It seems to be another day, another scandal for roadside zoo Dade City’s Wild Things and its owner, Kathryn Stearns.
Following a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) investigation that was prompted by a PETA complaint, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Department arrested Stearns, charging her with three felonies related to alleged fraudulent solicitation of donations and theft of donor funds. Last year, FDACS filed a state civil suit against her, her husband, and her son that was also prompted by PETA’s complaint. Authorities contend that even though Dade City’s Wild Things isn’t a registered charity and can’t solicit donations, Stearns was still asking the public for money, purporting to need it for hurricane recovery and the animals’ care. They believe that she then transferred thousands of dollars from the roadside zoo’s account to other bank accounts to use for bankruptcy payments and personal expenses. Investigators said that they believe that the Stearns family transferred nearly $300,000 over a period of two years that was used for personal expenses.
This is just the latest of the Stearns family’s legal troubles. PETA has filed a lawsuit against the roadside zoo claiming that its practices of prematurely separating endangered tiger cubs from their mothers, forcing them to participate in public encounters (including “swim with a tiger” sessions), and housing tigers in inadequate conditions violates the federal Endangered Species Act. Just last year, Kathryn’s son, Randy Stearns, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual misconduct. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also suing the roadside zoo over its numerous animal welfare violations.
Don’t be fooled by scammers who run roadside zoos or fake sanctuaries for profit and abuse animals. And urge Dade City’s Wild Things to retire the animals held there to true sanctuaries today: