ZOO chiefs are suing an animal welfare charity for $21million for trying to destroy its reputation.
Bosses at the Marineland park in Canada claim the Ontario Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals maliciously set out to destroy their business.
The marine park in the city of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, has filed a lawsuit which alleges the OSPCA launched an investigation in the hope it could prove animal cruelty claims.
The OSPCA probe did result in 11 animal cruelty charges but they were later withdrawn.
In response, Marineland bosses accused the OSPCA of being a part of a broader push to ban commercial zoos and aquariums.
The amusement park is now seeking the massive compensation because it claims the activists were out to destroy the theme park.
A Marineland spokesperson said: “The OSPCA’s purpose in initiating the prosecution was not the enforcement of the law.
“It was motivated by a series of improper objectives, including a desire to accomplish its own policy agenda, to mollify the animal activist community, to please its donors, and to effectively destroy Marineland.
“The unfounded charges and public press announcements by the OSPCA had a direct and seriously negative impact on Marineland’s business and operations, causing Marineland damage.”
The OSPCA denies all of the allegations and says it will defend itself in court.
Its investigation into Marineland was launched in 2016 after the animal welfare agency received a complaint from an animal rights group.
The amusement park was charged with five counts of animal cruelty in connection with the treatment of peacocks, guinea hens and black bears.
In early 2017 it was accused with six more animal cruelty charges relating to elk, red deer and fallow deer.
All of the charges were withdrawn later in 2017 after prosecutors found no grounds for the claims.
The Marineland lawsuit states that OSPCA investigators failed to make necessary inquiries of staff and veterinarians or conduct necessary medical examinations of animals.
It further alleges the organisation has publicly declared that it aims to close zoos and aquariums.