Written by Alisa Mullins
Update: The Cherokee tribal council's meeting to discuss
the closure of the bear pits was postponed until Tuesday, March 19th at 5 p.m. because of bad
weather, so please keep letting the council know that public opinion is on the
side of the bears. To contact the council members, click on the "Take
Action Now" button below.
The following was originally posted on March 5, 2013:
After PETA publicized the findings of our investigation at Chief Saunooke Bear Park, several tribal elders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians—which owns the land on which Chief Saunooke and other bear pits are located but does not run them—were horrified to learn of the conditions there.
Led by Peggy Hill, a group of elders has proposed a resolution to close all the bear exhibitors on tribal land permanently, and the tribal council is poised to vote on the resolution at its next council meeting this week. Hill told the Associated Press that "[m]ost Cherokee people had no idea what was taking place behind the bars of these roadside zoos" and that the elders are appalled "at the horrible treatment of these jailed bears."
Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with the plan. Chief Saunooke is currently closed, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended its license, but some in the community are pressuring the council to keep the other bear pits open. One of the facilities, Cherokee Bear Zoo, is also making a last-ditch bid for survival by claiming that it wants to remodel itself as a "sanctuary," although if this were its plan, there was nothing stopping it from doing so during all the years that it has been confining bears to barren concrete pits and racking up numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. The
bear exhibitors in Cherokee have proved time and again that they shouldn't have any contact with
You Can Help
Please contact the Cherokee tribal council and urge it to vote in favor of the resolution to close the bear pits permanently and send the bears to reputable sanctuaries.
Written by Michelle Kretzer
It's fitting that a man who sold dogs to
laboratories may end up behind bars himself. A federal court sentenced Floyd Martin to a year
in prison after he and his wife, Susan, illegally purchased hundreds of dogs and sold them to laboratories.
Susan Martin was convicted of conspiracy and received probation. The couple was
fined $300,000. They had pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from selling
dogs to be tormented and, in all likelihood, killed.
And the dogs weren't tormented only when
they got to the laboratories. A U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation of
the Martins' dingy facility, Chestnut Grove Kennel, resulted in citations for violations
of animal welfare laws, such as housing incompatible dogs together, leaving dogs
with injuries seemingly untreated, having dangerous enclosures, and more. PETA
obtained these never-before-released pictures from inside the facility:
It's not illegal for animal dealers like
the Martins to buy animals from "bunchers," people who pick animals
up off the streets, steal them from backyards, or obtain them from animal shelters
or "free to a good home" ads. But federal law limits the Martins and
other "random source" dealers—like notorious R&R Research, which
PETA exposed not long ago—to purchasing only 24 animals a year from each buncher in order to
try to keep illegal acts to a minimum. The Martins purchased hundreds of dogs
from just two individuals, then lied on documents to cover it up.
Because of such
rampant illegal activity and abuse of animals, PETA and others have long
campaigned for lawmakers to shut down random source dealers. And our efforts are paying off: The National
Institutes of Health, which funds most experiments on animals in the U.S., won't allow the use of animals from Class B dealers after 2015. And
last session, Congress introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2011,
which would prohibit Class B dealers from selling animals to laboratories.
Written by Jeff Mackey
Update: Prompted by PETA's complaint about a child who
was bitten by a dolphin at SeaWorld, the USDA conducted an investigation and
cited the marine park for several violations of the Animal Welfare Act,
including the use of expired surgical materials, some almost a decade old. "The
use of expired medications and materials … is not an appropriate method to
treat injuries, or to prevent, control, & diagnose diseases," the
report noted. The USDA also documented that a dolphin tank and the areas
surrounding the orca performance tank were in disrepair, including containing cracked
and crumbling concrete and rusty beams that could pose a threat to the health
and safety of both the animals and workers. The USDA pointed out that the unsafe
conditions "might create a health risk if these pieces of concrete fall
off into the pool and get ingested, or if they become abrasive" and that they
"do not facilitate cleaning and disinfection."
Originally posted on December 3rd, 2012:
Following the release of video footage showing a dolphin biting the hand of a young girl at SeaWorld Orlando, PETA submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting an investigation to determine whether the incident stemmed from Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations.
