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Yes! Government Moves to Reduce Captive Bears’ Suffering

Written by Alisa Mullins | November 26, 2013

Update: Just weeks after PETA filed our lawsuit against the agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published in the Federal Register our petition for improved standards for facilities that house captive bears and is now seeking comments from the public. Please express your support for bears by submitting a comment here.

Originally posted on October 23, 2013:

Back in medieval times, people would go to the Tower of London to gawk at the menagerie of bears, big cats, and other wild animals caged there. It seems bizarre to house animals in a castle dungeon, but surely such cruelty is a thing of the past, right? Shockingly, bears are still being housed in similar dungeon-like conditions right here and now—and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is dragging its heels about bringing zoos out of the Dark Ages. So PETA has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force the agency to act.

Life encased in concrete at Cherokee Bear Zoo

More than a year ago, PETA submitted a formal petition to the USDA urging the agency to create specific standards for housing bears in captivity in light of the fact that hundreds of bears are currently being caged in appalling conditions at roadside zoos and other substandard facilities all over the country.

Experts now recognize that bears, who can live for several decades and naturally have home ranges of hundreds of miles, are extremely intelligent and have complex needs. In a study of 33 species in captivity, bears displayed the highest frequency of stereotypic behavior such as pacing, a common indication of captivity-induced mental illness.

A grizzly begs—for freedom?—at Black Forest Bear Park in Georgia.

Despite recognizing that its standards must keep pace with the latest scientific knowledge in order to best meet the intent of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the USDA has completely ignored PETA’s 65-page petition, which includes specific recommendations for fulfilling bears’ basic needs, such as providing nesting, foraging, and denning opportunities and pools for bathing, as well as space requirements.

That’s why PETA filed a lawsuit charging the agency with violating the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires that the USDA respond to a petition like ours “within a reasonable time.” We think more than a year is long enough for the bears to wait.

What You Can Do

Please join PETA in urging the USDA not to waste any more time in formulating bear-specific standards to be added to the AWA.

Commenting is closed.
  • nora says:

    I don’t believe these bears have commited any crime to be locked up in a concrete cell!This life is not one they deserve and is unfair! Especially when there are other options ,why should they suffer any longer! Please Help!

  • Phyllis McLenon says:

    It is simply inhumane and the law has been broken. Arrest those that are not incompliance, take custody of the Bears and follow the law. Simple.

  • Carol says:

    Unfortunately, I visited this bear zoo and what I saw still makes me sick to this day. I couldn’t believe the poor conditions and the lack of space. They also had a adult tiger in a tiny cage with uneaten chicken breast thrown in the cage. Hope this place gets shut down.

  • Sherri Lysohirka says:

    I totally support freedom for our bears – they need freedom – God bless those who all help in supporting God’s furry friends

  • adrienne says:

    PLease you must release these bears in the name of humanity! We are a civilised race there is no need for any form of cruelty, this is cruel!!!

  • nora aguilar says:

    They are animals that need there freedom . This life they have is not fair to them. Please be kind and release them.

  • melinda says:

    Appalling. Stop this immediately.

  • Tiffany Stanek Owens says:

    This is sickening.

  • Tammy says:

    That is so sad they need freedom.

  • Marla Humphreys says:

    Bears continue to suffer in substandard facilities all over the country, and the USDA lingers. These animals are devoid of adequate space, proper nourishment, and anything that fosters their physical and mental well-being. Please take action now.

  • Janet van Zyl says:

    Where were bears first observed or found? In the wild, their natural habitat, and they must be allowed to return there or at least given proper living conditions if kept in captivity, which is still not right. Set them free now!

  • Kmcyoko says:

    I was shocked to learn that the USDA—which is supposed to ensure the humane treatment of animals—allows roadside zoos and other licensees to keep bears in tiny cages and even concrete pits that deprive the animals of the opportunity to satisfy their basic needs and instincts. Bears in the wild have home ranges of up to thousands of miles, yet the USDA currently allows licensees to keep bears in tiny cages, where the animals can take only a few steps in any direction. A North Carolina judge ruled last year that a roadside zoo committed illegal cruelty to animals by forcing a bear to live in near total sensory deprivation in a concrete dog run that USDA inspectors found acceptable. Clearly, something must change in order to fulfill the intended purpose of the Animal Welfare Act. Ensuring the humane treatment of bears requires—at a minimum—specific regulations that are tailored to bears’ instinctual need to forage, explore, bathe, climb, and den, and hibernate. Please implement the proposed bear-specific regulations to ensure the humane treatment of captive bears.

  • kim says:

    free them – let them live their lives

  • J. Nasswetter says:

    Animals are at the mercy of humankind! If we dont help them who will?

  • garry henn says:

    Free them now

  • Nichole Tomacelli says:

    USDA, THIS IS AWFUL! Shame, shame, shame on you. Please do right by these other inhabitants of earth and show some respect. Free them now!

  • Jane says:

    Please stop this inhumane

  • Sugar says:

    Please free the bears they do not belong in concrete pits!

  • Do your job USDA ! This is animal abuse & your dragging your feet…….where is your compassion !

  • Veronica MacDonald says:

    Why would Man kind need ever to do something so inhumane to any animal. Bears are Beautiful and should also be allowed to live free and in peace. People want to see Whild Life watch the Nature Channels.

  • Ashley silva says:

    This is horrendous please remove these bears from captivity.

  • Monica Louden says:

    Shame on the USDA in this day and age to ignore the suffering and abuse of animals. These bears need to be released to a sanctuary immediately, if not sooner!

  • Jennifer Smith says:

    this issue has got to stop. i am sending this message all the way from Sydney, Australia. Together we can make a difference and fight for animal rights

  • Becca G. says:

    Shame on the USDA to ignore the plight of any animals. With all of our knowledge of animals, this treatment should be illegal.

    • Veronica says:

      So typical. The USDA is a major contributor to animal abuse and neglect. This agency needs to be completely revamped.

      • Patrice says:

        I agree 100% Veronica! I especially Hate APHIS the USDA branch that does the killing and goes by the title “Wildlife Services”. Like the old saying goes, with friends like them who needs enemies.