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Highway Hellholes: 17 Roadside Zoos on the Blacklist

If your family is planning a road trip, you can avoid bringing home awful memories simply by not stopping at decrepit roadside zoos and other cruel tourist traps that exploit animals. Vacationers with money to spend are what keep these archaic exhibits in business, and animals will continue to suffer as long as people heed the call of highway billboards and pull over. And don’t be swayed by places that tack on the word “sanctuary” or “rescue” to their name—it’s a deceptive ploy that many roadside zoos use to dupe unwitting visitors.

Lions in Cage at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park (GW Zoo)

Don’t spend any of your vacation time at places where animals will still languish in misery long after you’re back home. Here are a few of the grimmest spots for animals:

Alligator Adventure and Barefoot Landing’s T.I.G.E.R.S. Preservation Station

North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Barefoot Landing allows notorious exhibitor Kevin Antle, who forces tiger cubs and chimpanzees to interact with tourists for cruel moneymaking photo ops, to set up shop. Antle’s operation, T.I.G.E.R.S., has been repeatedly cited and has even been fined by federal authorities for serious violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including failure to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, sufficient cage space, protection from the elements, and clean water.

Reptiles aren’t regulated under the AWA, so the more than 700 alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and other reptiles at Alligator Adventure are afforded no protection.

Hollywild Animal Park

Wellford, South Carolina

In January 2015, an electrical fire killed at least 28 animals at Hollywild Animal Park. Park employees told investigators that the roadside zoo’s maintenance staff had done the electrical “upgrades” themselves. Video footage taken at the facility showed animals who were underweight, pacing, crying out in distress, and housed in unsafe enclosures. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Hollywild for dozens of violations, including repeatedly failing to provide animals with adequate veterinary care. The USDA has documented trash, plastic bags, old bones, and plastic gloves littering the facility’s grounds as well as a “rotting meat odor” emanating from a dead calf who had been fed to big cats and then cast aside.

Waccatee Zoo

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Despite the fact that keeping a chimpanzee alone is akin to keeping a human in solitary confinement, this roadside zoo has kept a chimpanzee named Chico is isolation for decades. It has also kept many other primates alone. The facility has been repeatedly cited for failing to provide animals with veterinary care and for filthy water receptacles and enclosures.

Waccatee Zoo Heartbreaking Primate

Three Bears General Store

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Three Bears General Store is notorious for violating federal animal-protection laws. Visitors to this Tennessee tourist trap have been seen pelting bears with broken dog biscuits and chunks of fruit. The USDA has repeatedly cited Three Bears for failing to allow the animals to enter their dens during the day in order to escape public view or take shelter from inclement weather. The bears apparently have only one water source that they drink from and bathe in. Employees have reported that if the bears are slow to come out of their night pens, they’re locked inside for the rest of the day.

The bears were trapped in their holding pens when the General Store burned down in 2008. Instead of closing this roadside zoo down for good, the owners rebuilt.

Bonnie Springs Ranch

Las Vegas, Nevada

Bonnie Springs Ranch has been cited for confining animals to ramshackle, dilapidated cages and failing to provide animals, including a pig with an open wound and a deer with a lump on his throat, with veterinary care.

Serenity Springs Wildlife Center

Calhan, Colorado

This roadside zoo’s own records show that between 2008 and 2013, one out of every three animals at the facility died. According to the USDA, most of these deaths were the result of improper handling or a lack of veterinary care for suffering animals. This facility has also acquired tigers from the notorious Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park.

Portland Aquarium

Portland, Oregon

Death logs revealed that more than 200 marine animals died at the Portland Aquarium in just a three-month period—many of the deaths were the result of starvation and other forms of neglect. This facility is owned by brothers Ammon and Vince Covino, who are also involved with other decrepit aquariums in Austin and San Antonio, Texas.

