A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) notice just obtained by PETA reveals a lot about Tacoma, Washington, petting zoo Debbie Dolittle’s Animal Experience—most notably, that it’s an experience that no animal would willingly partake in. Following the deaths of two animals and injuries to over six dozen humans, the USDA cited and fined the sleazy facility, including issuing it a $7,500 penalty.
According to the newly released report, Debbie Dolittle’s acquired a tamandua (a type of anteater) and never quarantined him, acclimated him to his new environment, or had him examined by a veterinarian. He suffered from weight loss and was found dead just three weeks after arriving. A sloth named Malia (pictured above) died after falling from a climbing structure, and a necropsy revealed that at the time of death, she was suffering from severe emaciation, indications of chronic stress, and bruising, which were found to be “consistent with mishandling, neglect and ignorance of animal care.” And at least 79 members of the public were injured during interactions with animals, including a guest who was bitten and left bloody by an otter.
“This petting zoo is evidently almost as dangerous for visitors as it is for the animals trapped there,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott.
The USDA report also notes that Debbie Dolittle’s failed to secure a metal ramp adequately in an enclosure housing fennec foxes, one of whom consequently was injured so severely that her leg had to be amputated.
Last year, PETA called for cruelty charges over Malia’s death. “The unjustifiable suffering that Malia endured at the hands of an ignorant petting zoo that lacks the expertise to provide basic care warrants cruelty charges,” PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott said in her letter to Pierce County Animal Control Supervisor Brian Boman.
Debbie Dolittle’s Failed Malia, but It’s Not Too Late to Help Others
“PETA urges everyone to avoid this sleazy operation as though their safety depends on it, because it does,” said Sinnott. And doing so is easy: If a facility offers interactions between animals and the public, give it a pass. Don’t be swayed even if one of these places tacks on the word “sanctuary” or “rescue” to its name—it’s a deceptive ploy that many roadside zoos use to dupe unwitting visitors. View our interactive Google Earth presentation with Chrome to see if any of the grimmest spots for animals are located near you …
… and click below to make even more of a difference for animals suffering at cruel tourist traps: