is still only a first step for the phasing out of zoos, as animals already in captivity in zoos — or who may be gestating at the time — when the bill is passed will be left behind, as the bill does not cover them. It does not cover either wild animals kept in captivity for non-harmful scientific research, or in sanctuaries. The bill allows zoos to continue holding wild animals captive if they meet the “gold standards” set by the Canadian Associations of Zoos and Aquaria (CAZA), and this is why the main big zoos support this bill. The good news is that small zoos may end up closed down, though, because if they violate the act, they will be required by court order to send their animals to sanctuaries approved by the federal environment ministry. Now it remains to be seen if the bill is passed without being watered down, it is properly enforced, and the zoo industry does not find loopholes within its exemptions to continue exploiting animals as it has been doing so far.

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