PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) have sent an official notice as required under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to the operators of Pymatuning Deer Park, alerting them of the groups’ intent to sue over the roadside zoo’s mistreatment of lions, tigers, lemurs, and other protected animals. The groups also allege that the facility’s mistreatment of all the animals there—particularly Bosco the bear—constitutes a public nuisance under state law.
“For years, Pymatuning Deer Park has profited from the misery of bears held in a dismal concrete pit and has allowed one ailing tiger after another to languish there,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet, who is featured in Tiger King. “It can avoid this lawsuit by allowing PETA to transfer these long-suffering animals to reputable animal-care facilities.”
“The Endangered Species Act and state cruelty laws exist precisely to protect animals like lions, tigers, and lemurs from the suffering they experience at Pymatuning Deer Park,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “It is in the animals’ best interest to be placed where they can live in naturalistic environments, with clean food and water and the medical and psychological care they require.”
The 26-page notice letter details Pymatuning’s apparent violations of the ESA, including failing to provide an obese white tiger, a young lion suffering from ataxia and muscle wasting, and other big cats with appropriate veterinary care and/or nutrition. Pymatuning also keeps a highly social black-and-white ruffed lemur in solitary confinement, holds ring-tailed lemurs in an enclosure so small that it can’t be properly cleaned, and keeps a macaw in a small cage with limited enrichment.
Other alleged violations of state law at Pymatuning include confining Bosco the bear, who shows signs of arthritis, to a concrete pit where he can’t climb or engage in any other natural behavior; putting vulnerable baby animals, including bear cubs and kangaroo joeys, who have been prematurely separated from their mothers on display; and allowing the public to have unsupervised contact with various animals, including parakeets in the “budgie barn.” Pymatuning also shot an ailing tiger to death in place of carrying out proper euthanasia.
The ESA requires plaintiffs to inform potential defendants at least 60 days prior to legal action. In the last year, PETA has won or successfully settled ESA lawsuits against roadside zoos in Maryland and Florida and transferred animals once held there to sanctuaries.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview that fosters violence toward other animals.
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