Lambton Shores pouncing on big cat sanctuary following court ruling

Lions at the Roaring Cat Retreat, the former site of the Pineridge Zoo near Grand Bend. BlackburnNews.com photo.

The owners of a big cat sanctuary near Grand Bend are being told to take their lions, tigers and other exotic animals elsewhere.

Ontario Superior Court has issued a permanent injunction against Roaring Cat Retreat, outlawing the housing of exotic animals within the Municipality of Lambton Shores.

Mayor Bill Weber said he’s pleased with Justice John A. Desotti’s decision.

“The municipality was successful and the decision is that the animals need to be removed from the property, so it’s actually a permanent injunction contravening the zoning bylaw, which is residential zoning on that property,” he said. “Our concern [with the site] was for the safety and the proper zoning, so hopefully we can move forward.”

Weber said exactly when the animals will be removed has yet to be determined and that they’ll probably have more information this week.

In April, Lambton Shores councillors unanimously passed an exotic animal bylaw that bans the ownership of animals including tigers, lions, cougars and leopards — the bylaw was then challenged by cat retreat owners Mark Drysdale and Tammy Nyssonnen.

At the time, Mayor Weber said the municipality “can utilize the bylaw to make sure that there’s a process to ensure that things are safe.”

In November, a social media post showed an escaped lion cub on a local street not far from the retreat which is located at the former Pineridge Zoo site at 9827 Parkview Cres.

Mayor Weber said that the former zoo, which operated in the area for 40 years, caused a number of problems for the community.

A lion at the Roaring Cat Retreat, the former site of the Pineridge Zoo near Grand Bend. BlackburnNews.com photo.

A lion at the Roaring Cat Retreat, the former site of the Pineridge Zoo near Grand Bend. BlackburnNews.com photo.

“Back when it operated many years ago, there were animals that were not contained on the property and smells on the property, and that was closed down and the zoning has changed — it’s a residential zoning on that property, so those things would not be permitted now without a zone amendment to our planning process.”

Defence counsel for Drysdale and Nyssonnen, Paula Lombardi, told BlackburnNews.com via email, “We are currently reviewing the decision and its impact on our client and determining next steps up to and including a possible appeal.”