Bowmanville Zoo owner charged with animal cruelty

Animal trainer facing jail time for abusing animals

The owner of the Bowmanville Zoo has been charged with five counts of animal cruelty after videos surfaced of him whipping a tiger during a training session.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Animal Cruelty says it has formally filed cruelty charges against owner Michael Hackenberger. He is facing four counts of causing an animal distress and one of failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care for an animal.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) provided the agency footage of Hackenberger apparently repeatedly striking a male Siberian tiger with a whip in December. The agency began an animal abuse investigation immediately after reviewing the videos.

Concerns had already been raised after Hackenberger was filmed swearing at a baboon that failed to perform a trick for him on CITY-TV’s Breakfast Television in August 2015.

Senior Inspector Jennifer Bluhm of the OSPCA says the videos of him abusing the tiger gave them the basis they needed to lay charges.

“Animal cruelty is a serious offence,” she said in a media release. “Our investigative unit has spent significant time reviewing the facility and interviewing all involved. Our priority is always the health and welfare of the animals.” 

The footage also shows Hackenberger speaking to a person off-camera.

“If we’d been running a videotape the whole time you were here, and we did a 45-second montage of the times I struck this animal, PETA would burn this place to the ground,” he said.