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All the permits are in? Are you sure about that Zoocheck?

We sent City Council members, the Mayor, the City Manager, the  Zoo Board and the Zoo CEO an email on September 3, 2013 outlining our intention to file complaints with various government agencies, on both the issue of tuberculosis as a risk to the Toronto Zoo elephants at council’s destination of choice and regarding the inhumane road transport plan. Of course we did not receive a single reply.

Here are some excerpts:

The proposed transport plan by air or by truck can be argued as such:

Duration of Transport

The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies does not recommend transportation longer than 52 hours for farm animals so the 4 1/2 day land transport plan mentioned by PAWS’ legal counsel (evidenced in City of Toronto FOIA) is in direct contravention of what is cited in the Federal Health of Animals Act. Exceeding the duration of recommended transport times by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies qualifies as putting an animal in “distress

Which is where CEO John Tracogna and City Councillors are in contravention. This is where their liability comes in. (Through the Ontario Animal Welfare Act 11.2)

*the proposed 50hrs by Zoocheck is to avoid scrutiny under this 52 hour recommendation”

Air Transport in Original Proposal vs. Road Transport in New Proposal

City Council agreed to Air Transport which is a different proposition from Road Transport. Hence, the manner in which the animals are being transported currently is an issue; animal welfare concerns are very different for each mode of transport and City Council should reconvene to discuss this issue, to see if they are in contravention of Animal Welfare Laws or recommendations on what would constitute humane transport. There should be public deputations and experts allowed for both sides of this issue, not just videotaped deputations and reports from PAWS and Zoocheck’s own paid veterinary and professional advocates.

Given the duration of the proposed transfer move (4.5 days) or even 50+hrs, we cannot see how it is feasible. If the elephants are sedated, that constitutes a serious risk to their welfare and animal welfare laws and CITES rule that they cannot be sedated. However a DVM can attest to the fact that sedation may be necessary if the transportation is of the suggested duration and therefore apply for this variance in the law. If this is done it can be challenged under the law as inhumane and putting an animal at risk and under duress. The key to this argument is that the duration of the move (identified by the PAWS lawyers in their e-mail FOIA) would constitute inhumane transport and could lead to severe distress. This is being supported currently by multiple animal welfare and elephant experts.

The references, of course, would be:

Correspondence between PAWS lawyers and Canadian Air Force where they indicate that transport would be 4 1/2 days versus the 2 days proposed in City Council https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5WlBT7uQTbwU1dhcW02a3NFYjg/edit

Recommendations by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on what is acceptable duration of transport for Farm Animals based on Canadian Federal Health of Animals regulations (page 13) http://www.nfacc.ca/pdfs/codes/Transportation%20Code%20of%20Practice.pdf

Canadian Federal Health of Animals Act, Subsection 64 (i) for the humane treatment of animals and generally (i) governing the care, handling and disposition of animals, (ii) governing the manner in which animals are transported within, into or out of Canada, and (iii) providing for the treatment or disposal of animals that are not cared for, handled or transported in a humane manner;


Ontario Animal Welfare Act: Prohibitions re distress, harm to an animal Causing distress 11.2 (1) No person shall cause an animal to be in distress. Permitting distress (2) No owner or custodian of an animal shall permit the animal to be in distress. http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/statutes/english/2008/elaws_src_s08016_e.htm

The we also included our concerns over the misrepresentation of commmisioned disease reports and concealment of disease and the corresponding various Federal and Provincial violations blah blah blah. But that can be addressed another day.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

One of the original letters of complaint we sent was to Minister Gerry Ritz who heads up the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food. We received a generic reply from the Minister on August 28th, 2013. After the initial email was sent to Minister Ritz a request for an investigation of the road transport  of the Toronto Zoo Elephants as well as a complaint  and request for an investigation of tuberculosis at PAWS was sent to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. On September 23, 2013 we got this:

Received September 23, 2013

Received September 23, 2013

The complaints were also forwarded to the appropriate Federal and Provincial agencies and officials which oversee the transport, import and export of animals and animal welfare in CANADA. This  response was received on September 23, 2013, just a couple of weeks ago. It would appear the final Federal approvals had not yet been granted for the road transport plan. If this was the case then why did the Toronto zoo, Zoocheck Canada and PAWS officially announce a tentative date for transport? The Toronto Zoo elephants are not going anywhere without those permits and City Council has no authority over the Federal Government.

This press release went out from the zoo on September 18, 3013


Here in a Toronto Star Article Zoocheck Canada’s Julie Woodyer says

“It’s all come together,” Woodyer said. “The stars have finally lined up.”

All necessary permits are in and zoo CEO John Tracogna has approved the transport plan, which will see the elephant trio travel across the continent by truck, according to Woodyer.


