Council officials in Cumbria have been advised not to grant a new license to a zoo where a staggering 500 animals have died in just four years.
The deaths at South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria, from 2013 to 2016 were revealed in a report to Barrow Borough Council’s licensing regulatory committee, which will decide the zoo’s fate next week.
The zoo, which was founded in 1994 by David Gill, was fined £255,000 last year after employee Sarah McClay, 24, was killed by a Sumatran tiger in May 2013.
An additional fine of £42,500 was also dished out after officials pleaded guilty to health and safety law breaches when a zoo keeper fell from a ladder as he prepared to feed big cats in July 2014.
Now, Government-appointed inspectors have advised against granting a fresh license to Mr Gill, after admitting that they were ‘dismayed by the obvious deficiencies in the accommodation, the overcrowding and the lack of proper welfare and husbandry.’
They claim that the deaths of 486 animals ‘shows a clear picture of poor management with uncontrolled breeding and lack of any programme of preventative and curative veterinary medicine, with resultant ongoing welfare issues for the animals.’
The ‘poor design’ of animal houses was also singled out – with inspectors claiming that it ‘could and probably would act as both a potential danger to the staff and the animals.’
In a strongly-worded letter to the council, the Captive Animals Protection Society wrote: ‘The conduct of this zoo has been some of the worst we have seen in many years and we feel that a case for closure is strong.
‘We urge the council to take the opportunity to prevent more animal suffering at this zoo and also set an example to the entire industry that inadequate care and management will not be tolerated.’
Mr Gill’s lawyers have since confirmed that he has stepped away from all trading and management activities connected with the zoo – after transferring full responsibility to Cumbria Zoo Company.
On the zoo’s Facebook page, Cumbria Zoo Company’s chief executive Karen Brewer said the company had a ‘continuing commitment to animal welfare’ since the firm began operating the site in January.
The committee will consider the application on Monday.