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October 18, 2013

Going Belly Up in Vegas

People sometimes ask me if HSUS opposes zoos.  I say that we oppose unaccredited zoos, and that I consider the 200 or so zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to be critical allies in our fights against private citizens keeping dangerous wild animals as pets and against reckless and inhumane conditions at roadside zoos, as well as allies in our efforts to protect endangered species, to ban lead ammunition, and other wildlife protection campaigns.  For every accredited zoo, there are perhaps 10 roadside operations, almost all of which are unprofessional, underfunded and dangerous for animals.

Tiger at GW Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma
The HSUS

This year, we acquired several tigers at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, operated by our affiliate The Fund for Animals, because of roadside zoos we worked with law enforcement to shut down. That will costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars during the natural lifespan of these animals. There are other big cat sanctuaries across the nation, spending millions of dollars to clean up the messes left by reckless owners of exotic animals and commercial menageries.

Relocation to a sanctuary is the only good turn in the lives of these animals.  Typically, in the hands of non-professionals, they are either kept in inhumane conditions, or discarded or killed when they become too costly or inconvenient.  That’s why we work to prevent these places from getting started in the first place.

So many of these road-side zoos are fly-by-night operations.  And that’s true of one place I’ve visited twice, and publicly criticized—the Las Vegas Zoo.  After employees there said the situation had become intolerable, they resigned en masse.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture and a number of animal protection groups stepped in, with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries helping to relocate the animals. For example, Terry, the lone chimpanzee, will now find sanctuary with our partner Save the Chimps.

I also wrote about the owner of 200 tigers in Oklahoma who allows photos to be taken with the younger animals who are bred for that sole purpose. It’s essentially a tiger cub petting zoo.

Today, I close out the blog with your comments.

If we can get the states who are involved to pick up the tab when these roadside zoos run into trouble and go belly up, wouldn't they be more eager to get their laws changed to tighten up restrictions? Thank you for letting us know about this incident.
- Marcia Keller
One of the claims I've read from Joe Schreibvogel is that he has rescued 1,400 animals and placed 1,200 at other facilities. This seems like a [smoke]screen for breeding and selling/trading animals. What does your research show?
- K.J. Reeves
Poor tiger! Deprived of everything natural, what a living hell it must be for him. Roadside zoos should be illegal for many reasons.
- Karen Hackey
When and what do we need to do to change this practice?
- Gwen Parsley
Great news, hopefully all these "roadside zoos" will become a thing of the past thanks to Wayne & the Humane Society. It would be nice to know where the animals are being relocated. Any chance of updates on that?
- Deborah Dunn-Tremblay
Are we sure that we live in the "civilized" nation? What on earth is wrong with people and why does this country allow these "roadside" animal shows?
- Susan Huth-Beckley
How in the world these roadside animal facilities still exist is beyond me. I guess it will take a few more bites and probably a death or two to really crack down on them. It is also amazing to me that parents actually trust these people when they say it's safe to have their child's picture taken with them. The really sad thing is it's the animals who suffer, caged, probably mistreated and when the inevitable happens, they are punished. Thank you for being our watchdog HSUS!
- Avis Holt

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