Jamaica Zoo ordered closed
Owner unhappy with decision of National Environmental and Planning Agency
Operator of Jamaica Zoo Paul Fearon

LACOVIA, St Elizabeth — Paul Fearon, operator of Jamaica Zoo which has been ordered closed, is contending that there was a conflict of interest in the issuance of a notice by the National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA) to suspend an environmental permit for the zoo.

This follows an incident in which a zoo attendant’s finger was bitten by a lion at the facility on May 20.

Fearon told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday that he took issue with the involvement of the managing director at the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) Pamela Lawson, who is a board member of the St Andrew-based Hope Zoo, in the decision-making process.

NEPA, in a release, said it served a notice of intention to suspend an environmental permit for the operation of a zoo, closing it to the public, effective June 1, until the company complies with the conditions cited in the notice.

Fearon confirmed that he and his attorney met with NEPA and representatives from the Veterinary Services Division (VSD) and Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) on Monday.

“My lawyer did ask them to excuse her out of it because she is [a] Hope Zoo board director, so she not supposed to be a part of it, as it is a conflict of interest. The whole thing was supposed to go in a revision...,” he said.

However, Lawson said having recused herself from the meeting she was surprised to hear of Fearon’s contention.

“Which is why when the attorney made the comment I stepped aside, so what is the problem?” she asked.

“… it has never been an issue to me. In actual fact, I was probably one of the few people willing to help Mr Fearon openly and in every way,” she said.

Lawson, who last week told the Observer that she would be submitting a list of recommendations to NEPA following an inspection of Jamaica Zoo, said her involvement with Hope Zoo was never an issue in doing her role.

“If that is going to be his reason to insinuate that the reason that this temporary closure has been, because of me, it is by no means an actual fact… There was a genuine effort, I think, on our part as well as the VSD to try and work this out without it going to this stage, but I do understand NEPA’s position,” she said.

“… I am surprised he (Fearon) is bringing this up, because he spoke to me afterwards and he made it clear that at no time did he wish for it to be so and I said I will try and appoint somebody else who can give him as much help as he possibly needs,” she added.

She added that her only concern has always been about animal welfare.

NEPA said the specific nature of the breaches relates to failure to, amongst other things, ensure that members of staff handling animals are properly trained; accounting for species held and/or filing related reports or notifications; submitting an animal nutrition and welfare programme; and engaging competent technical skill sets to assist with operations.

Fearon was displeased and took issue with NEPA’s notice.

“Inside the meeting after they served me the notice seh me have some breaches which is pure foolishness, because they had approved my management plan already,” he explained.

When asked about any plans to address the breaches and the future of the zoo’s operation, he said he is awaiting legal advice on the matter.

When contacted, his attorney Kerese Bruce-Patterson declined to comment on the matter.

Fearon said he has had to stop scores of trips planned by schools to visit his St Elizabeth-based zoo and send home staff.

“After everything, I laid off 25 staff yesterday (Tuesday). I had a school to come in tomorrow (Thursday) with over 200 children, so I had to call the school and stop them. Whole heap of schools I stopped in the period of time,” he said.

He said at least seven staff members have been kept to care for the animals.

LAWSON… I was probably one of the few people willing to help Mr Fearon openly and in every way
Kasey Williams

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