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Urge the Cherokee Bear Zoo to Close Cruel Bear Pits

Update: In 2013, two compassionate tribal elders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians filed a lawsuit against the Cherokee Bear Zoo (CBZ) alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for confining grizzly bears to tiny and virtually barren concrete pits. Although the court acknowledged that bear pits are “archaic” and that the bears could “undoubtedly” be held in “a better environment,” the court decided on March 30, 2016, that CBZ’s cruel confinement of endangered bears is not prohibited under the ESA. It is likely that the tribal elders will appeal this decision, but regardless of the outcome, the bears—some of whom have been confined to CBZ’s cement prisons for decades—must not continue to suffer in cement pits that deprive them of everything that’s natural and important to them.

PETA cannot allow the court’s ruling to condemn these intelligent, inquisitive, and federally protected bears to remain trapped in these cement pits. You can help by urging the owners of CBZ to release all of the bears it confines to a reputable sanctuary where they will live in vast, naturalistic habitats and get the care that they so desperately need and deserve.

UPDATE: Following new video evidence that shows a bear struggling with a significant right forelimb limp at the much-criticized Cherokee Bear Zoo (CBZ), PETA is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to step in and require that the roadside zoo provide the bear with veterinary care. Bears held captive at CBZ are confined to cramped concrete pits, deprived of the soft substrate they need to dig and climb, and predisposed to early-onset arthritis—a serious and painful joint disease. PETA is urging the USDA—which has cited facilities for confining bears to concrete pits in the past—to hold CBZ accountable for any violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Home to about a dozen miserable bears, the Cherokee Bear Zoo is a small remote tourist trap located off a highway in North Carolina—blink, and you’ll miss it. The dilapidated roadside attraction keeps these intelligent animals in grossly inhumane conditions. They are confined to virtually barren concrete pits, where they have no other option but to pace back and forth, walk in endless circles, and beg tourists to toss them a morsel of food.

Highly intelligent animals capable of empathy and a wide range of feelings, bears are active for up to 18 hours per day in their natural habitat and spend their time exploring diverse terrain. In the wild, bears forage for a wide variety of foods and dig in soft earth, brush, and leaves—but the concrete pits that the Cherokee bears are forced to call home deprive them of everything that is natural and important to them. Surrounded by four solid walls, the bears cannot scan the horizon, gain a perspective on their surroundings, or make much use of their acute sense of smell.

Cherokee’s roadside zoos have made no effort to simulate the animals’ natural habitat or provide them with stimulation. They have also been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to meet minimal federal standards established in the Animal Welfare Act. Check out PETA’s investigation of a bear park in Cherokee similar to the Cherokee Bear Zoo here to see the filth, hunger, and misery that these captive bears are forced to endure.

You can help close this cruel animal prison by urging the owners of Cherokee Bear Zoo to release the bears to a reputable sanctuary. They are already feeling the heat from locals and thousands of others who have demanded that the bears be moved to a more natural environment at a reputable sanctuary—one that exists exclusively to benefit and rehabilitate animals. Please call Cherokee Bear Zoo owners Barry and Collette Coggins at 828-497-4525.

Please also consider mailing a letter to:
Cherokee Bear Zoo & Exotic Animals
1204 Tsalagi Rd.
Cherokee, NC 28719

Please feel free to use our sample letter, but remember that using your own words is always more effective.