Big cat removal in Lambton Shores delayed again


Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative

Lambton Shores big cat owners Mark and Tammy Drysdale have a few more days to move several exotic cats.

Lambton Shores passed a bylaw in April 2019 that banned the ownership of exotic animals in the town after the Drysdales brought in the animals to operate the Roaring Cat Retreat on the site of the old Pineridge Zoo.

Following a lengthy legal battle, including a trip to the provincial Court of Appeal, it was ruled that the bylaw would stand and the animals would have to be re-homed.

That is a lengthy process. There is a sanctuary in the US willing to take the animals, but it has to receive permits to get them across the board.

The couple went to court Wednesday, looking to have more time to move the lions and tigers. The received some but the extension was shorter than the Drysdale’s were hoping. They wanted to move the lions and tigers by June 15.

Justice John A. Desotti adjourned the case until May 19, telling both sides to expect a removal date not long after that, and earlier than June 15.

“This has gone on long enough, and there has to be a finite resolution to this situation,” the judge said.

The Municipality of Lambton Shores argued the current May 15 deadline for removal of the animals should be upheld. The animals were originally supposed to be moved by March 31, but Justice Desotti granted an extension due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Lambton Shores Lawyer, Analee Baroudi, wanted the judge to call the transport of the animals as an essential service under the current provincial emergency order, which was extended to May 19 earlier in the day. This would have allowed them to be moved by the current deadline.

Justice Desotti says while he was sympathetic to the municipality’s case, and that he would like to see his original decision carried out, he didn’t feel that he had the jurisdiction to deem the removal an essential service. He was concerned of the risks of constructing cages to move the animals.

Both sides will return to the Superior Court on May 19.