Feds Charge Notorious Bear Pit

Published by PETA.

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 September 19, 2012:

In yet another important development in PETA’s campaign to close down the shamefully dilapidated roadside zoos in Cherokee, North Carolina, and elsewhere, which confine bears to desolate pits and concrete pens, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just released a complaint detailing the charges that it has filed against Chief Saunooke Bear Park for more than a dozen violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). These charges come after PETA filed formal complaints with the agency and joined members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in meeting with the USDA to discuss the problems at this facility.


In April 2010, PETA submitted a report—prepared by leading bear experts who had visited the Cherokee bear zoos—to the USDA, documenting and detailing dozens of violations of the AWA at these wretched facilities.

The USDA charges include failure to provide food for public feeding that was appropriate to the type of animal and his or her nutritional needs, repeated failure to provide adequate veterinary care, housing animals in incompatible groups, and the use of dirty, unsanitary food receptacles—all of which were issues raised in PETA’s expert report.

The agency also cited Chief Saunooke Bear Park (pit) for repeated failure to maintain adequate barriers between animals and the public so as to ensure the safety of both. This failure resulted in at least two attacks on visitors to the park, as detailed in a complaint that PETA hand-delivered to the USDA asking it to seek revocation of the zoo’s license—and now it’s finally doing so, as well as pursuing civil penalties and a cease-and-desist order.

What You Can Do

Please urge Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, to close the pits now and retire the bears to an accredited sanctuary. And, of course, never patronize facilities that keep captive wildlife in cruel conditions.

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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