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Toronto Council uses paid advocacy to override Toronto Zoo experts

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The significance of the Dr. Cork Report

It was used by council to override the zoo’s due diligence report.

It was commissioned by Zoocheck Canada who is exempt from lobbyist code of conduct and rules because they are a not for profit however Zoocheck acts as agents on behalf of PAWS in Toronto and has lobbied the matter of the Toronto Zoo elephants  for years.

The Dr. Cork report was presented to the November 27, 2012 council meeting one hour before council discussed the elephant transfer status and voted to override the zoo’s professional authority again.

Dr. Cork was given access at the PAWS sanctuary and information (medical) which was not granted to Toronto Zoo vets and staff when they conducted their site visit and due diligence. The PAWS friendly USDA Elephant Field Specialist Dr. Denise Sofranko would not even return the calls to the Toronto Zoo vets. In fact throughout much of the time between November 2011 and April 2012 PAWS, Zoocheck and councillors denied TB at PAWS. Not until the FOIA from the USDA came out in April, 2012 did they finally admit it and even then still maintained that of the two TB+ deceased elephants the Bull Sabu died from euthanasia due to severe arthritis…not TB.  USDA necropsy reports stated they were both TB+ post mortem. NO media outlet has called them out on this.

Here is the order of events:

Councillor Berardinetti submits the Dr. Cork report at the November 27 City Council meeting. Elephants were discussed at approximately 5pm, the report was submitted to the clerk at approximately 4pm. Zoo staff had about 40 minutes to review it.

Part 1: This is a downloaded version of how the report was submitted and how it is listed at the city’s website:


Part 2.  with an addition by Dr. Mel Richardson, PAWS vet who worked for them when trunk wash data appears to go missing during 2007-2011 and just prior to TB source elephant’s death and when deceased African elephant Ruby’s bronchial mass tissues are not sent for TB culture. At the Executive committee meeting he had no idea how many elephants died while he worked there:

He is a hired advocate for organizations such as Born Free USA, (Zoocheck’s American affiliate) PETA and In Defense of Animals, council took his “expertise” over our vets.

Council uses this report and a biased CBC 5th Estate documentary to override the due diligence of the Toronto Zoo vets and staff. Of note the producers of that documentary met with us and had access to all the USDA evidence which outlines quite clearly TB is an issue on site at PAWS Ark2000 and they chose to use none of it or even discuss it. However the producers also contacted the Zoo’s CEO who in turn refused to communicate with them, censored by City Council. How nice how it all wraps up in a neat and tidy package for the councillors who wanted to doctor and manipulate this transfer in favour of their ideology and political careers.

 This is the due diligence report and background: 



Background Information (Committee)

(October 18, 2012) Report from the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo on Elephant Transfer Status Update (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-51348.pdf)(September 25, 2012) Memo with Attachments, from the Toronto Zoo on Elephant Transfer Status (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/ex/bgrd/backgroundfile-51354.pdf)

Background Information (City Council)

(November 20, 2012) Supplementary report from the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo on the Elephant Transfer Due Diligence Review

(EX24.30a) (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52360.pdf)

Attachment 1 to the report (November 20, 2012) from the Chief Executive Officer,

Toronto Zoo – Due Diligence

Review (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52363.pdf)

Attachment 1 to the Due Diligence Review (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52364.pdf)

Attachment 2 to the Due Diligence Review (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52366.pdf)

Attachment 3 to the Due Diligence Review (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52367.pdf)

Attachment 4 to the Due Diligence Review (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52368.pdf)

Attachment 5 to the Due Diligence Review (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52369.pdf)

Attachment 6 to the Due Diligence Review (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52370.pdf)

Attachment 2 to the report (November 20, 2012) from the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52361.pdf)

Attachment 3 to the report (November 20, 2012) from the Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo (http://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2012/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-52362.pdf)

Zoo Due Diligence Report


see attached letters/expert submissions

CEO’s recommendations


So after the Dr. Cork report was submitted we analyzed it:

Here https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5WlBT7uQTbwZGJiLUlseHRWTDA/edit

Here https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5WlBT7uQTbwNGhRVlJZZUlBZTQ/edit?usp=sharing

And we found many discrepancies and errors. So we began contacting Dr. Cork for answers. She told us that she had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Zoocheck Canada, who commissioned the report and she directed all of our questions to Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck. Hmmm we thought. Zoocheck commissioned this report despite the fact they act as agents on behalf of PAWS and technically as lobbyists. How can council accept a report like this over the zoo staff? How can this not be considered by the City Manager and Integrity offices as a conflict of interest? PAWS gave Dr. Cork more access to the sanctuary and more access to medical reports than they did the zoo staff over the course of over an entire year under contractual agreements.

