Heckmondwike’s Ponderosa Zoo has undergone a spot check just days after an explosion of complaints on social media about animal welfare.
Officials from Kirklees Council visited the facility today (October 20) as part of a planned riding licence inspection but took the opportunity to tour the site following concerns by the public.
Now Ponderosa has said it will close at the end of October for what management have described as a five-month period of refurbishment.
Council officers said standards at the zoo were seen to be “very good” and no issues regarding the mistreatment or neglect of animals were seen.
They found that conditions met the requirements of the Zoo Licensing Act and the Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice and determined that no further action was required.
A spokesman said it was coincidental that news of the temporary closure followed a flurry of negative reports about the zoo and rural therapeutic centre. An update was posted on its website a fortnight ago.
“The refurbishment of the zoo was always planned for this winter as part of a wider development project for the whole site,” said Andrew Williamson, a consultant acting for owner Howard Cook.
“The focus of this development is around education and training for children and adults of all abilities and therefore the zoo and the interaction with animals is a key part of the future plans but in order for it to meet the future needs it requires investment, which is why it will be closed from October 30 until next Easter.
“This information was available on the website and all repeat visitors and members are aware of the plans.”
Animal conservation experts continue to be concerned about Ponderosa despite the facility receiving a special inspection by the Animal and Plant Health Agency in June.
In 2016, animal charity the Born Free Foundation highlighted a series of issues with Kirklees Council following complaints by members of the public.
They included animals displaying distressing behaviour, animals with open wounds, stagnant water and mouldy food, no heat in some animal enclosures and some enclosures that smelt heavily of urine.
Born Free’s Head of Animal Welfare, zoologist Chris Draper, said, “We have received several concerns from members of the public, and the reports included potentially significant issues, hence we flagged them to the local authority.
“Assessments of conditions in zoos - even by government-appointed zoo inspectors - are inevitably subjective, and the system for overseeing zoos in the UK is by no means perfect.
“Apparently, the Special Inspection found the zoo to have complied with
most (ITALICS) of its licence conditions; this still leaves questions about what conditions were not met and whether the situation at the zoo meets public expectations as to how animals should be kept.”
A spokesman for Kirklees Council confirmed yesterday’s spot check. He added: “We visited Ponderosa Zoo in June 2017 with an appointed Secretary of State Vet to undertake a special inspection of the zoo.
“This inspection found that the zoo was operating to a good standard and the majority of all the licensing conditions were being adhered to.
“We have recently received three individual complaints concerning animal welfare at the zoo and we are in the process dealing with the complaints and will take the appropriate action. Kirklees Council will act accordingly to ensure the welfare of all animals housed at the zoo.”