Muskoka's Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary denies animals were mistreated

ROSSEAU, Ont. - The chairwoman of the board of an Ontario wildlife sanctuary says today the facility has been “blindsided” by allegations of animal mistreatment and labour violations that have been made by former workers.

ROSSEAU, Ont. - The chairwoman of the board of an Ontario wildlife sanctuary says today the facility has been “blindsided” by allegations of animal mistreatment and labour violations that have been made by former workers.

Julia McLaren says the non-profit Muskoka charity Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, which cares for 1,000 injured and orphaned animals a year, is devastated and disappointed by the allegations.

McLaren confirms three permanent employees resigned and left before their notice was up this week, which has put a strain on the almost 40-year-old sanctuary, but she insists the animals are being cared for.

She says a representative of Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources toured the facility and questioned staff on Wednesday after several former employees and volunteers alleged moose calves starved to death due to inconsistent feeding schedules, hungry bears ate other bears and dozens of raccoons died of parvovirus.

McLaren says a moose died from its inability to “assimilate its nutrition,” and that it's not unusual for parvovirus to break out among raccoons, but she says she doesn't know where the allegation about bears eating other bears came from.

Kevin McKaye, spokesman for the Ministry of Labour, says the ministry has received five claims alleging that overtime wages and vacation pay have not been paid by the sanctuary and an investigation is pending.