Already reeling from allegations of marine mammal cruelty made in August, a former supervisor of land animals at the Niagara Falls-based Marineland in Ontario, claims he was forced to dispatch a deer with a blunt knife.
The shocking claim was just one of several made by the former supervisor of Marineland's land animals, Jim Hammond. Hammond said he resigned last year after citing an incident where he was ordered by Marineland's owner John Holer to finish of a deer that Holer shot but didn't kill.
Hammond told the Toronto Star that killing the deer in 2010 was the last straw and it left him both traumatized and ashamed. The incident occurred after a red deer at the facility broke its leg and Hammond asked Holer if he could call out a vet to euthanize the animal.
Holer instead took matters into his own hand and shot the deer with a 12-gauge shotgun. According to Hammond, the shot didn't kill the animal. It was "Twitching quite a bit and his head would flop up and down," Hammond said. A shot through the windpipe had left the deer gasping for air.
When the deer did not die, Hammond explained that he made a second request to his boss to either call a vet to euthanize the animal, or have Holer return and dispatch the deer. Holer, apparently moaned that he had just arrived home and ordered the supervisor to use a knife to finish the animal off. Hammond told the Star that "it wasn’t unusual for Holer to shoot his animals from his truck," but for him, killing the deer was something that still haunts him to this day:
It was a dull knife . . . If you take a dull knife across hair, it’s very hard to cut. It was like trying to cut into concrete. And you’re there not for a few seconds, it’s a few minutes.
The incident was one of several cases of further animal cruelty exposed by the Star that follows claims made in August by park marine mammal trainers that water conditions at the facility were making the mammals sick.
Staff reporters Linda Diebel and Liam Casey said that when the Star visited the park on Sep. 5, there were fewer deer than in the summer, but cites sources as saying there was a major cleanup conducted after initial allegations first surfaced. Back in July however, the paper explained, several deer were seen to be limping and others bore "grotesque growths and wounds." According to Hammond, these were the results of inbreeding between the park's deer population.
The Star then cited several other sources claiming cruelty violations involving Marineland's bear population. Hammond claimed that at least four bear cubs perished after being eaten by adult males. Holer, the supervisor alleged, deemed it "the circle of life." Despite several attempts the Star said, it failed to speak with park vets or the Humane Society currently investigating the park. Neither would return their calls the paper said.
A Niagara Regional Police Officer Richard Gadreau citing the Humane Society, did say that John Holer was perfectly within his rights to dispatch animals in this manner. Trainers even spoke of a massive grave on the property explained the Star. At one point sources claimed, a crew had to "dig up a killer whale carcass because the brain hadn’t been preserved after the necropsy."
Zoocheck Canada revealed that of 29 orcas to have passed through the park's gates, nine were transferred to other facilities and only two of them are still alive today.
One of those, Ikaika or Ike, was an orca loaned to Marineland back in 2006 by SeaWorld. SeaWorld was forced into a suit to get Ike back after airing concerns about conditions at Marineland. Twenty killer whales have died while in Marineland Canada’s care. Today, only one orca remains, 35-year-old Kiska.