Body: I was thrilled to hear that the tribal council is considering a resolution that would put an end to the decades of suffering that bears have endured in barren concrete pits and tiny cages at three roadside zoos in Cherokee, and I urge you to fully support this resolution. As detailed in a report prepared by renowned bear experts, the bears held in Cherokee's anachronistic "zoos" are denied everything that is natural and important to them. And a recent investigation of one of these facilities revealed that staff members were deliberately depriving bears of food and that the animals are so stressed from being constantly confined to small concrete pits that they pace repeatedly and gnaw at the metal cage bars--recognized signs of poor welfare.
Although our knowledge about bears has increased tremendously over the last few decades, the Cherokee zoos remain locked in a time warp, keeping bears--whose needs are as complex as those of primates--in conditions of total privation. The exhibitors of these bears, whom the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited repeatedly for failing to meet even the bare minimum standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act, have made it clear that they are unable to provide for these animals' complex needs.
It is past time that Cherokee's bear "zoos" are closed. Owned by nontribe members who lease tribal land--and in at least some cases operated by individuals who have been documented expressing racist sentiments about Native Americans--these facilities are a black eye on the tribe, and the massive negative publicity targeting Cherokee as a result of these bear exhibits has strained the community.