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Palm Harbor, Florida

PETA has campaigned against this decrepit hellhole for many years—dating back to when it was called Noell’s Ark Chimp Farm. This facility is by no means a “sanctuary” but rather a roadside menagerie with a long history of AWA violations. Even though license revocations are extremely rare, the USDA yanked Noell’s Ark Chimp Farm’s exhibitor’s license in 1999—yet the same roadside zoo, operated by the granddaughter of the original owners, opened a few years later under a misleadingly grandiose name. The facility has been repeatedly cited for keeping primates in rusty, dilapidated cages with jagged edges and it keeps an orangutan named Pongo in solitary confinement in a barren enclosure.

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Alligator with Swollen Feet

Dade City’s Wild Things

Dade City, Florida

Wild Things offers swimming encounters with tiger cubs and alligators. The facility is notorious for incessantly breeding tigers, only to tear the cubs away from their mothers shortly after birth in order to force the babies to participate in the lucrative and cruel encounters. Once the cubs grow too large for public contact, they’re relegated to tiny cages on the property, where most will spend their lives on a barren concrete pad.

The roadside zoo has also allowed children to use live pythons as paintbrushes, exposing them to the risk of contracting salmonellosis and other zoonotic diseases.

Jungle Island

Miami, Florida

Jungle Island opened in 1936 as Parrot Jungle and was known for its parrot-on-a-bicycle shows. Its animal shows have remained little more than circus acts, but the focus has switched from parrots to other wild animals—including endangered tigers and orangutans. Visitors are encouraged to pay in order to interact with the animals and have their picture taken with them. The roadside zoo’s owner, Bern Levine, has rented out animals for television shows and TV commercials. Levine also discarded an elderly chimpanzee named Edith, sending her to live in a filthy, barren enclosure at a roadside menagerie in Texas.

Jungle Island has also partnered with Kevin Antle. (See T.I.G.E.R.S.)

chimpanzee, Edith, sitting on a tire, looking very depressed

Cherokee Bear Zoo and Santa’s Land

Cherokee, North Carolina

Cherokee Bear Zoo and Santa’s Land—two roadside zoos located on tribal land in western North Carolina—keep bears and other animals in grossly inhumane conditions. As if they were stuck in a 1950s time warp, these 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, whimper, and “beg” tourists to throw them food.

Cherokee Bear Zoo

Tregembo Animal Park

Wilmington, North Carolina

In 1998, PETA named this roadside zoo (then known as the Tote Em In Zoo) as one of the worst in the country. Other than the name, not much has changed. Visitors have documented horrible living conditions for animals—including algae-filled water receptacles and tiny, filthy cages—and even bodies of dead and decaying animals on the property.

Syrian Bear at Tregembo

The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park

Wynnewood, Oklahoma

The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park (aka “G.W. Exotics” and “G.W. Zoo”) is a sleazy menagerie that buys, sells, trades, and breeds animals. This roadside zoo continues to churn out tiger cubs for use in photo sessions, even though it was under investigation for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs who died within a seven-month period. In 2006, owner Joe Schreibvogel was put on probation for 18 months and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine for nearly 200 AWA violations.

Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari

Gentry, Arkansas

Wild Wilderness Drive-Through Safari is a living hell for the animals imprisoned there. Many have lost body parts—from the tips of their fingers to the ends of their tails—likely from frostbite or a lack of veterinary care. The USDA has cited the facility after finding animals who were suffering from lesions and a spider monkey who appeared to have exposed bone on some of his toes. In addition, a lion cub was found dead in his enclosure, apparently having been strangled by his collar. The facility has also repeatedly failed to provide animals with adequate shelter.

The owner has been fined nearly $20,000 for animal-welfare violations, and his son admitted to selling four endangered tigers to a Missouri dealer who killed and skinned the cats and sold their hides.


Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

Marineland displays one lone orca, beluga whales, dolphins, sea lions, and walruses in cramped tanks. It’s estimated that more than 40 whales and dolphins have died at the theme park. Marineland has imported beluga whales and dolphins who were stolen from their ocean homes. Visitors are allowed to feed and touch the belugas throughout the day. The park also keeps bears, deer, bison, and elk confined to cages that are surrounded by noisy roller coasters and other rides.

An investigation conducted by the Toronto Star detailed widespread reports of negligence, cruelty, and mass animal graves.

