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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.
  • Lauren Burns says:

    I recently moved to Cherokee with my husband for a job. He is Native American. It was very offensive what they said about the Natives, but what’s more disturbing is that I ride by there every day and the OPEN sign is still on. I told my husband to take me there once and I left in tears. This was about 3 years ago. They also had two adult Bengal tigers in a 20ft x 50ft cage. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Also, they did not take to kindly to me asking questions about the animals, how long they had been there, was that there only enclosure etc. Sorry to ramble on. I would love to help in any way possible.

  • Jackie Davis says:

    Suspending the license means nothing as long as the bears are kept in this hell hole. They need to be removed. As long as they are there they will be subjected to misuse and abuse. The people did not care for or about them when they were making money for them. They damn sure are not going to care for them with their license suspended.

  • Genoveva M. Martinez says:

    The victory will be when USDA open their eyes and free the bears from this torture, right now where is the victory? These innocent bears are still there, and really for how much longer? These kind of legal process take long time especially because the subject of the matter are animals, if it was a political figure, it would be solve right away. Shame!!!

  • Betty says:

    Please relocate these bears to a sanctuary or a more humane environment.

  • cliffjos54 says:

    This is pure unadulterated B.S. These animals must be confiscated and sent to a sanctuary immediately. How much more abuse must they take before MY GOV’T. gets off their ass and does the right thing. These people must be imprisoned and the property confiscated. NO FINES JUST PRISON

  • Bob Wojtyniak says:

    When the Bible said “humans were given dominion over the animals”, most assumed that meant domination. But the ancient definition of dominion actually means stewardship – protection and nurturing. God is watching what we are doing. He is NOT happy with the cruelty that we are subjecting His creatures to. Remember, He has His ways of paying back !!!

  • Evelyn says:

    Lydia, If you haven’t yet, please contact PETA and give the locations of the other 2 bear parks. Thanks from a South Carolina animal-lover!

  • Tania Baxter says:

    this cruelty must be stopped

  • Yvonne says:

    The poor bears, please treat them as you would want to be treated. 🙁 Or how they DESERVE to be treated.

  • angeliki kounelli says:

    please stop the cruelity.

  • Lydia Raines says:

    I moved to Cherokee 14 yrs ago and this is only 1 of 3 HIDEOUS parks in Cherokee. I’ve never taken my children or family to these parks and I tell tourist with children to NOT take their kids to any of the Bear Parks in Cherokee.

  • Simona says:

    I have seen zoos in Romania where I live that look way better than this pitt… I saw it on tv about a week ago and I could not believe americans can accept this…

  • Kristina Peterson says:

    My 6 year old nephew loves the bears and cried when e saw them being mistreated.It is wrong to keep an animal in such a way. Please release them to a sanctuary.

  • Amy says:

    I am still very concerned! The bears are still going to be there and will have no one to check on them anymore. What else can PETA and the public do? This might actually be worse for the bears with no regulations!

  • Allison Bourdlaies says:

    PLEASE, USDA revoke the Chief Saunooke Park’s Bear license for good. Permanently. It is the right thing to do. Thank you.

  • don taylor says:

    an ideal,let the bear go free, jail the staff members & close park w BIG FINE!!!

  • Allison Bourdlaies says:

    PLEASE, USDA revoke the Chief Saunooke Park’s Bear license for good. Permanently. It is the right thing to do. Thank you.

  • Siddharth Jain says:

    Dear Sir/Madam, I would, first, like to thank the USDA for their action against the Chief Saunooke Bear Park as regards its unthinkable cruel treatment towards these poor animals. But, as we all know, that the struggle is not yet complete till these animals get their due of a peaceful and terror free life and these monsters get to face a payback for their deeds. I, hereby, urge you to kindly suspend the license of Chief Saunooke Bear Park and put your two pennies worth towards giving these animals a happy and peaceful life. Regards

  • Angela Abfalterer says:

    Please refrain from keeping a living creature in circumstances unworth living!!! I can’t imagine you could live one day like this! So act responsible and spare it the bears!!!!

  • Frances Takacs says:

    Please release these bears to a humane facility where they will get proper care

  • Ruth Dyer says:

    These Monster Should Never Be aloud to have a license. They obviously have no respect for animals and others. They should Never be legal allowed to have an animal of any sort. Take all the animals place them in Free Roaming sanctuary’s and FINE them put them in jail. Let them feel what its like to be in a cement pit…….

  • Frances Takacs says:

    Please release these bears to a humane facility where they will get proper care

  • Svetlana Blagojevic-Stefanovic says:

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

  • Ayeh says:

    Pls allow the bears to be removed and treated right..thank you 🙂

  • Lita White says:

    revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good. They are doing damage to living creatures that have no chance but to live miserable lives if we don’t help.

  • Esther Sarach says:

    Please revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good! Stop cruelty now!

  • Larissa Bako says:

    Please help these bears and revoke this park’s license. What the are doing is deplorable and we need to do what’s right. Let this serve as the example to other parks and facilities that treat their animals poorly.



  • Sarah Hamilton says:

    Please send these bears to a sanctuary and give them the lives they deserve but have been denied so far!

  • denine v heinemann says:

    This needs to happen NOW. Step up to the plate and do what taxpayers want you to do……….rescue these animals. Now, please.

  • Anja says:

    Stop this crualty!!

  • dawn says:

    this is wrong and cruel, these bears need grass beneath their feet open fresh air, this is morally wrong so stop it now…..

  • Carol Townson says:

    Lets put staff members in pits and starve them, see how they like THAT

  • Susan Howe says:

    This is an ‘entertainment’ that clearly has no scruples about animal welfare and has no place in a civilised society.

  • vanessa moxley says:

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

  • Jenny Uyttenhove says:

    Hope that step by step we’ll come to it…

  • Anna Sillanpaa says:

    Pls, take action immediately to confiscate the bears.

  • Sinikka Hannus says:

    Please, take the next step and revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good!! Best wishes Sinikka Hannus Juha Soininen, Finland, Europe

  • Lyn Williams says:

    Please don’t let them have any more animals, this is not neglect it is downright cruelty.

  • Chantel says:

    Please rescue the bears and put them in a safe sanctuary

  • hanna palm says:

    Please free these poor bears!

  • Petros Kaltsamis says:

    Revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license now !!!!

  • Michel dos santos says:

    Please revoke chef saunooke bear parks license for good! Please release the bears, the treatment of such beautiful animals in inhumane! They belong out in the wild with space to roam and he ability to feed them selves. Depriving them of food is barbaric!

  • Marcie says:

    Confiscate the bears. They’ve been through enough torture. Let them live out their lives in comfort and peace. Revoke the license for good.

  • Amy Bowling says:

    Please, let these bears have some peace.

  • Amy Bowling says:

    Thanks for doing the right thing – let’s go the extra mile! Please, let those bears finally have some peace.


    Please show compassion for these bears who have suffered enough

  • Natalie says:

    Save the bears!

  • Livia Espada says:

    revoke Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s license for good.