No serious animal welfare or neglect issues have been established by Highland Council officers at a Black Isle animal park that is facing a massive petition calling for it to be closed down.
More than 125,000 people have backed a petition calling for the visitor attraction to be closed amid accusations of poor animal welfare.
Highland Council and the Scottish SPCA have been criticised by Animal Concern Advice Line (ACAL) for not taking more stringent action against the park.
The petition against Black Isle Wildlife Park, now renamed Noah’s Ark Animal Park, attracted 125,394 online backers, of which 25,384 were from the UK. It has been sent to the council and the SSPCA.
But Highland Council said it had investigated all complaints in conjunction with Animal and Plant Health Agency appointed veterinary inspectors and the SSPCA, and found no "serious" animal welfare or neglect problems.
A spokeswoman added: "A number of visits to the park have been conducted by officers both unannounced and scheduled as part of these investigation in order to carry out a thorough inspection of the park, the condition of the animals and the welfare arrangements.
"The park also has their own appointed veterinary practice and our environmental health service is satisfied that suitable and sufficient veterinary care arrangements are in place for animals at the park.
"While we acknowledge that the site appearance and visitor experience could be improved, these are not grounds themselves for the council to pursue a welfare case or suspension of the park’s licence on animal health grounds.
"Whilst our investigations are continuing into the general management arrangements at the park going forward, we would wish to provide some reassurance that no serious animal welfare or neglect issues have been established by our Environmental Health Officers."
Charlotte Lawson and Rita Badia raised the petition after working at the park.
Ms Lawson said; "The owners didn’t seem to have a clue about meeting the basic needs of their animals. They didn’t care about the general welfare of the animals. The Scottish SPCA and Highland Council appeared unable or unwilling to do anything about it, which is why we started a petition to raise awareness."
Another volunteer worker Sandra Dingwall said: "I quickly realised that the standard of care was very poor."
ACAL has been calling for closure of the park since October 2014.
In June 2016 Highland Council rescinded the park’s zoo license and the exotic animals were rehomed. The council allowed the park to keep their domestic animals, and granted a Public Entertainments Licence allowing the owners to charge visitors to come in.
ACAL secretary John Robins said: "The talking must stop and, unless the owners agree to give up all their animals for rehoming, the only option is to prosecute them under the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and ask the courts to ban them from keeping animals."
The SSPCA’s senior inspector Dougie Campbell said: "We have previously attended a wildlife park in Black Isle and are liaising with the council."
Park spokeswoman Alison Gallagher said yesterday that all the animals are healthy and happy, and she could not understand the accusations.