To the Editor:
The fact that the Tri-State Zoological Park remains open despite the suspension of the roadside zoo’s license for chronic, serious violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act illustrates deficiencies in the enforcement of the federal law intended to protect animals (“Tri-State zoo appealing license suspension,” Sept. 21 Times-News, Page 1B).
The roadside zoo is challenging the suspension when it should be devoting resources to improving the level of care and complying with the law.
Enforcement actions against a facility by the U.S. Department of Agriculture usually only happen after a long history of citations for violations that is often indicative of pervasive management problems.
An administrative law judge found the roadside zoo guilty of 15 violations, including failure to provide adequate enclosures to prevent the escape of a lion and a tiger; failure to provide sufficient barriers between the public and big cats; and inadequate perimeter fencing around enclosures containing dangerous wild animals.
Other violations significantly affected the health and well-being of the animals. The facility had been cited repeatedly for failure to provide veterinary care to lame animals; for unsanitary enclosures and a filthy pool, enclosures in disrepair, and for excessive rodents and flies.
The administrative law judge made many compelling statements in her ruling, including the fact that the Tri-State zoo is not adequately staffed.
The facility relies on volunteers, who have received little to no formal training, instead of professional caretakers.
All too often, captive wild animals in roadside zoos are kept in grossly substandard conditions.
These attractions may have been popular decades ago, but today there is a much greater understanding of the complex needs of animals such as tigers, lions, bears and primates.
The public should support facilities that are willing to invest in the care of the animals, and those facilities that allow them to exercise and express natural behaviors in a safe environment.
Lisa Wathne, captive wildlife specialist
The Humane Society of the United States