Guzoo Animal Farm

Three Hills, Alberta, Canada

Animals have lived and died in squalor at this roadside hellhole since it opened in 1990. Over the years, video and photos have surfaced of feces-filled cages, food crawling with maggots, and piles of dead animals on the property. Zoocheck Canada has compiled a full report on Guzoo’s appalling history.

Bowmanville Zoo

Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada

The Bowmanville Zoo has a history of hauling animals to public events, putting both the public and the animals at risk—including an incident in which it forced an elephant named Limba to participate in a parade even though she was reportedly ill with cancer. Limba died shortly thereafter. An audit conducted by the World Society for the Protection of Animals gave the Bowmanville Zoo a failing grade in every category.

Delightful Destinations

You won’t be taking home anything but souvenirs and great memories from these stops:

  • The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) is an organization that has rigorous standards of sanctuary management and animal care. GFAS-accredited sanctuaries never breed animals or use them in commercial activities. These refuges provide animals with excellent lifelong care. Some of the member sanctuaries provide educational tours, but not all of them do, so if you’re interested in visiting one with tours, please check before you go.
  • Established in 1963, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first undersea park created in the United States. The park, combined with the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, encompasses 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. These areas were established to protect and preserve the only living coral reef in the continental United States. You can swim with the animals—in their home, on their terms.
  • The Florida Keys’ Eco-Discovery Center offers interactive displays and walk-through labs, but the animals are swimming freely. And there’s no admission charge! Another stop in the Keys could be The Turtle Hospital, which rescues and rehabilitates turtles in trouble and releases back all the turtles it responsibly can.
  • Nashville Shores’ Treetop Adventure Park is a thrilling obstacle course with suspended bridges, scramble nets, swinging logs, Tarzan jumps, and more, all set in the woods. There’s also a water park, camping facilities, and a dog park.
  • The Adventuredome is America’s largest indoor theme park. It features thrill rides, traditional carnival rides, laser tag, miniature golf, bumper cars, midway booths, an arcade, clown shows, and more—all located under a huge glass dome. Only in Las Vegas!
  • Magic Springs & Crystal Falls Water and Theme Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, has top concert acts and tons of rides in addition to its water park.
Commenting is closed.
  • marzena preis says:

    Everything happens for a reason, often the reason we do not know….however Humanity Must wake up…we must open our hearts to the fullest and see that we are All One….as we cause the suffering there will be consequences. everything we do, feel and think now will have it’s consequences. we must think love, love for all….this is the only way….the only way to change this world is to Be Love, Be Peace, Be Harmony….in everything we do, in everything we feel, in everything we think….PETA is doing an incredible work and i fully support them. i love their action and work but i also know that we must stay compassionate to all beings. and anger and hate will only produce more anger and hate….everywhere….it will have the ripple effect on us all….i am not perfect i made thousands of mistakes of being angry with Humanity for everything…..and then i only produced more of that around me….and i know this affected the World in a negative way…things are not always what they seam…..In Love and Light to all.

  • david says:

    Makes me real proud to live in toronto and know most people don’t give two hoots about the atrocities going on under their noses

  • Cindy Wall says:

    Hi my name is Cindy and I was reading a story here and I am very deeply appalled about how people in shelters sea world and animal farms etc. Can treat animals like that. It is horrible, we as people need to help and speak out for the animals cause they can’t speak out for themselves. We must act now animals have feelings and rights too so we must fight for them. We must do it now. People are horrible who do these kinds of acts. People who do awful things to animals should have the same thing done to them. Simple as that.

  • aqua22 says:

    You should also think about boycotting countries that are notoriously lax about animal welfare. I was planning a trip to Greece a couple of years ago but after doing a bit of research I discovered that there is a widespread disregard for animals welfare and it seems to be part of the culture and their mentality. They have a ridiculous stray dog population. These dogs are often beaten if they don’t die of starvation or exposure first. I realize that some developing countries care little for the welfare of their own people let alone the lives of animals but Greece is not a developing nation (albeit a financially troubled one) so there is no excuse. I am boycotting Greece.

