Newly unsealed court documents allege investigators who visited a small Quebec zoo at the heart of an animal cruelty investigation found animals that were malnourished and lacked water and veterinary care.

The documents, which were filed in May in order to obtain a warrant, included veterinary reports on the animals and the conditions observed at the Saint-Édouard Zoo during two visits by the SPCA in 2018.

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The investigation found that animals often lacked adequate space, food and water and that sick animals were allowed to suffer without adequate veterinary care.

The allegations have not been tested in court. A lawyer for the zoo’s owner, Normand Trahan, has said he denies the animals were mistreated.

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In one case, the court document claims a young lioness named Layla died from complications stemming from a lack of calcium, despite the fact that Trahan had been warned by a vet about the need to supplement her diet.

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Animal welfare groups descended on the Saint-Édouard Zoo, about 120 kilometres east of Montreal, on May 21 and charged the owner with one count each of criminal animal neglect and criminal animal cruelty.

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