Victory! Feds Strip License From Notorious Montana Animal Exhibitor

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Update (October 23, 2023): Victory! Following a complaint from PETA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) terminated notorious wild-animal exhibitor Animals of Montana’s (AOM) federal exhibitor license on October 6. AOM is owned by Troy Hyde.

In June 2023, PETA requested that the USDA terminate AOM’s license, and in July, the feds began the process of doing so by filing an order to show cause for its termination. The exhibitor had 20 days to explain why its license shouldn’t be terminated but failed to respond. AOM never responded to the USDA’s complaint, which is deemed “an admission of the allegations” in the order.

In terminating AOM’s license, the feds concluded that Hyde’s “actions render him unfit to continue operating as an exhibitor under the AWA, as [Hyde]: (1) would be operating in violation or in circumvention of state or local laws […] and (2) has been found to have violated state or local laws or regulations pertaining to the transportation, ownership, neglect, or welfare of animals.” The administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service “determined that [Hyde’s] continuous possession of an AWA license would be contrary to the purposes of the AWA.”

Animals continue to suffer at unaccredited captive wildlife facilities such as roadside zoos and game ranches that don’t know what they’re doing, don’t have the resources to provide adequate care to animals, or both. With one more exhibitor no longer legally allowed to operate a roadside zoo, this is a victory for animals and helps end speciesism.

Originally published on July 27, 2023:
Following a complaint from PETA, the USDA has begun the process of terminating the federal license of notorious wild-animal exhibitor Animals of Montana. This shameless profiteer kept animals in filthy and appalling conditions and repeatedly put them and the public in danger. We urge everyone to avoid supporting seedy operations like AOM by shunning any form of entertainment that exploits animals.

lion in cage at roadside zoo 'Animals of Montana'

PETA’s complaint pointed out that because AOM has violated state and federal laws pertaining to transportation, ownership, neglect, or welfare of animals—including 22 violations of Montana’s captive-animal regulations that led to the permanent revocation of the facility’s roadside menagerie permit—the USDA could and should terminate AOM’s federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) license. The agency has now taken the first step toward doing so by filing an order to show cause why AOM’s license shouldn’t be terminated.

For over two decades, the owner of Animals of Montana, Troy Hyde, has trucked animals all over the country to be used as living props in movies and advertisements.

He’s racked up a laundry list of animal welfare and employee safety violations, including the following:

  • Allowing a tiger to escape during a photo shoot, then directing a member of the public to threaten the animal with a weed whacker
  • Placing employees in dangerous proximity to bears, leading to a fatal attack on a worker
The USDA terminated AOM’s license in 2009 for violating the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act but granted Hyde a new license two years later. Since then, AOM has accrued 29 more violations of state and federal laws, including the following:
  • Keeping wolves in unsanitary and severely crowded cages
  • Failing to provide wolves with drinking water (According to reports, the wolves “were either out of water, water was froze [sic], or what was left in the bottom was brownish-black from saturation by fecal matter.”)
  • Allowing a fisher to escape (The animal was never found.)
  • Failing to properly secure the cages of potentially dangerous animals, including a bear, a coyote, a bobcat, a Siberian lynx, a black leopard, an arctic wolf, and a gray wolf
  • Failing to clean a cross fox’s cage for several days, leading to the accumulation of “a significant amount of feces”

What You Can Do to Help Animals in Roadside Zoos

Across the U.S., many unaccredited zoos and roadside menageries have long histories of harming animals or otherwise violating the AWA. Bears, big cats, and others at these tourist traps face many hardships: They’re often denied proper veterinary care, clean and safe enclosures, and adequate shelter from the wind and extreme temperatures.

Never visit roadside zoos or game ranches that exploit captive wildlife for photo or video shoots.

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