Pets Corner: 20 years ago this month Fife’s parks lost a popular feature

Twenty years ago this month one of the most popular features in four Fife parks reached the end of the road.

Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 5:53 pm

Pets corners had been huge attractions at Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy, Letham Glen, Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, and Craigtoun Park in St Andrews.

Much loved by visitors, they featured a range of animals from llamas to goats and chickens.

They survived a closure bid in 1998, but, December 2001 saw a damning report mark the beginning of the end.

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Front page news on the demise of the pets corners, from the Fife Free Press

The council’s original plan had been to close pets’ corners in Beveridge and Craigtoun Parks, and amalgamate Letham Glen into Silverburn.

But councillors ran into huge opposition - there was talk of petitions and a public demonstration, while one woman was so outraged she felt moved to write to Tony Blair, Prime Minister.

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The Fife Free Press editorial came down on the side of the people– and the pets!

Fife Free Press report from 2001

It said closure was a “short term saving, long term loss” and criticised the council’s lack of imagination - “another door closing instead of efforts being made to open new ones.”

And it concluded: “Fife Council may well become recognised on a bigger stage as a good housekeeper, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t appear they are a particularly imaginative one.”

In the face of such opposition, councillors did what they always do - they hit the pause button and ordered a review.

Three years later, the issue was back on the agenda, this time with a different outcome.

The recommendation before councillors was to close the pets corners which they deemed to be old fashioned.

The homes which boasted llamas, donkeys, goats, guinea pigs, peacocks, chickens, and guinea fowl no longer came up to stringent standards, and to get them there would cost around £300,000

An independent report by the council brought the former depute director of the Royal Zoologicial Society of Scotland to town for an inspection.

The local authority also worked with the Born Free Foundation and Fife Animal Welfare Network - and it was their damning report that prompted action.

Scientific researcher, Jordi Casamitjana, said the park’s pets corners should have had a zoo licence and had, therefor, been operating illegally since it acquired its first non domestic animal

His evidence said a third of the animals were in a constant state of frustration and possible neurosis with the llamas showing strongest signs of distress

One was unusually passive and lethargic and showed signs of depressions, while donkeys showed signs of stress.

He noted there were no signs telling people not to feed the animals, no warnings about the risk of transmission of diseases through feeding, and no facilities to wash their hands afterwards.

He also attacked the enclosures for their lack of shelter - particularly shocking was the ridiculously small pond the ducks have to share right in front of a lake where their counterparts enjoy freedom

Educational value, he said, was nil, with no explanation whatsoever and no signs telling the public which animal was which … and if there was one it is just a dirty old sign with often the wrong name of the animal.

Faced with that evidence, councillors voted 10-3 to close the pets corners.

Kirkcaldy councillor, John Farmer who set up the voluntary Beveridge Park Advisory Group, said he would be said to see them go

“I have to accept the findings of the report, but, personally I will be upset to see the end of the animal centre. It has been an attraction for many years.”

Twenty years on, visitors to the parks would be none the wiser such pet corners ever existed …

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