Op-ed: Time has come to end roadside zoos
Published 7:07 pm, Tuesday, July 28, 2015
An hour’s drive outside of Pittsburgh are two appalling roadside zoos that simply must be shut down. They are run by Living Treasures Wild Animal Parks in New Castle and Jonas Mills.
Both these locations have a history of problems with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates zoos, circuses and marine mammal parks under the Animal Welfare Act. Yet they continue to operate, confining large and majestic camels, primates, giraffes, lions and other large animals in tiny spaces, and inviting the public to interact with these unnecessarily stressed creatures.
Living Treasures has been cited by the USDA for failure to have a program of veterinary care, such as tuberculosis testing for primates; failure to have a veterinarian-approved feed plan for infant bears, lions, tigers and other animals; unsanitary food storage area; no veterinary care for sick and lame animals and failure to provide adequate shelter from inclement weather. Even worse, Living Treasures now wants to open a third facility to do more of the same.
A concerned family visiting the park on July 2 was so shocked watching a lion cub being attacked by his father that they took a video and sent it to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla. to see if anything could be done.
Adult male lions are known to kill off their grown sons in order to protect their breeding rights in the pride. The fact that the cub is in the same enclosure as his father is a clear violation of USDA rules that state, “Animals housed in the same primary enclosure must be compatible. Animals shall not be housed near animals that interfere with their health or cause them discomfort.”
Big Cat Rescue contacted Living Treasures about the poor lion cub, which on the video can barely walk, and was informed that there is no tension between the lion cub and his father, and that he is healthy and under the care of the zoo’s veterinarian.
There is documented proof that this is a lie. However, they did agree to separate the cub from his family and Big Cat Rescue confirms that this has happened.
That Living Treasures had not done so proactively and in accordance with USDA regulations is highly troubling. Flouting the law in the “stewardship” of its animals should not go without consequences.
We implore USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to investigate Living Treasures yet again, and take steps to shut down its two locations. Wild animals should not be treated like this. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) will share the video with the USDA and demand that an investigation be launched into its practices.
HSUS will continue to raise awareness of the horrific conditions that animals in roadside zoos must endure. The Humane Society will also make recommendations to the Pennsylvania state legislature to push for stronger laws to address problems with these facilities.
Until this happens, we urge the public not to patronize these attractions. Places that fail to treat animals humanely are not worthy of our support.
New Canaan resident Cathy Kangas is a member of the National Board of Directors of The Humane Society of the United States.