  • CAROL KUBOTA says:

    that is so terrible how animals are mistreated and confined!! poor babies!! housing for them needs to be changed!!!

  • veronica diaz says:

    Please treat animals better!!!!! Treat them like you want to be treated!!!!!!!! thank you!

  • Carol M says:

    If you want to humanely interact with animals you should visit Farm Sanctuary sites. This group deserves support and it is heartwarming to see such an abused group of animals (food animals) treated so lovingly and humanely.

  • chander kumar soni says:

    horrible, dangerous, and killer destinations.

  • PatConley says:

    When I viewed a video showing farmed pigs in cages so small they could not lay down on their sides, I was appalled. Their facial expressions cried out to me, “Help me, please help me.” I cannot get that agonizing vision out of my mind but the one good thing is that it keeps me on the straight and narrow of a vegan diet.

  • Lora says:

    The ancient souls of these innocent beings, the animals of the Earth, are routinely treated with immeasurable cruelty by humankind. Their suffering is immeasurable. Much recent research has been completed showing that animals suffer substantially more than human beings when taken from their flocks, heards, and nests and/or raised in captivity and forced to provide human beings with pleasure, only suffering in pain. PLEASE HELP RAISE THE CONSCIOUSNESS AND DO NOT GO TO THESE PLACES. PLEASE REPORT ABUSE OF THESE KIND AND GENTLE CREATURES.

  • SpeakingForTheAnimals says:

    It’s horrible to think that these animals are confined to small spaces for human entertainment. I haven’t stepped into the aquarium or zoo in quite some time – I live in Vancouver B.C., Canada. I believe zoos and aquariums should be strictly for rehabilitation and nothing more. Once the animals are well enough on their own then they should be released into the wild [where they belong!] I also went Vegetarian for my love of all animals. It just breaks my heart.

  • C Kirby says:

    Three Bears Gift Shop in Pigeon Forge, TN is another place where Moon Bears are kept.They have a better home than they use to, but they still stand at the door and just rock back and forth.They are beautiful bears from China and they belong in the wild not on cement floors.

  • linda says:


  • linda says:


  • All4paws says:

    It absolutely sickens me to think that animals are being treated this way. They do not deserve this, we build our cities where they live and throw them in shelters and do cruel experiments on them, and that’s just sick. Human beings who treat animals like this are nothing but scum of the earth and not worthy of the air they breathe.

  • Jo Gallop says:

    Don’t go to Dollywood , Pigeon Forge,TN. GatlinburgTN, or Cherekee NC they have bears in pits on continuos eating binges because of the crap people drop in the pits, what a horrible demeaning life for our creatures of the wild..

  • Jujubes says:

    Marineland is a disgrace. Went there without knowing there were wild animals in it; took my daughter and hated every minute of it. Tourists were prompted to pay $2-3 for a small paper cup of sugarcoated corn puffs to feed the great bears; 15-20 belugas crammed in a tiny tank too small for even a couple of them to swim around without bumping into each other. Deer kept at deer park completely dependent on you feeding them more junk.

    I am sick and disgusted by these places. Sadly there is no law against these places. So many parents take their kids there to look at the bears, look at the whales, not knowing that these don’t belong in an amusement park.

  • Abhishek says:

    Absolutely pathetic. I always thought that animals there were treated with care and feelings. Now I wish never to step into zoos.

  • deanna stvens says:

    my chidren or grandchildren will never go to any organization that allows this horrible and inhumane treatment. my heart just aches for their suffering. the bible says whatever is done to the least of mime is done to me!

  • amber91 says:

    I am 100% for PETA, but I must say I believe that a lot of the comments written about these attractions have been exaggerated. I have been to a lot of these places and like I said before I don’t think it is about as they have made it seem. That is only my opinion though. I could be completely wrong because I have never seen behind closed doors.

