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Petting zoo animals at London Pride event die after farm receives anonymous anti-LGBTQ email

London police are investigating the death of two animals and the serious illness of a third after they were on display at a petting zoo for children at a weekend Pride event in London.

Autopsy results are still pending but the Ontario Poison Centre has been notified

Several animals owned by Salford, Ont., based Little Hobby Hill Farm fell ill, and two died after a Pride event in London's Oakridge neighbourhood, Saturday.

London police are investigating the death of two animals and the serious illness of a third after they were on display at a petting zoo for children at a weekend Pride event in London.

A capybara and a guinea pig died, with a goat recovering at the farm after receiving treatment by the farm's veterinarian, the owner of Little Hobby Hill Farm, Bethany Jayne, said Monday.

The animals were all housed in the same pen at the Oakridge Optimist Community Park Saturday, which was set up the night before, organizers said.

Several days earlier, she received an anonymous email to the Little Hobby Hill Farm account expressing disappointment that the farm was involved with the Pride event.

"Pride has no relation to a petting zoo and there is no reason to conjoin these … Please consider your events and what you support," the email reads. The message, in its entirety, has been seen by CBC News.

Drag queen storytime events, like the one shown here in a photo from 2024's Oakridge Pride event, are a common point of contention for protesters who believe the events are inappropriate for children.

"I can confirm we are aware of the incident, and we are investigating the occurrence," Const. Matt Dawson with the London Police said in a statement. "It is active and ongoing."

A City of London spokesperson said it's also aware of the incident. Autopsies are currently being done at the University of Guelph to determine the cause of death of the animals, their owner said.

"It's been a traumatic 48 hours for a lot of people," said Oakridge Pride organizer Brianna Phelan. "The capybara started having seizures. It had 10 seizures. [It was taken] to the emergency vet where it was put down. Then on Sunday, the guinea pig died, and the goat got really sick."

Despite the uncertainty of how the animals died, Phelan said it is unsettling, especially at a time when London Police say hate crimes against LGBTQ people are on the rise.

"Every year we've had issues with protesters, or people contesting the event, but this year there was nothing. It was extremely quiet, almost to the point of being unsettling," said Phelan. "Then, the petting zoo received an email."

She said she has reached out to the Ontario Poison Centre, worried about the children who were with the animals and playing around their pens.

"[My grandchildren] were right down on their hands and knees on the grass," attendee Lori Ward said. "Make sure that your children aren't feeling sick or your animals that may have been at Pride aren't feeling unwell."

Ward is encouraging people to look through their film footage to see if anything looks suspicious.

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