South Lakes Safari Zoo: Owner in appeal against licence refusal

David Gill Image copyright PA
Image caption David Gill has said he wants nothing more to do with the running of the zoo

The owner of a Cumbrian zoo, where a keeper was mauled by a tiger and hundreds of animals have died, has appealed against its impending closure.

David Gill was refused a licence to run South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton-in-Furness by Barrow Council earlier this month amid animal welfare concerns.

His decision means the zoo can remain open until a new company, formed by staff, can apply for its own licence.

Had Mr Gill not appealed, the zoo would have been forced to close next month.

Mr Gill has already handed management of the site over to the Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd, which is expected to have its own licence application heard in June.

Image caption Inspections found problems with poor veterinary care, uncontrolled breeding and overcrowding

In February, a report by Barrow Council found 486 animals had died at the zoo in four years, with the management style of Mr Gill coming in for criticism.

Mr Gill's solicitor Steve Walker said: "The zoo will stay open until the appeal is disposed of.

"The first hearing is likely to be in late April or early May, which will be a timetabling hearing.

"The substantive hearing will probably be in late May depending on court time and availability."

Mr Walker said his client no longer wanted to run the zoo, which houses 1,500 animals including tigers, giraffes and rare birds, but did not want to see it close before the new company had a licence approved.

Image copyright Stephen McClay
Image caption Sarah McClay was mauled to death by a tiger in 2013

In 2013, keeper Sarah McClay, from Glasgow, was mauled to death by a tiger and the zoo was later fined £297,500 for health and safety breaches.

Following a site visit in January, government-appointment inspectors said they were "dismayed by the obvious deficiencies in the accommodation, the overcrowding and the lack of proper welfare and husbandry".

Deaths included two rare snow leopards found partially eaten and seven "healthy lion cubs euthanised because the zoo did not have space to house them".

The inspectors also found cold animals in the unheated Africa House, which was so badly designed, its sloped yard was finished with smooth instead of rough concrete, causing a giraffe to slip to its death.

They raised concerns about animals fighting each other, uncontrolled breeding of lemurs and a heightened risk to public safety.

A spokeswoman for Cumbria Zoo Company Ltd said inspections carried out since it took control of the zoo had been positive, but it recognised more had to be done.

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