A pig at a Revelstoke petting zoo tested positive for a bacterial infection that can be transferred to humans, after the SPCA seized several animals from the roadside attraction.
Between June and September, the SPCA received 13 animal cruelty complaints about the Revelstoke Petting Zoo, prompting officers to visit the property in early August, according to a recent decision by the Farm Industry Review Board, an independent tribunal that issues rulings when someone appeals an SPCA seizure.
Eight animals were seized, including a pig, a lamb and several horses. A dead wiener piglet was taken to the Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford for testing. The results showed the animal had streptococcus suis, a bacterial infection that is not uncommon among pigs and can spread to people.
The infection is caused by strep bacteria, explained Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the BC SPCA. With treatment, pigs usually recover and the infection doesn’t spread to humans — “still, you probably wouldn’t want your child touching a pig that had this.”
The SPCA tried to notify owner James Richard Bruvall about the test results, but officers were unable to reach him. They revisited his property on Sept. 12 and found little had changed. They seized six more animals, including two pigs, a goat, a peacock, a miniature horse and an alpaca.
Bruvall, who was in jail at the time, appealed the second seizure to the Farm Industry Review Board.
At a hearing in November, an SPCA officer told the review board the animals had inadequate housing and limited access to good food and clean water. He observed nails protruding from the pig pen’s fence and dirty drinking water. The animals were examined by a vet and several were underweight or had other medical problems.
While Bruvall was in jail, a woman tried to care for the animals. She told the review board the pigs were often fed table scraps, which may have contained cooked meat. It is illegal to feed pigs meat in Canada, a rule put in place after the mad cow disease outbreak in the United Kingdom. Streptococcus suis is not related to feeding meat to pigs.
Moriarty characterized the petting zoo as a “makeshift” operation.
“This individual was not equipped with the financial resources or the proper knowledge to keep his animals free from distress,” she said in an interview Friday. “We see this fairly regularly. People see animals as a great way to make some money, but they aren’t prepared for everything that’s involved. The animals suffer as a result.”
Petting zoos, which many people associate with “positive childhood experiences,” are places with an increased potential for spreading “zoonoses,” or animal diseases that can be transferred to people, said Moriarty. Proper care is key to preventing disease.
After filing his appeal, Bruvall failed to attend the hearing. He did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
The review board heard the case in Brucall’s absence and found in favour of the SPCA.
“I am further horrified at their lack of concern for the animals which were used for commercial purposes, a petting zoo,” said the decision. “Children should not have had to see animals kept in those conditions.”
Moriarty said the SPCA has recommended animal cruelty charges against Bruvall, which are awaiting Crown counsel approval. There is nothing to prevent Bruvall from reopening his petting zoo with new pigs unless a judge makes an order to prevent him from owning animals.
All the animals, with the exception of one horse, have been adopted to new homes.
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