The video shows 8-year-old Jillian Thomas feeding fish to the dolphin as part of the Dolphin Cove attraction at the park. When she raises up the paper carton used to hold the fish, the dolphin surges up to grab it, biting Jillian's hand in the process. The girl sustained puncture wounds to her hand, and the dolphin may have ingested the entire paper carton.
AWA regulations require that animal attractions have "sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animal and the general viewing public so as to assure the safety of animals and the public." PETA has also asked the USDA to ensure that if the dolphin did ingest the carton, the animal receive proper veterinary care, per AWA requirements.
A similar incident occurred in 2006, when a dolphin's mouth had to be pried open to free a 7-year-old boy's hand. It was the second time in three weeks that a child had been bitten at the attraction, but SeaWorld refused to change anything.
These episodes provide further reminders (as if more were needed) of how little SeaWorld is concerned with safety in its parks—except, of course, for the protection of its ticket sales. Not only has its unwillingness to take necessary precautions caused children to be harmed, it's also resulted in severe injuries and even the deaths of its trainer and the animals it holds captive.
Even if SeaWorld implemented every safety procedure possible, though, life in captivity would still be miserable for the dolphins, orcas, and other animals imprisoned in its parks. Deprived of their families, social lives, and freedom of movement, these smart, sensitive beings grow increasingly frustrated, contributing to the risk for sudden, violent behavior.
Unlike SeaWorld, young Jillian is showing compassion—according to an Associated Press article, she prayed for the dolphin who bit her and hopes the animal "didn't get sick from eating the paper carton."
Teach kids to be kind: Please don't ever take your family to SeaWorld or any other attraction that holds animals captive in cages or tanks.
Update 2: Thanks for your calls and e-mails in Nosey's behalf. We have learned that Nosey is no longer
appearing with UniverSoul Circus. PETA will, of course, continue to monitor her
situation, and we'll post updates here. Please learn more about ways to help animals used for entertainment.
Update: As UniverSoul
Circus prepares to force Nosey to perform next week in Tallahassee, Florida,
actor Cheryl Hines has written an urgent letter to the manager of the North Florida Fairgrounds
imploring him to cancel the ailing elephant's appearances. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has also added his
voice in a plea to stop UniverSoul Circus from allowing Nosey to perform. Local activists have
also planned to demonstrate at the fairgrounds in Nosey's behalf.
Originally posted on February 20th, 2013:
Can you help us help Nosey, an ailing elephant exhibited by Hugo Liebel? Recent photographs of her led an elephant expert to conclude that her health is worsening, and PETA is calling on local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to confiscate Nosey, who will soon be forced to perform with UniverSoul Circus.
The photos were taken during a recent Liebel Family Circus show in Davenport, Florida. (PETA had urged Davenport officials to cancel the show, but they failed to act to protect Nosey.) Upon review, a veterinarian with decades of experience treating and caring for elephants determined that Nosey's painful skin condition continues to deteriorate and that she is suffering as a result.
In addition to these welfare concerns, records just obtained by PETA reveal that Nosey tested positive on a StatPak test for tuberculosis (TB) antibodies in January 2012. A positive test can be an early indicator of TB infection, which is highly transmissible between elephants and humans. Indeed, direct contact with a TB-positive elephant is not necessary for transmission of the disease. This is particularly worrisome given Liebel's record of unlawful unsupervised and dangerous contact between Nosey and the public.
Liebel has been abusing and neglecting Nosey for years. PETA has been filing complaints against the circus with the USDA for nearly a decade—more than a dozen of them since 2009. In March, Liebel is set to face almost three dozen formal charges for violations of the Animal Welfare Act—most of them relating to Nosey, including repeatedly chaining her so tightly that she could barely move and repeatedly denying her veterinary care.
Upon learning through a public records request that UniverSoul Circus planned to use Nosey in its Florida shows, PETA implored UniverSoul CEO Cedric Walker to spare the suffering elephant but has received no response, so the group is stepping up its campaign to get Nosey the help that she so desperately requires.
is with deep sadness that we report the passing of Pat Derby, the former
animal trainer who saw the error of the entertainment industry's ways and spent
the rest of her life helping captive animals by providing them with safe havens
at her three spacious Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuaries in
California. Pat died at her home on Friday.
