A Rescue for the History Books: PETA Rescues 72 Animals From Tri-State Zoological Park

Published by Elena Waldman.

In the biggest roadside zoo rescue in PETA’s history, Tri-State Zoological Park—a longtime PETA target—has closed its doors and surrendered 72 animals, including bears, tortoises, and a squirrel monkey to lush, peaceful new homes.

This landmark victory follows years of our campaigns and two lawsuits that we filed for the animals who were suffering miserably at what was considered one of the worst roadside zoos in the U.S. Now, an unprecedented 14 reputable sanctuaries and accredited zoos from across the country have joined with us to finally give them the lives they’ve always deserved.

This massive rescue couldn’t have come sooner, as the Maryland roadside hellhole confined many of the animals to filthy, decrepit enclosures; deprived them of adequate veterinary care; failed to provide them with appropriate environmental enrichment; and much more.

Meet Some of the Animals Who Are Being Rescued

A Squirrel Monkey

Tri-State held a squirrel monkey in solitary confinement for nearly 20 years. The facility crudely named him “Spazz,” an ableist slur, because he appeared anxious and terrified—likely because he had been confined to an enclosure surrounded by his natural predators. The squirrel monkey, whom PETA has been calling Stardust, is safe at his new home, the Detroit Zoo, where he will have the opportunity to make a new squirrel monkey friend, Ziggy.

a photo composite, showing stardust the spider monkey in his filthy enclosure at tri-state zoo on the left, and in his sanctuary at the right.

Asiatic Black Bears Sallie and Suzie

Tri-State’s owner confined Asiatic black bears Sallie and Suzie to a cramped cage with a filthy pool, but after a brief quarantine, they will have the chance to splash in fresh water and explore an expansive habitat, where they can do everything that’s natural and important to them. Sallie and Suzie are the 77th and 78th bears, respectively, PETA has rescued.

2-up photo composite: on the left, two asiatic bears at tri-state zoo behind a wire fence. on the right, one of the bears appears healthier, eating lettuce from tthe floor of his clean quarantine room in sanctuary

Princess the Goat

A goat named Princess is in quarantine at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Maryland, getting the care she needs for a respiratory infection and parasites. When she’s healthy, she’ll be able to join the other goats prancing around her new sanctuary home.

a photo composite showing princess the goat, on the left in her filthy enclosure at at tri-state zoo and on the right, being hand-fed in her quarantine at poplar spring animal sanctuary

A Few Geese

These geese now have a pond full of clean water in which to stretch their wings.

a photo collage showing geese next to filthy drinking water in a fenced enclosure at tri-state zoo, next to a photo of them swimming on a pond in freedom living in sanctuary.

Snorkel the Pig

Snorkel the pot-bellied pig has suffered for years with morbid obesity and a massive tumor—which Tri-State allowed to grow so large that it takes up his entire rear. Now, he will finally receive the veterinary care he deserves.

The Iguana Trio

Three iguanas will live outdoors in a lush, natural habitat with other iguanas, instead of being cooped up in a stuffy enclosure indoors.

Tri-State confined reptiles to crummy enclosures, like the one photographed above.

An iguana is in quarantine at his new home, Iguana Haven.

Red-Eared Slider Turtles

Red-eared slider turtles, previously confined to a filthy enclosure, have a beautiful sanctuary pond to swim in.

a photo of two red-eared slider turtles in a concrete enclosure, with another photo of a turtle being released into a pond, with text overlaid reading "rescued!"

A Blue-Tongued Skink

A blue-tongued skink was found so severely neglected by Tri-State that his eyes were sunken and nearly sealed shut from dehydration—he got emergency intravenous fluids before being transferred and is receiving critical veterinary care now.

a blue-tongue skink is being held in someone's hands while a doctor administers emergency fluids from an IV bag.

Stay tuned to see how Sallie, Suzie, Snorkel, and others are enjoying their new lives once they’ve settled in. You can keep up to date by following PETA on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

A staggering 14 organizations from across the country led the rescue mission with PETA: Lions Tigers & Bears, the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, the Peaceable Primate Sanctuary, Oakland Zoo, Detroit Zoo, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Carolina Tiger Rescue, the Colorado Reptile Humane Society, Black Pine Animal Sanctuary, the Turtle Conservancy, Iguana Haven, Vine Sanctuary, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, and The Wildcat Sanctuary.

PETA Blew the Lid Off Tri-State’s Extensive History of Animal Neglect and Mistreatment

PETA has been tracking the chronic neglect of animals at Tri-State for years. See just a few of the ways we started tumbling the dominoes to help close down the roadside hellhole.

In 2016, after PETA alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to video footage showing a lion who appeared emaciated, the agency cited the facility for denying adequate veterinary care to the thin, ailing big cat. The roadside zoo announced in February 2017 that this lion had died.

In 2019, PETA won our Endangered Species Act lawsuit against Tri-State, which resulted in the transfer of three big cats to an accredited sanctuary and a ruling that prohibited the roadside zoo from ever again owning or possessing endangered or threatened species. Between the time we gave notice of the suit and the trial, five of the animals at issue in the case had died, including a tiger who was so ravaged by sepsis that pus-filled pockets had formed in her heart, tongue, and diaphragm. The judge described conditions at the facility as “fetid and dystopic.”

In 2020, we filed another lawsuit against Tri-State, alleging that its failure to provide all animals at the facility with adequate veterinary care, proper food, clean water, and other basic necessities violated state law and constituted a public nuisance. The settlement agreement over our public nuisance suit set the rescue in motion: PETA agreed to drop the case if Tri-State would close permanently, terminating its USDA license and allowing us to place most of the remaining animals at facilities of our choosing. We previously rescued three big cats and other animals from Tri-State, bringing the total number of animals we rescued from the facility to 78.

Help Other Animals Suffering at Roadside Zoos

While we celebrate this historic victory, PETA is going full steam ahead against other dingy roadside zoos that condemn our fellow animals to miserable conditions—even ones that pose as “sanctuaries.”

The Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation is one of these cruel facilities. Animals there are kept in cramped cages, and many of them display abnormal, repetitive pacing behavior due to apparent distress.

Take action below to tell the roadside zoo to send all the animals confined there to reputable facilities:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind