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Bears Behind Bars: PETA Asks Feds to Help

Written by PETA | September 25, 2012

PETA has submitted a 64-page petition, which includes case studies, photographs, and expert statements, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking the agency to create and apply specific regulations for bears held captive in appalling conditions by exhibitors, dealers, and research facilities. By allowing bears to be kept in squalid cages and concrete pits and denied everything that is natural and important to them, the USDA is clearly failing to ensure anything close to humane treatment of captive bears, in violation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Changing the Regulations to Reflect Reality

Last month, PETA successfully used legal action to rescue a bear named Ben, who was kept for six long years at Jambbas Ranch in a cramped cage with a concrete floor. Ben was fed dry dog food once a day and spent most of his waking hours pacing the few square feet allotted to him. Despite Ben’s obvious suffering and multiple complaints from PETA and others, USDA inspectors failed to cite Jambbas for violations related to Ben. In state court, however, a judge ruled that the conditions in which he was being kept constituted cruelty to animals, proving that the federal AWA isn’t preventing cruelty to captive bears.

While Ben’s story has a happy ending, hundreds of other bears will continue to languish in squalid conditions unless the USDA takes action. Roadside zoos like Jambbas and the Cherokee Bear Zoo account for the majority of USDA licensees with captive bears. These shabby facilities keep bears in tiny barren cages or concrete pits with woefully inadequate space, lack of physical or mental stimulation, and inappropriate diets and in conditions that deny the bears any opportunity to engage in natural behavior, such as hibernating and foraging. Because their needs aren’t being met, many bears in roadside zoos spend most of their time pacing, cage-biting, and head-butting, which experts agree are signs of distress.

Bears Need Their Space—and Much More

Bears have a natural life span of up to three decades, and some species can have a home range of thousands of miles. According to the International Zoo Yearbook, “[I]t is recognized that bears are extremely difficult and challenging creatures to manage in the captive environment”—just as challenging, according to studies, as primates. For example, in a study of 33 carnivorous species, bears showed the most evidence of stress and psychological dysfunction in captivity. An Oxford University study ultimately concluded that “the keeping of naturally wide-ranging carnivores should be either fundamentally improved or phased out.” But the requirements for bears’ care currently fall under the AWA’s minimum regulations for a wide variety of unspecified species, and the USDA is failing to use these generic regulations to protect bears.

In addition to a specific prohibition on keeping bears in abysmal concrete pit–style enclosures, PETA has proposed regulations that would require that bears be furnished with naturalistic habitats, dens for nesting and hibernation, pools for bathing, enough room to forage and explore, enrichment, and other elements that would improve bears’ mental and physical well-being.

What You Can Do

Speak up for bears in captivity! Please join PETA in urging the USDA to formulate bear-specific standards to be added to the AWA.

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  • abigail says:

    Please don’t allow this to continue.

  • Estelle DENIS says:

    Animals are not objects. If you couldn’t bear one day in a cage, why would they ? Stop animal abuse !!

  • Donna McConnell says:

    Please end this senseless act of cruelty now!!!

  • Elaine Ramirez says:

    this is serious cruelty… what is wrong with the human race that we think it is ok to treat animals this way?

  • Malin sandberg says:

    Just make it stop!!!!

  • joseph says:

    stop abused!!!

  • Adriana saldaña says:

    SAVE BEARS!!! NO MORE CRUELTY!!!!

  • Mary Lou Sheehan says:

    Please let these bears live a natural life in a sanctuary. Living in cruel confinement for years on end is nothing but torture!

  • Rochelle howe says:

    This is no way for any kind of living creature to live. Usda get your priorities straight!

  • Petra Kreuzer says:

    Protect bears and stop to cage them – they need their freedom just like every other animal incl. humans!!!

  • Amanda O'Neil Timmerman says:

    Give bears enough space to live comfortably! Imagine being stuck in an airplane all day… Nobody likes being confined and cramped, including WILD animals.

  • kire petrov says:

    please halp the bears. . .

  • Heather Kennedy says:

    The requirements for bears’ care currently fall under the AWA’s minimum regulations for a wide variety of unspecified species, and the USDA is failing to use these generic regulations to protect bears. This has to change.

  • kire petrov says:

    please halp the bears. . .

  • Marga says:

    please improve the lives of these poor bears. They don’t deserve such an horrible life!

  • Karan says:

    please help them by supprting PETA

  • marieve daigle says:

    this is not acceptable.this is cruel.

  • Linda Nelson says:

    Get these poor bears out of prison now!!!!

  • Rob Henson says:

    A country as forward thinking as the USA should not be treating bears like this! They are intelligent creatures that deserve a good quality of life.

  • Ashley Waddell says:

    This is no way for any animal to live. The USDA needs to act now to establish more humane standards for bear habitats.

  • Stephanie Danner says:

    Please help these bears. This is a cruel way to keep two large bears, they deserve to live a happy life.

  • Stephanie Danner says:

    Please help these bears. This is a cruel way to keep two large bears, they deserve to live a happy life.

  • Mike Wolynetz says:

    Please stop this cruel practice

  • micaella Burgos says:

    stop this PLEASE

  • Amanda OToole says:

    Change their space. Humans have no right to create anxiety and neglect to an animal if it can be helped! How awful of you! Change this now!

  • Khali loinaz says:

    This is cruel, take those beautiful animals to their habitat, inhuman treatment. Sad

  • Khali loinaz says:

    This is cruel, take those beautiful animals to their habitat, inhuman treatment. Sad

  • Amit says:

    please free those bears! spare animals!

  • Sol Moyano says:

    Esto no puede seguir así, los osos deben ser libres no pueden estar viviendo de esa forma. LOS ZOOLÓGICOS SON PRISIONES!!

  • Mona Mehas says:

    Animals do not deserve to subsist in these inhumane conditions. Please help.

  • Kalpana says:

    Please help these bears!! This is no life for them- it’s cruel and sadistic!

  • John Mastrangelo says:

    Sometimes this world makes me sick. In a country as rich as us how dare we do something so hidious

  • Joselyne Fasanando says:

    Terminar con esta barbarie por dios… encienrrence vosotros a ver si les mola la vida en cautiverio

  • Cora Moore says:

    USDA, please drop the politics and the right thing for captive animals in the US who are clearly suffering.

  • Trish Wootten says:

    Freedom for all species is understandably just and deserved for everyone.

  • karen lyons kalmenson says:

    bears are not stuffed animals nor should they be stuffed into horrid, inadequate cages!!!!

  • Magda Audifred says:

    STOP.

  • Jo-Anne Bouchard says:

    Zoos should be under stricter rules for allowing them to keep animals. There should be visits by the authorities to make sure animals are not in distress and have the necessities. I know we can’t shut down all zoos. But some zoos. We make comments like what would people do if we did that to them. We should lock up people like we lock up the animals. We do lock up people they’re called prisons. But even prisoners are not treated like animals. Maybe we lock up our animals in prison and lock up the prisoners in our zoos

  • Jo-Anne Bouchard says:

    Zoos should be under stricter rules for allowing them to keep animals. There should be visits by the authorities to make sure animals are not in distress and have the necessities. I know we can’t shut down all zoos. But some zoos. We make comments like what would people do if we did that to them. We should lock up people like we lock up the animals. We do lock up people they’re called prisons. But even prisoners are not treated like animals. Maybe we lock up our animals in prison and lock up the prisoners in our zoos

  • Jennifer Hackett says:

    It is only fair that if these animals cannot live in their natural habitat, that they are given those things that they instinctually need. Like room to roam, stimulation and places to hibernate! These bears are literally in prison, and I know I would not want to be locked up for my whole life, but if I was I am sure I would probably get more basic needs met than theses bears!!! And the bears are innocent creatures who do not deserve this kind of abuse. Please help them before it is too late!

  • Melody Paris says:

    Please add bear-specific standards to the AWA. Bears in captivity do not thrive and display signs of extreme mental and physical stress. I urge you to at least require that bears be furnished with naturalistic habitats, dens for nesting and hibernation, pools for bathing, enough room to forage and explore, enrichment, and other elements that would improve bears’ mental and physical well-being.

  • karine villiard says:

    stop that please

  • Tara says:

    I am speechless. Isn’t there anyone who can see, that it’s not normal for the poor souls being trapped and controlled by heartless creatures. Life is not all about money!! Let them enjoy life and please STOP PLAYING GOD!! YOUR LIFE IS NOT WORTH MORE THEN THEIR!!! Show the world you have a heart!! Most importantly, give the bears a life that is worth living! Tara

  • Debby says:

    STOP STOP STOP….THIS EXTREME CRUELTY TO KEEP BEARS TRAPPED IN SQUARE SMALL CAGES OR CONCRETE WALLS, WITH NOTHING IN THEM TO CLIMB, EAT, PLAY, THEY SHOULD NOT BE HERE….THEY BELONG IN THE WILD FREE….IT IS FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL GREED…THAT THESE BEAUTIFUL CREATURES SUFFER SUCH IN HUMANE TREATMENTS….HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE ENCLOSED LIKE THIS DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR MISERABLE LIVES…STOP STOP STOP :(:(:(:(:(:(:(

  • Beth Bolling says:

    This type of confinement is deplorable! Please pass legislation that would make it illegal to confine any animal in such atrocious conditions.

  • eluney says:

    please stop u.u

  • Myriam Gabas says:

    STOP CRUAULTY!! :/

  • Marlene Morais Videira says:

    Help the Bears

  • Edward Schwartz says:

    When are we going to treat living creatures like we should , they feel,they, hurt they respond to kindness like all living creatures, we should be better than this!

  • Vanessa Almeida says:

    Give those bears a fair treatment

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