Interesting, article dated Tuesday, September 17, 2013. Just 6 days before we received our email from CFIA (which must approve the transport plan) appearing to indicate that no decision had been made yet.

Just makes you go hmmmm? Given Zoocheck’s proven track record of not being able to understand the difference between fact, fiction and blatant BS it is hard to believe anything that comes out of Ms. Woodyer’s mouth these days, if ever.

So we all pitched in to get this opposition some gifts,

A golden shovel award, because no one shovels “it” as good as you do!

Because no one shovels it as good as you!

Because no one shovels it as good as you!

A paddle, you know how the saying goes. Up the S*** creek without one and all that…

You know how the saying goes

You know how the saying goes

A hot air balloon…no explanation needed.

This one is self evident

This one is self evident

And a box of tissues, again, no need to explain

For those trying times

For those trying times


Toronto Zoo Elephants Death by Dogma?


Just what will the 4200km road transport of the Toronto Zoo elephant entail?

Good question, sadly the transport plans appear to be top secret, FOIA is seemingly not available and the Zoo now refers any questions about the transport to PAWS. The Zoo’s CEO John Tracogna and zoo board chair Joe Torzsok clearly want to appease  the will of council at any cost maybe at the cost of these elephant’s lives. Council rules supreme, they are accountable to no one but their own egos.

There has been nothing stopping either of these individuals from speaking out to the media, to stand up and declare that they are against this transfer but must kowtow  to the will of Toronto City politicians who have claimed control and power over the fate of these elephants. To protect their jobs or positions on the board and perhaps future career opportunities they have said nothing, absolutely nothing at all in defense of these elephant’s lives, in defense if the zoological expert opposition. Their sole mandate is to exercise the inhumane demands of the non-experts at Toronto City Council. How can you run a zoo when the welfare of the animals comes second to the needs of politicians?

What we do know about the transport plan is that it requires one elephant on one flatbed truck with two others on another truck. Of course they will be chained on three legs in their crates but the trucks are not enclosed. The two elephants on one truck is of great concern, once again the Zoo’s CEO shows a total lack of knowledge, experience or seeming concern for the welfare of these elephants. He has been advised by his senior vet staff and the zoo’s animal care committee that this proposed plan is unsafe and inhumane. He went ahead and approved the plan against opposition from his entire senior staff and vets as well as industry experts. Because everyone knows politicians and anti zoo organizations are brimming with experience in zoological care and impartiality.

The Toronto Zoo elephants are protected contact. This means they cannot be loaded or offloaded in a manner lets say that circus elephants are, freely and at will. Once they are on the trucks they can only be offloaded safely at a secure facility which has the means to house them, both indoors and out. Generally this would have to be a zoological facility. Accommodating one elephant is reasonable three is another story. Since it appears Zoocheck cannot afford the air transport they promised as a means to acquire council votes and public approval to send these elephants to PAWS and they are undertaking the cheapest mode of transport possible do they have the money to pay a zoological facility the required fees if the need to offload arises? Or will they just drive non stop straight through?

Cranes are required to lift the crates and place them on to the trucks. The elephants will be chained on three legs without the ability to move, turn or lie down. It will be difficult for the older elephants to maintain healthy blood circulation. In case of an animal going down due to an emergency belly straps are placed beneath the animal and secured on either side of the crate. So imagine if the first elephant loaded on the two-elephant truck goes into medical distress. First a zoological facility will have to be contacted, next a crane will have to be ordered to either meet the truck at the location of the emergency if it is life threatening and the animal needs to be removed from the crates immediately or meet them at a facility for offload. There is no way to predict how long it will take to drive the elephant to a facility as we cannot predict where and when an emergency could happen. Whether or not they remove the second crate in order to access the distressed animal the belly straps will be attached to the crane and the animal will be removed, like this:


Example of how belly straps and crane are used to lift an elephant


The crates will be exposed to the elements during transport. As the trucks drive into the cooler temperatures of the rocky mountain weather systems night time temps can go as low as 35° F/1°C. Whether or not there are heating and cooling systems in place is unknown as the plan has been kept a secret. The crates have slats which allow outside air to flow in and out so it seems any form of heating or cooling system would be pointless anyway.

Now of course our elephants are used to colder temperatures but they are not used to having cold wind blasting on them as they travel down a highway at higher altitudes all the while having to flex muscles systems and strain their legs to accommodate the sway of the vehicles, acceleration and deceleration. Perhaps this would be easier on younger elephants or elephants trained to travel but training elephants to stand in a stationary crate in the psychological comfort of the home they have known their entire lives is no preparation for the rigours of real transport at any distance let alone 4200km. They will be scared, stressed and physically at risk as a result. This experience will be terrifying for them, fear increases stress and stress brings physiological risks in an elephant which can cause rapid death. Have you ever tried to save a baby bird? And despite all the efforts you took to help it it died within hours? This is because it is so terrified having been “captured” that it’s heart rate increases to lethal levels. This increases that lactic acid in the animals system and without the ability to reduce those levels it has deadly results.

Capture Myopathy – A very real threat

“where the muscles are working very hard, they use oxygen faster than the blood can supply it. This creates an oxygen deficiency. Instead of producing carbon dioxide, the muscles produce lactic acid. If the lactic acid builds up in the muscle cells it destroys cell membranes causing muscle damage and the release of cell contents. When enough muscle cells are damaged capture myopathy occurs. Death can occur from shock, electrolyte imbalances, or from muscle damage itself.”

In the case of capture myopathy muscle tissues can be permanently damaged and its fatal results can occur immediately or within weeks. The best and sometimes only treatment for capture myopathy is prevention. It is common in wild animals but has been known to affect captive animals. In the case of the Storybook Zoo seal deaths during the Zoocheck initiated transport from London, Ontario to the St. Louis zoo it is thought that capture myopathy was the cause, the seals were young and healthy. Three out of the four perished, two in transport and one later at the zoo. Stress and fear killed them, transport killed them. In the case of the two older Toronto Zoo elephants Toka and Iringa, if one of them goes down during transport it is very likely it will never get back up again.


This is the only way to remove a downed elephant from a crate

How the CEO of our zoo and Toronto City council can approve of this road transport is unimaginable. They cried animal welfare down at city hall, patted themselves on the backs as heros, they hailed “sanctuary” as the only answer for our elephants and ignored industry expert opposition. They ignored tuberculosis risks at the sanctuary and they denounced the 30hr road trip to The National Elephant Center in Florida as inhumane but in order to cater to their extremist dogma they silently approved of an 80+ hr transport as ok. How is 30hrs inhumane and 80hrs is not? Does the destination magically make the journey less deadly? Anyone who believes this is an extremist without the rational intellect to separate their cult-like beliefs from reality.

We fear the last images we will have of one or more of the Toronto Zoo elephants will be this:


Will this be the fate of Toronto Zoo elephants?


Will Toronto City Council be held accountable if this happens?



Could the last image of Toronto Zoo elephants look something like this?

Who will they all blame? They will blame the zoo staff for delays, as if 2 years would have made the difference. Iringa, the oldest elephant could not have travelled by truck at all two years ago due to a foot ailment. It has only recently begun to heal thanks to the world class vet care at the Toronto Zoo. There was no transport plan two years ago, planes were promised and we now know they were never able to make good on this promise, ever! The road transport plan was just secretly agreed upon by Zoocheck and the Ceo in the early spring of 2013 when they realized the Royal Canadian Air Force could not compete with the commercial air transport offer Zoocheck and PAWS mysteriously turned down. They did not have the common decency or concern enough for the elephants welfare to inform the elephant management staff in charge of training for transport that the mode of transport had been changed. They knew they were planning road transport as early as March 2013 and didn’t tell staff or the media until September, 7 months later! The new crates just arrived at the zoo at the beginning of September, 2013. The first crates were built incorrectly and the wrong size due to yet again more bungling by Zoocheck and Paws which had the incorrect measurements of the elephants. And of course to outline delays and who is responsible for them we could go all the way back to 2011/2012 and  the lack of honest disclosure by Paws to the zoo and the people of Toronto about tuberculosis transmission on site and tuberculosis deaths at the sanctuary. The only people to blame in this fiasco are city councillors and the extremist animal rights egos of Zoocheck Canada and PAWS. If these elephants die in transport Zoocheck will have a perfect record for animal deaths during transport. I wonder if they  have an award for that?

With the recent transport of a young bull from Calgary to Florida we have been able to determine a timeline for travel, how long the Toronto Zoo transfer might take. It is certainly not anywhere near the transport time they have been spewing to the media. The young bull, an experienced road transport traveller arrived at his destination in 75 hrs. This include multiple stops. Three older elephants with two on one truck means a considerably slower and longer drive. Flooding, forest fires and now the onset of an early winter in Colorado and Utah all come together to create what could now be a road trip which could exceed 100 hrs!

100hrs is humane according to City Council and animal rights groups.

They will stop at nothing to get these elephants. Because our elephants are now poster children which represent a victory against zoos on behalf of the anti zoo movement. They are being used to promote a cause and their welfare is secondary to the cause, and that is what we call exploitation.

Exploitation is the use of someone or something in an unjust or cruel manner.

The act of employing to the greatest possible advantage

 Utilization of another person or group (or elephants) for selfish purposes
 An advertising or a publicity program.

Toronto Council uses paid advocacy to override Toronto Zoo experts

crates copy

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.