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 April 12, 2011:
The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports we obtained for the Chief Saunooke Bear Park make it clear that conditions for the bears there continue to deteriorate at this already wretched roadside zoo. Chief Saunooke is one of three displays in Cherokee on the Qualla Boundary area of Western North Carolina, where bears are held in barren pits and concrete pens.
After being cited for not having anyone available in February to allow an inspection, as required by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), federal inspectors returned in March and cited the zoo for having cages with rusty, sharp edges; large cracks and crumbling concrete; rotting wood frames; and a pen in which a bear was forced to live with stale, trampled-on bread on the ground next to a pile of feces.
Last year, PETA hand-delivered a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to revoke Chief Saunooke’s exhibitor’s license for endangering the public after a 9-year-old girl was bitten at the park. The USDA is currently investigating this incident.
Please add your voice in calling on federal officials and Cherokee leaders to put an end to the suffering for good.
Written by Jennifer O’Connor