We continued to rattle University of Calgary, sending our emails not only to the

2013-02-03 20.13.08 Dean of the Vet school and Dr. Cork but also the president of the University and the VP of Research asking why we could not have a copy of the original report, before it was submitted to Zoocheck and Council. In one email Dr. Cork admitted that she did not write the discussion points or the executive summary (note it’s placement in the report). It was placed within the body of the report to appear as if it was written by Dr. Cork, there is no clarification in the report anywhere which refers to who authored the inserted pages.  But we needed an official statement.

Then we got this:


The media did not seem to understand the value of this. They admit they did not write several pages of information in the report which makes it clear Zoocheck inserted that extra info. The report was doctored and then Councillor Berardinetti misrepresented it to council, the zoo and the people of this city as the entire work of the University of Calgary. As the report was used as completed due diligence it was technically used to apply for permits with Federal agencies on both sides of the border and that is a federal violation in Canada.

Still not official enough?

We did a FOIA request for correspondence between Zoo CEO John Tracogna and the Dean of the Vet School at Calgary (based on a tip from a Calgary contact). Calgary public records blew us off for months, delaying the request. The City of Toronto on the other hand did not. We got this, please note that the date of this email correspondence is one day before the December zoo board meeting and just a week after the November 27, 2012 council meeting to re-vote in favour of PAWS:




This email and its contents were not shared at the December Zoo Board meeting or with councillors. The CEO just quietly kept it to himself. It clearly states the zoo could ask questions about the report. To date staff has been told to cease all contact or any pursuit of information as it pertains to PAWS and tuberculosis.


Misrepresentation of Tuberculosis 

It is very clear that the Ontario Veterinary College and the Executive Director for Conservation Management of the Toronto have grounds to ask for a more impartial investigation of the state of TB in PAWS. We will be requesting the Ontario Veterinary College follow up on this.

The Dr. Cork report was commissioned by Zoocheck so the Toronto Zoo has grounds to believe that it is not impartial. Furthermore, was Dr. Cork compensated financially by Zoocheck in order to write the report? Yes she was. University of Calgary FOIA indicates this. There are also key pieces of missing information necessary from the Cork report for medical practitioners to make an assessment. Much of that missing information is available from the Toronto Zoo’s senior vet staff and their Due Diligence report however Dr. Cork never contacted them. Much of this information was provided to the Toronto Zoo CEO, he chose to keep it from official records at Zoo Board Meetings and council meetings.( We feel this is in contravention of his duties )

Therefore, on the grounds that the report provided by Dr. Cork may be “misleading” based on subsection 11 of your federal CITES law WAPPRIITA , we will ask for a proper assessment to be conducted by CANADIAN Federal authorities or more neutral parties,.

We have enough evidence to prove that the Dr. Cork report was misrepresented as completed due diligence to Toronto Council and to all government agencies involved both in the USA and Canada. We have the information which was not included in the Cork report, evidence that Dr. Cork relied solely on information provided to her by PAWS as well as a statement from the University of Calgary citing that is was commissioned and paid for by Zoocheck, that Zoocheck wrote multiple pages of the report without clarifying it was not Dr. Cork’s work.

Also evidenced is Zoocheck’s claim to Dr. Cork that the report was being commissioned on behalf of Toronto Council despite no official record existing of Toronto Council officially requesting the report from Cork or the University. Further we have evidence that City Councillors were given the opportunity to review the report days before the meeting when senior management and senior vet staff were only given approximately 45 minutes to review the detailed report prior to the November 27, 2012 City Council meeting. The Cork report was misrepresented paid advocacy used to bypass the Toronto Zoos zoological professional expertise and concerns about the bio-security at PAWS.

The Health of Animals Act in also means that no person should

conceal the existence of disease

(http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/H-3.3/page-3.html#docCont) there are instances where PAWS refused to comply with requests for more information or failure to allow the Toronto vets access to the quarantined barns as concealment of disease. We also have evidence of Councillors misleading the public in the media about tuberculosis at PAWS and going so far as to claim there was no TB at PAWS at a time when FOIA indicates there was. Councillor Berardinetti admits she knew about TB at PAWS on an episode of TVO’s The Agenda. We have multiple news articles where PAWS, Zoocheck, and City Councillors claim no TB or are misleading about TB at PAWS.

We also have hundreds of pages of FOIA documentation outlining tuberculosis issues at PAWS as early as 2010. These documents include correspondence with CDC, California State Health Officials, the USDA/APHIS and California Fish and Wildlife. Pretty powerful evidence that PAWS was fully aware prior to the Council vote in favour of PAWS in the Fall of 2011 of tuberculosis transmission on site as well as TB related elephant deaths and elephant to human transmission of TB on site.


  1. […] Toronto Council uses paid advocacy to override Toronto Zoo experts […]

  2. puck013 says:

    Brilliant!! People need to know this information!!!!
    Price is wrong Bob!!! Our elephants are worth more than your opinion. Boo to toronto city council!!

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