  • Helen Sayers says:

    In momments of greastest horror and despair I long for a ‘benovolent’ invasion by far more advanced beings who would liberate all other living beings from the cruelty inflicted on them by the human animal and instead relegate humans to the same fate they have inflicted on ‘animals’ for so long. Obviously these beings would have advanced genentics knowledge, and with it would seperate those of us who do care for and fight for better treatment all the beautiful and unique beings who share this planet with us and we would simply be given a higher level of compasssion. A true version of the reap what you sow proverb. Given the immesity of the universe, not an impossible dream, but still taking far too long.
    right now it would be far more valuable for EVERYONE who cared to start making their voice heard!! To boycott circuses and zoos, organisise mass protests against laboratories and simply make sure they buy only garanteed cruelty free products. It isn’t hard to live this way! Some of us do, all should!! It also doesn’t take much time out of your week to write to your local MP. Nothing changes unless, so called ‘good’ people DO something!! Politicians will only ever be motivated to change and enforce far better ‘animal’ protection laws, if enough of us make so much ‘noise’ they can no longer just ignore it!! One of the worst things you can do is to do nothing!!

  • maddy says:

    I didnt know this ntil now, it is horrible to see that humans can get away with treating animals so badley. thanks peta for telling me about this !

  • jerry says:

    the same kind of inhumane treatment goes into the food we eat eggs are takin from chickinsthat are stacked as high as 5 storys in cages barely big enuogh to turn around in,with nothing but wire mesh seperating the ones on the bottom from the ones on top.thousands of chickins all covered in the droppings of the chickins above them,the industry would probably deny these claims,but i have seen it with my own eyes.there is also the dairy industry that keeps hundreds of cows locked up in a barn for their hole life,feeding them hormones to make them produce more milk.the female calfs get turned into milk cows,and the males spend their short life in complete darkness before they get slautered and sold as veal.a good percent of calves that are born are either dead on arival or die shortly after,i think these are the lucky ones.i could go on about the way beef catle are treated at feed lots(everyone should watch fast food nation,it may be a movie but it shows the reality of where are food comes from)the reality is that the movie doesnt even show the hole picture of what these animals go through before they become our food.

  • Lesley says:

    People who hurt animals should be caged and abused just the same!!!! WTF!!!!

  • alessia says:

    tutto per l’ egoismo dell’ uomo che si diverte a scapito della natura e dei suoi esseri viventi!!

  • Gianna Macias says:

    Any organization or person who cannot take proper care of an animal, pet, wild animal, farm animals, working animals, should be banned from working and or owning animals. If they neglect of abuse them they should be fined. If the reason is ignorance they should be educated and still be fined. Organization who have neglected animals should help financially organization who do care for them.

  • carol ann says:

    Heather Howe, you are a star. If only more people were brave enough to take on some of the animal abuses that go on in the tourist spots. I cannot believe that people still go to view the water world parks with dolphins and whales in captivity when these days, the whole world knows it is barbaric.

  • jeka says:

    pathetic. Humans treat animals horribly and get paid to do it? WTF?

  • beverly gannon says:

    This is terrible, sad and heartbreaking. Animals need to be FREE not caged . sET THEM free.

  • Heather Howe says:

    Ethical tourism is something everybody should take seriously and if you travel you need to report cases of animal abuse to animal rights organizations as well as confront tourists who are unwittingly using and abusing animals.. Recently my husband, who is a travel journalist, and who exposes animal abuses in foreign countries, and I visited Petra in Jordan where abused donkeys are forced to climb up 700 steep steps to a monastery with fat tourists on their backs. I reported this to the Brooks Clinic who are doing great work trying to change the attitudes of owners of working and tourism donkeys. Another place that abuses donkeys is Santorini in GreeK islands where donkeys also have to climb up steep steps carrying tourists. We accosted tourists who were riding the donkeys and tried to explain to them the injuries and suffering the donkeys experienced. It is good to go in “armed” and have good responses to their assertions, e.g. one tourist said that the donkeys bring in money for the community – we retaliated by saying, well, yes so does sex tourism bring in money to the community but that does not make it legitimate or ethical!

  • Mariette Eriksson says:

    Yeah.. dont go to places like that, all animals should be free, and enyoj their lives.

  • Lorraine Gadoury says:

    May God help those sadistic horrible excuses for human beings!!!