assisted PETA with many of our campaigns, most recently by providing Ben, the bear we pried out of the clutches of the abysmal Jambbas Ranch, with a permanent home. I defy you not
to tear up at footage of Ben splashing happily in a pond at a PAWS sanctuary
after spending years in a cramped, barren cage:
2007, PAWS also opened its gates to Maggie, a wild-caught
African elephant who spent 24 years largely confined to a concrete barn at the
Alaska Zoo—10 of those years alone after the zoo's other elephant died. Maggie
reportedly collapsed twice in one week and had to be hoisted to her feet with
the aid of a winch. She was then suspended in a sling to prevent her from
collapsing again. After years of pressure from PETA, the zoo finally allowed her
to be moved to a more suitable climate and to live in the company of other
elephants, and she has been thriving since her move to PAWS.
is also home to Nicholas and Gypsy, the last two elephants of the 16 the Hawthorn Corporation was forced by the
U.S. Department of Agriculture to relinquish after PETA filed repeated
complaints with the agency about abuse and neglect at Hawthorn. PETA continues
to keep up the pressure on Hawthorn, a supplier of animals to circuses, since
it still has tigers
animals in its custody.
behalf of Ben, Maggie, Nicholas, Gypsy, and so many others, we thank Pat for her
lifelong crusade. Pat may be gone, but her spirit lives on—as do the animals—in
the heaven that she created here on Earth.
Update: PETA has now
confirmed that the USDA has not one but two
open investigations into AWA violations by the Hawthorn Corporation: one prompted by PETA's complaint regarding Hawthorn's use of Lance Ramos (see
below) to unlawfully exhibit tigers in violation of the USDA's revocation of Ramos' license and the other arising from a separate
case in Florida. Please urge the agency to follow the lead of governments
around the world in defending animals against abuse by circuses and exhibitors by permanently revoking
Originally posted on February 8th, 2013:
As PETA has learned from years of working to free animals
from Hawthorn's cruel clutches, calling Hawthorn "notorious" is actually
putting it rather mildly. The exotic-animal exhibitor's reprehensible history
of AWA violations include USDA citations issued on more than 60 occasions for Hawthorn's
many failures to provide animals with proper veterinary care, nutrition, safe
or sanitary enclosures, safe or humane handling practices, exercise, and adequate
The USDA's previous enforcement actions against Hawthorn
have entailed multiple license suspensions, more than a quarter of a million
dollars in penalties, and confiscation or ordered surrender of at least 17
exotic animals. None of these actions have done anything to ensure even adequate treatment of the animals
Hawthorn forces to perform.
The USDA has recognized that continuing to fail to adhere to
minimum standards of sanitation and feeding—both of which are chronic problems
for Hawthorn—are violations for which an AWA license should be revoked. Yet the
USDA appears to be granting Hawthorn preferential treatment by repeatedly renewing
Someone whose license was
permanently revoked is animal trainer Lance Ramos (aka "Lancelot
Kollman") after AWA citations for, among other cruelty, using physical
abuse as a "training tool" on exotic cats to the point that at least one
of them died and denying adequate veterinary care to an elephant so severely
emaciated that he was a full ton underweight when the USDA confiscated him. Despite this, Hawthorn brought Ramos on board to train and exhibit tigers, and
PETA has provided evidence to the USDA that he recently illegally exhibited the big cats with a Shrine circus and Showfolks
Every day that Hawthorn remains licensed is a day that
animals are suffering. Please send a polite e-mail to USDA General
Counsel Ramona Romero urging the agency to revoke Hawthorn's license immediately
and permanently disqualify its employees and agents from obtaining a USDA
As President Barack Obama began a tour of the country
to talk about jobs and the economy, PETA met him in Asheville, North Carolina,
and presented him with a job description of our own:
While the president spoke to Asheville residents
about lowering the unemployment rate, PETA asked him to grant retirement to the
bears who are suffering in
another part of the state in squalid roadside bear pits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently suspended the operating
license of one of the pits, the Chief Saunooke Bear Park, after PETA filed multiple complaints about animal abuse there. The USDA cited
the bear pit for, among other abuse, denying the bears adequate food and
Obviously, the Secret
Service took stock of our bear and her message. Here's hoping the POTUS realizes
soon that these bears want to be unemployed,
After PETA filed multiple complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding egregious violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) at Chief Saunooke Bear Park, the bear pit must now surrender its exhibitor license. What's more, the license will remain suspended until the dismal facility is able to prove that it's compliant with AWA regulations—if it ever can.
Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians joined PETA in meeting with the USDA to detail the problems at the Cherokee, North Carolina, roadside zoo. Following our complaints and meeting, the USDA charged the bear pit with more than a dozen violations. Now, the park has agreed to pay a fine and surrender its license in order to settle the case. It's probably a smart move, considering that in a 62-page report that PETA gave to the USDA, bear experts who visited the facility documented that, among other violations, the park was failing to maintain adequate barriers between bears and the public, leading to at least two attacks on visitors thus far. According to the experts, the park also failed to supply food for its public feedings that met the bears' nutritional needs and instead allowed visitors to feed them cat food and Lucky Charms cereal. Among many other abuses, the facility also failed to provide the bears with veterinary care and forced them to eat from filthy, unsanitary food containers.
Barely a month ago, a PETA investigation 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. Our investigation also uncovered drug use, racism, wage-law violations, and more.
Please ask the USDA to take the next step and
confiscate the abused bears.
We're happy to report a favorable development in this case:
A court has denied a motion by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to
dismiss the lawsuit brought against the agency by PETA, the Animal Legal
Defense Fund (ALDF), and two Fayetteville-area residents seeking to overturn
the USDA's renewal of Jambbas Ranch Tours' license to continue to operate the
wretched roadside zoo that has racked up dozens of violations of the federal
Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
The ruling comes in the wake of the recent high-profile rescue of Ben the bear, who now resides in a spacious habitat at a sanctuary in
California, thanks to the ruling in the earlier lawsuit mentioned below.
PETA's challenge to the licenses will move forward, but the
animals at Jambbas have no time to lose—please urge USDA officials to revoke Jambbas' license
immediately and offer these animals the chance to live out their lives with the kind of
comfort and dignity that Ben now enjoys.
Originally posted on April 19th, 2012:
of Cumberland County, North Carolina, who are sickened by Jambbas Ranch Tours' pervasive neglect and abuse of animals have joined PETA and the Animal Legal
Defense Fund in suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over its renewal
of Jambbas' license despite chronic violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
AWA allows an animal exhibitor or dealer to have his or her license renewed only
if the person's business operates in accordance with AWA regulations. But the
USDA has repeatedly renewed Jambbas' license despite the fact that every single inspection of the roadside
zoo between October 2006 and January 2012 resulted in citations for AWA violations
including the following:
is the second pending lawsuit involving Jambbas Ranch. The other suit seeks to
have an abused bear named
Ben removed from Jambbas and relocated to a sanctuary where PETA has made arrangements
for him to live. In this sad video, Ben paces in his barren cage, bites the
chain-link fencing, pushes against it, and tries to reach under it—behavior a
bear expert has identified as a cry for help:
asking the USDA not to renew Jambbas' license, PETA also pointed out several
violations of the AWA that relate to Ben, including a lack of adequate space,
which is likely causing his repetitive, abnormal behavior.
is clearly not qualified to possess an AWA license. We will keep you updated as
the lawsuit progresses.
Records just released to PETA by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) show that notorious elephant exhibitor Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) was cited by the agency in late August 2012 for violating the Animal
Welfare Act (AWA), following a complaint submitted by PETA.
Pachyderms—and the Public
According to its newly released inspection report, the USDA cited HTWT for failing to comply
with the AWA requirement that a knowledgeable and experienced handler have
direct control and supervision of elephants during public exhibition.
Not only do elephant rides endanger humans and elephants,
they're also cruel. After Animal Defenders International released video footage showing that adult and baby elephants cried out in pain as HTWT trainers
repeatedly struck them with sharp metal-tipped bullhooks and shocked them with electric prods in 2011, numerous venues severed all ties
with the company. It's simply unconscionable for fairs and other attractions to
keep hosting HTWT given its history of abuse and endangerment.
What You Can Do
Please join PETA in urging the San Diego County Fair to
join the ranks of the Orange
County Fair, the Santa
Ana Zoo, and the L.A. County Fair and stop hosting HTWT or any other providers of elephant rides.
you have a general question for PETA and would like a response, please e-mail Info@peta.org. If you need to report cruelty to
an animal, please click
here. If you are reporting an animal in imminent danger and know where to find the
animal and if the abuse is taking place right now, please call your local
police department. If the police are unresponsive, please call PETA
immediately at 757-622-7382 and press 2.
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.