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Victory! Feds Fine Notorious Bear Pit, Suspend Its License

Written by Michelle Kretzer | January 30, 2013

UPDATE: Victory! As the Chief Saunooke Bear Park struggled, a private benefactor offered to purchase all of the bears. The park quickly accepted the offer and the bears were finally retired to a spacious sanctuary. Read more about the victory and how the bears are doing now here.

Originally posted on January 30, 2013:

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.

Commenting is closed.
  • THalle says:

    Call me animal crazy all you want, but some things just aren’t right – I don’t care how long they have been doing this to these bears, it needs to stop NOW.

  • Christi Mincey says:

    Treat him fairly!!!!

  • kering says:

    Bears shouldn’t be in cages, pits, circuses or any such BS. Just getting better food and check-ups is settling for very little.

  • Larry Green says:

    Please confiscate these poor bears.

  • Margaret Britt says:

    Please confiscate these poor bears and send them to a sanctuary. Please allow these poor animals to live whatever time they have left in peace.

  • Emily says:


  • Margaret Britt says:

    Please confiscate these poor bears and send them to a sanctuary. Please allow these poor animals to live whatever time they have left in peace.

  • Megan Gildred says:

    Hello, If people cannot demonstrate common sense in taking care of WILD animals, then all animals should be out of their control…completely. Thank you for listening!

  • samantha pearce says:

    Surely you do not wish to be attached to a group of people who purposely engage in torture.

  • Michael Ryan Bannister says:

    Please, together, let’s make a difference and stamp-out animal abuse once, and for all.

  • Linda Engle says:

    Finally hope for these poor bears. They deserve to be sent to a safe, health sactuary for what remains of their lives!

  • Kari Wilson says:

    Please revoke Cheif Saunooke Bear Park license and have these bears retired to a sanctuary!

  • Jennifer Livernois says:

    Please revoke their license

  • Bobbi Hamel says:

    This idiot needs to be in jail, just like child abusers!!!!!!

  • Diane Bozarth says:

    Now, please make sure these bears get to a safe and humane place where they can roam outside, be fed healthy food on regular basis and interact with other bears to have a more normal and abuse-free life. Please see to it that they get to a safe place under loving care ASAP!!

  • fiona says:

    Great work – but What happens to the bears in the meantime?

  • Ruijian says:

    If USDA closes down the bear pit, the bears must be set free into nature where they belong. What would the children think if they knew the abuse inflicted on those bears. A zoo should be a place of harmony, not cruelty.

  • sandra barker says:

    send them to a sanctuary

  • Carolyn Richard says:

    I innocently went to this zoo a few months ago…. I left in tears… Never wanting to step foot in a zoo again. As sad and unhappy as the bears at this zoo are… So are the other animals. The poor white tiger spends its entire life in a cage the size as it is … Why do we allow this inhuman torture? The monkeys walking back and forth in the tiny space that they have…. Nothing about this place is “fun” … I am haunted by what I saw and my heart is bleeding for all of those poor animals… Thank you peta … And everyone taking a stand for the innocent animals that so desperately need us ;(

  • Kristin Hauser says:

    These people should not be allowed near an animal ever again!

  • jennifer savino says:


  • Sarah says:

    Please Please!!!take the next step and revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good.Thank you.

  • Bessy Ikon says:

    No more of this inhumanity-every second you don’t take action is a century to those who are suffering-LET’S GO!!!

  • Virginia Woolf says:

    I am from Auckland, New Zealand and have been shocked by the images I have seen online about the conditions the bears in the Chief Saunooke Bear Pit have been forced to live in. This would not be permitted in NZ under our Animal Welfare Act. I am now extremely relieved to hear that the pit has been closed. My concern now is for the welfare of the bears. I hope they have been removed from this dreadful site. If not, I would be extremely worried about what might happen to them – killed or starved to death maybe! That needs to be dealt with urgently. Where will the bears go? Hopefully to a sanctuary. It would appear that the USA needs much stronger animal welfare regulations in each state to ensure that this type of abusive and inhumane situation never occurs again.

  • nicE says:

    poor poor creaturez having to live in such disgusting conditionz!! they deserve to b free and if thats not possible then they deserve to live in a happi comfortable atmosphere!!

  • Tina says:

    This is disgraceful and we are all grateful you’ve taken action. However, you need to revoke their license for good and move the bears to sanctuary. PLEASE!!

  • nat_martin says:

    Please help confiscate the bears. They are innocent and deserve a peaceful retirement!

  • Sheryl Barnes says:

    Please take the bears

  • Robyn Holm says:

    These bears need to be removed from this situation immediately. USDA needs to do what is right by the animals.

  • Angela Beitia says:

    The work is not completed. These bears cannot stay in the hands of these people. They already have proved what they can and will continue to do again. Please I urge you to remove these bears from their possession. These bears need to be release in their environment …… free!! Angela Beitia Orlando, FL



  • Dee Nanette Fraser says:

    It saddens me that this cruelty to bears was caused by Native Indians who are supposed to be caretakers (stewards) of this land and it’s wildlife. All for monetary gains, shameful and disgraceful. Cherokees Nation, – your ancestors would be ashamed of you for your disgusting abuse disrespect to Mother Earth’s creatures.

  • Jennifer Ecker says:

    Dear USDA-I urge you to please move forward and take the next step in revoking Cheif Saunooke Bear Park’s license once and for all so no more innocent animals will be harmed!!!

  • Rachel Sloan-Rittenhouse says:

    Let’s finish this sad chapter and give these animals a chance at life.

  • julie taft says:

    please confiscate the besrs and retire them to a sanctuary.

  • Caitlin says:

    Please take the next step and revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good.

  • Geoffrey W Harold says:


  • patricia says:

    It is essential for the welfare of these beautiful creatures that you revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good, putting an end to their disgusting, vile mistreatment.

  • Sam says:

    Shut that place down for good! Bears are way smarter than these idiots think.

  • T Barone says:

    It makes no sense to me. Why would you shut them down, but leave the poor animals in their care. Please exercise your authority and remove the bears from their neglect and abuse.

  • danielle mcglinchey says:

    Please place bears in a caring sanctuary and away from this cruelty

  • rochelle says:


  • vanessa moxley says:

    Please move forward to end this atrocity for good by revoking their license permanently!!!!

  • Jen says:

    Please do not give Chief Saunooke Bear Park their llicence back ever!!!!!

  • Nicole says:

    Please help these beautiful creatures.

  • Kristen says:

    stop this!

  • becky Hillyard says:

    USDA, PLEASE take the next step and revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good! this is awful!

  • Maria says:

    Dear Sir/Madam, I´m kindly asking you to take the next step and revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good. Regards.

  • Valerie Cantone says:

    Please help these poor bears!!!