It was the early hours of June 1, 2010 when a dog walker stumbled upon a scene of unspeakable carnage at the Happy Rolph’s Petting Zoo in St. Catharines. Beer bottles, airsoft pellets and blood from the dozens of dead and injured farm animals covered the family fun park.
Workers arrived a short while later. Four animals were dead, others had to have emergency medical care and would be permanently disabled from the attack. Taking a page right out of Lord of the Flies, the perpetrators left the head of a rabbit propped up on a stake, and its skinned carcass nearby soaking the paved ground with blood.
This wasn’t the first time someone had broken into the park. In the past animals had been found let out of their pens to roam the grounds, but this is the first incident where anyone had set out to deliberately cause harm to the animals who called Happy Rolph’s home.
Though the park did employ a private security company to regularly monitor the grounds, the security company was only employed part-time. The park imposed surveillance on the grounds seven days a week immediately after the attacks.
Missing in the wake of the attack was a baby goat. An advertisement for a baby goat on an online classified site led investigators to believe that they may have stumbled upon an invaluable clue on the culprits behind the heinous massacre, but the case went cold. Even the $1,000 reward offered for the capture of the perpetrators was not enough to bring anyone to justice.
Locals were able to raise $9,000 in order to upgrade park security and an additional $40,000 was put up by the park themselves in order to consult with a security firm and make improvements throughout the park. Those changes wouldn’t take effect until two years following the massacre.
When the park re-opened for the 2012 season, park visitors were able to view a drastically different Happy Rolph’s. By then $270,000 had been poured into the park in response to the animal attacks. The changes had left some of the park’s returning visitors upset, since some of the upgrades rendered many of the animals inaccessible to park patrons.
One park visitor told The St. Catharines Standard that ,“We felt really disengaged from the animals.” Though some animals, including baby goats, are still confined to enclosures that park guests can access and feed the animals themselves under the watch of park staff, much of the “petting” aspect of the petting zoo have become a thing of the past, with tubing systems replacing hand feeding of animals in certain areas.
The park now employs 24-hour security and surveillance in order to ensure that incidents similar to that which had occurred in 2010 is never repeated. The perpetrators were never apprehended.