CUMBERLAND — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and New Jersey resident Constance Collins filed a lawsuit last week against Tri-State Zoological Park and owner Robert Candy over alleged neglect and mistreatment of zoo animals.
The lawsuit, which alleges the zoo is violating federal and state law and constitutes a public nuisance, requests that the animals be transferred to reputable facilities.
"Pretty much, what they're doing is trying to come up with a way to have standing to take all the zoo's animals," Candy said. "They're trying to create standing, in my opinion, to bring a lawsuit. They take everything and blow it out of proportion."
Candy said he's likely to countersue. PETA previously won a lawsuit against the zoo to have three big cats transferred to a facility in Keenesburg, Colorado. Two tigers and a lion were taken from the facility Feb. 6 amidst a group of protesters. That lawsuit is currently undergoing an appeal.
The new lawsuit says Collins visited the zoo in July 2018 and "she observed and developed aesthetic and emotional connections to many of the animals at Tri-State. Due to the animal mistreatment and suffering that she witnessed, she became too distressed to return to Tri-State while the animals are in their current condition."
PETA and Collins allege "the notorious and decrepit roadside zoo interferes with the rights of the public and frequently denies the more than 100 animals in its custody timely veterinary treatment, daily care from qualified staff, sufficient enrichment, proper food and clean water, and even adequate shelter."
PETA also alleges that the zoo fails to house animals in social groups that meet their species-specific needs, citing a monkey named Dodger "who is confined alone and was observed picking skin off his tail until it started to bleed, and Spazz, a monkey who is confined alone and has bald patches on his body," according to the lawsuit.
Candy called the lawsuit "just another way of harassing us."
"Right now, at this point, I’m not going to worry about it. I can’t really worry about it. I'm not going to let it dictate my life. I have animals to take care of. It’s just another publicity stunt for them."
Should everything go to plan and he gets all the clearances needed, Candy plans to reopen the zoo over the Memorial Day weekend.
Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.