According to Cherokee legend, black bears are the keepers of dreams. When observing the lives of the bears who have been relegated to the concrete pits of roadside zoos in the Qualla Boundary area of western North Carolina, one has no doubt that all these imprisoned bears are dreaming of their own freedom.
Three roadside zoos—Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park, and Santa's Land—keep bears in grossly inhumane conditions, as detailed in PETA's 63-page bear welfare report documenting serious problems found by a team of bear experts at these facilities. As though locked in a 1950s time warp, these Cherokee facilities display neurotic, hungry bears in desolate concrete pits or cramped cages in which the animals pace back and forth, walk in endless circles, cry and whimper, and beg tourists to toss them a morsel of food.
Highly intelligent animals capable of empathy and a wide range of feelings, bears are active for up to 18 hours per day in their natural habitat and spend their time exploring diverse terrain. In the wild, bears forage for a wide variety of foods and dig in soft earth, brush, and leaves—but the concrete pits that the Cherokee bears are forced to call home deprive them of everything that comes naturally to them. Surrounded by four solid walls, the bears cannot scan the horizon, gain a perspective on their surroundings, or make much use of their acute sense of smell.
Cherokee's roadside zoos have made no effort to simulate the animals' natural habitat or provide them with stimulation. They have also been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to meet minimal federal standards established in the Animal Welfare Act.
The cages lack any form of environmental enrichment, such as appropriate climbing structures, hidden food treats for foraging, barriers for privacy, and substrate for digging, resting, and nest-building.
Please take a moment to join tribal elders and urge Chief Michell Hicks and the tribal council to close Cherokee’s bear zoos.
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.