  • DIANE C. DEAN says:


  • Erika says:

    The animals are creatures and they deserve respect.

  • Beth L says:

    this is disgusting. I’m from Canada and I boycott all animal killing kingdoms such as marineland, any zoo and safari. Apparently John Holder, owner of Marineland, hit a protestor outside of Marineland with his truck. I have met him, and he is a disgusting man. I agree with everyone else… if it weren’t for humans, mother nature and her animals would flourish. Humans are hateful and ignorant. I could go on about this all day…

  • Eileen McGovern says:

    I’m so glad I found this out as I was planning to go to Vallejo’s 6 Flags with my brother and his kids in just a couple weeks! No way will we go now! I didn’t know they used animals at all. I thought it was just rides and things like that! I will never support any place that uses animals! I will spread the word to my friends with kids!

  • Edyta says:

    well done on orca that kill people who train them, they were born to be free, not to be amusement for boring, sad people. If nature protected itself the way it should, humans would disappear within days.

  • cg says:

    It’s not enough to ‘preach to the converted’ about these places. It’s important to speak up and educate those who either have no clue or who are in denial (family members, for example) about the abuses that go on. Take a stand, even if it’s unpopular. I’ve lost friends in the process of trying to explain the issues. So be it.

  • carol caver says:

    This is as incredible synopsis of abject cruelty to animals imposed by humans in the name of entertainment. Thank you for compiling the information into a “Don’t go there!” list.

  • Danielle00 says:

    I remember visiting one of these parks in Koh Samui, Thailand and seeing beautiful, huge tigers living in tiny, dirty cages. When I saw the “show” (the tigers made to jump through hoops of fire) I could not stop the tears running down my face. I will never again visit one of these parks, circuses or anywhere that abuses animals in these ways. If you want to see animals, it is a million times more rewarding (and educational for children)to save the money and see animals in their natural habitat by going on a safari.

  • lina solima says:


  • Jeannine Ferris says:

    When I spoke to God, I asked him to take care of all of the animals
    on earth, because they are very precious to me.It sickens me to read about all the cruelty to animals being held captive in all of
    these places.God spoke back to me and said that all of my wishes
    would come true.I’ll be the happiest person in the world when he
    saves all my animals from such cruelty.

  • Kévi says:

    Well … i think that there are some great ” wildlife park ” kinda zoo in the world ! Just think about kamloops Wild life park in bristish columbia … all their animals are ”saved ” animals. I mean they save their life … and try to make them better so they could go back in the wild but some cant go back like that bald eagle i remember … but the thing is … he’s still alive and without that park he wouldnt be … sorry for my english im french …. The only thing i want to say is … choose who you support …

  • lora-animal lover & vegan says:

    If we do not spend the money-the animals will not be captured and held in captivity. Money is the motivation behind zoos and “sea world” creations. Let all of the creatures God gave to planet earth enjoy the “natural habitats” God created (not man) for them! Come on, humans-stand up for the innocents!

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I absolutely refuse to go to zoos. Zoos remind me of the concentration and internment camps operating all over the world in WWII, with one glaring difference: for the animals imprisoned there, the war is never over, and they will never be released.

  • janis dix says:

    exactly what i think.i would never visit any of those places.

  • St. Louis Zoo says:

    Maybe their punishment after death will to be put in a cage for eternity.

  • Hillary Moore says:

    This just makes me ill!

  • Pamela Reep says:

    There is no excuse for treating these animals without the respect they diserve. They were not created to be mistreated,abused, terible conditions. All for the sake of entertainment and fashion.
    This brutality nees to stop.
    Have some compation! Pamela Green Reep

  • GRANT says: forgot international destinations..such as..the murderous faroe islands which were voted by some travel magazines as some of the best islands left in the world..little did the editors of those mags know what goes on there a few times a yaer every year for over a 1,0000 years is the mass butchering of entire families of pilot whales with meathooks and knives on the beach where the entire town small kids included join in the bloodsport with big smiles on their ugly ass faces!! steer clear of that hellhole unless you wanna go there and protest or kick some ass!!