Fife Animal Park bosses hit back at charity regulator OSCR

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THE OWNER of a Scottish animal park has blamed its closure on charity regulators – claiming they caused the death of at least one animal and suffering to others.

But Peter Lockhart, who owns Fife Animal Park, has given a cast-iron guarantee that all but three of the 390 animals will be rehomed.

It was revealed earlier this week that the seven-year-old park near Cupar was closing, sparking fears from animal charities that creatures including Scottish wildcats would be destroyed.

Mr Lockhart and Mr Lockhart Senior say the tight constraints placed on them led to animal welfare issues
Mr Lockhart and Mr Lockhart Senior say the tight constraints placed on them led to animal welfare issues

Mr Lockhart claimed that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), the body which monitors charities north of the border, was responsible for the park’s demise.

He claimed a buyer was prepared to pay £500,000 to take over the park last October but was scared off after the OSCR started an investigation into claims charitable assets were included in the sale.

Mr Lockhart, 50, said: “We knew the animals were not ours to sell and made it clear from day one that we were selling the land on the condition the new owners would take over the trust and keep the park open.

Surplus animals are usually moved off the park but this never happened and so pens soon became muddy due to over crowding
Surplus animals are usually moved off the park but this never happened and so pens soon became muddy due to over crowding

“But as soon as OSCR stepped in they made our lives a living hell and we were forced to keep animals in awful conditions because if we moved them we would face prosecution.

“We couldn’t take any animals off the land without OSCR’s permission and so when our red ruffed lemur fell sick during the Christmas period we couldn’t get him medical attention.”

Peter Lockhart and his father, Jock, built the park up from scratch
Peter Lockhart and his father, Jock, built the park up from scratch

Mr Lockhart said no-one at the OSCR could be contacted over Christmas to give permission for treatment. The lemur, called Charlie, later died.

Mr Lockhart said other animals, including pigs, ponies and alpacas, were living in bad conditions because they faced a £2,500 fine and prison for moving the animals from the park without the permission of OSCR.

Charles sadly died as the result of a mystery illness but fear of prosecution stopped veterinary intervention
Charles sadly died as the result of a mystery illness but fear of prosecution stopped veterinary intervention

“The conditions we were forced to keep the animals in were horrendous as they were so overstocked,” he said.

“For the first time in our lives felt we had let the animals down.”

The land is owned by Mr Lockhart and his 72-year-old father Jock Lockhart, who has decided to retire, sparking the sale. The animal park itself is a registered charity.

Some of the park's animals such as Ameera the meerkat have hit the headlines before for their star roles at the park
Some of the park’s animals such as Ameera the meerkat have hit the headlines before for their star roles at the park

The OSCR started an investigation after a member of the public alleged the sale of the land included the animals, which belong to the charity.

Jock Lockhart said of the OSCR: “The whole investigation was completely unfounded and they have failed in their duty to protect the animals and their welfare. Where is the charity in what they have done?”

The closure of the park also means that all 45 members of staff and volunteers have now been left without a job.

The Lockharts and the charity’s trustees are now working closely with Fife Council, which is getting a court order to take legal control over the animals.

The Lockharts said homes had already been found for all the animals apart from three pigs.

Mr Lockhart added that he has already been in contact with the Scottish Wildcat Breeding Programme who will rehome the park’s breeding pair.

OSCR’s Head of Enforcement, Laura Anderson, rebuffed the claims however.

She said: “We strongly dispute any allegation that our protective action resulted in the closure of the Fife Animal Park.

“We received a complaint about the charity (The Fife Animal Trust) and, as Regulator, we have a public duty to take action where the actions of charity trustees risk charitable assets or the reputation of the sector.

“Our intervention was a necessary precaution.”

“We will continue to work with the Council to achieve a satisfactory outcome and will publish a full Inquiry Report in due course.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. I say keep it open. Great place to go if you love animals, okay conditions could be better but if they were given permission to do things without a middle man I know it would be a great place. Animals deserve a home and care so this animal park shouldn’t be taken away from them or destroyed for no valid reason. Destroying animals simply because you want to ‘close’ the park they suffer. I don’t think so.
    GO ON LOCKHARTS!

  2. Whether OSCR had anything to do with it or not, we shall wait for it to be proven. But the owners of fife animal park were monsters. YOU mistreated the animals. When given advice, you totally ignored it. Drowning animals in a bucket and feeding it to others, such care and respect shown by you. The animals were kept in shocking conditions and your backwards thinking caused this. There is a special place in hell for the lockharts and the closure of fife animal park is the best thing that could ever happen for the animals. All the staff should be ashamed, especially those charged with taking care of the animals, so much more could have been done to prevent the death of such a beautiful animal and to reduce the suffering that was being caused.

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