Appalling Visitor Reviews These Roadside Zoos Don’t Want You to See

Published by .
4 min read

Roadside zoos are among the most fun-sucking, depressing facilities on Earth. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Every year, numerous patrons regret ever setting foot in these places that neglect and abuse animals for profit. And thanks to the internet, they have the chance to voice their grievances in the hope of preventing others from regrettably supporting these animal prisons.

Check out what these reviewers had to say about their visits to horrific roadside zoos:

Waccatee Zoological Farm, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This is the saddest place in Myrtle Beach. These animals are in desperate need of help. I left this zoo with tears in my eyes and anger in my heart. The only time I will be back is to protest. I pray that this place gets closed down. This place is horrible. The animals are neglected. They are pacing back and fourth and are noticeably suffering. These animals need proper care and to be sent to a sanctuary. Breaks my heart. No living thing should be kept this way. Please do the right thing and not come here! This zoo is absolutely horrible. Every single one of their animals is horribly abused and neglected, for example their llamas nails are overgrown making it painful to walk, their tiger has lost probably half of its fur and weight from the malnutrition as well as abuse and neglect, and none of the animals' food or water is full or clean. please do not pay admission and support this tragic establishment. if i could give it no stars i would. I never expected to see such depraved conditions at a zoo. The animals at Waccatee Zoo are caged in smelly filth and disgusting conditions...most are underfed and extremely stressed from their tiny enclosures...the monkeys are seen biting themselves and the poor lion walks back and forth in a tiny cage. These poor animals need to be saved from this dirty sad place. We left feeling sad and depressed. This place is just a miserable experience. Felt so bad for the animals and the conditions they live in. Absolutely disgusting. Some of the cages hardly large enough for the animals to move around in, let alone having enrichment and variety. Kids were taunting the animals up close. The simians were causing outbursts because they were being taunted. Food in being thrown at them. Bears and large cats are in cages smaller than your living room. If you have any decency and care at all for wildlife, you will avoid this place and not give money to this organization.

Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation, Oroville, California

I went to the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife "Sanctuary" when I was in college. First of all, they would have a new baby animal every few months. You could go and hold the baby which is something a true sanctuary would not allow. They were obviously buying these animals as a way to get people to visit their zoo, not saving them. Even if these animals were rescues, they are kept in extremely small cages, way smaller than you would see even at a typical zoo. Do not support this business. I would not even let my dog live in a cage as small as those wild animals live in. I visited this sanctuary today and I left feeling terrible and so sad for the animals there. I looked online to learn more and found out that this is a sham sanctuary and that anyone can call themselves a sanctuary in order to try and raise funding. This sanctuary has been reported by former volunteers about major abuse and neglect and deaths of animals .i would not support this place! The enclosures were small and there is absolutely no room for the large exotic animals to run. It was hot and dry and I also saw many of the animals pacing and showing signs of stress. On one enclosure they even have a sign saying that the animal’s pacing was just their excitement to see people. Animals pace when they are anxious or stressed and that sign only made me more upset. These animals had at most, a large cooking pot full of water, but no small pools or anything like what they would have in nature. I wish these animals had a better home. I do not recommend this so called refuge for disabled or animals that cannot be returned to the wild. These animals should be in sanctuarys where they can be wild and protected. Not in cages. The animals look sad and poorly cared for.... this place is no place for these animals. Very sad. Ok, so Ive wanted to go to this place FOREVER and finally I wish I didnt. To be honest it was beyond disappointing. The animals are BEAUTIFUL, but poorly kept! Their cages are larger than a dogs kennel, but not by much. Lets get real...lions, tigers, ligers, etc. NEED what this "sanctuary" isnt providing. What annoyed me the most is that something as simple as putting a kiddy pool/trough in the enclosure could make a huge difference in the quality of life for these guys. Butte County gets get some damn water in the kennel...its not hard or expensive. A few of the animals are "Ambassadors" of their species and in good why are they really there? They dont deserve to be be confined to these tiny cages. Lastly, there's tall grass field 10' from the enclosures...what will you do when that grass catches and threatens them? Why dont their homes have defensible space? Trust me, these animals deserve MUCH more than whats being provided. I could go on and on... DO NOT VISIT!! As someone who has been active in the Animal sanctuary & rescue realm I can say this is no better than a roadside zoo. No legitimate sanctuary will let you use exotic baby animals as props for selfies. DO NOT GIVE YOUR MONEY TO THIS FALSE "SANCTUARY." I live near & visit often the largest big cat Sanctuary in the nation in Keensburg CO (THe Wild Animal Sanctuary) they would never let visitors come in contact with these exotic animals and use them as props to take selfies. These are exotic animals not props for visitors. They are scared babies that are passed from visitor to visitor to pose with, this is the same as a roadside zoo. In all my years caring for rescued animals no actual sanctuary would let you pass exotic babies around for photos. It puts immense stress and fear on these animals and is pure exploitation for profit. Feel free to call The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keensburg Colorado and they will let you know why they don't pass around baby exotic animals as props!! DO NOT VISIT THIS SHAM PLEASE.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch, Newberry, Michigan

This place says it's a bear rescue sanctuary but we didn't get that feeling at all. We showed up with the bear cub pacing back and force along the fence and climbing the fence until it was used for pictures with guests by giving it a spoonful of something sweet to keep it still. We walked around to some of the enclosures and I felt so very sad. Some of the enclosures had trees some were out in the open. It was hot and they looked troubled. Fur seemed very thin. Another female one was walking back and forth, I don't know if maybe it was her cubs being used for pictures. The story posted said the owner was interested in bears and bought his first one. We weren't even there for 15 min and just left. If you're an animal lover it may be hard for you to see. Once I looked into where they got these bears, I was horrified. Many of the bears come from a Wisconsin breeder, they are not all “rescued”. The bears are scared of their owners and it was apparent that one man was very cruel. There was no caring in any of the interactions we saw toward the bears. I felt sorry for them. We won't be back. Date of experience: August 2019 Avoid this horrid dump if you care about animals! This is an abysmal level of care and they poor bears can be heard screaming. Date of experience: September 2017 First and only visit here in 2016 and even though we were in the area again this month/August 2017, we will not go back as it was so dishearting to see bear cubs held in small spaces and so many older bears in small areas. Date of experience: August 2017

Tregembo Animal Park, Wilmington, North Carolina

This zoo was horrible. It was so sad to see the animals. They don’t have enough room for the animals they have. The zoo doesn’t provide their animals enough space to survive nor do they have any stimulation. This zoo is clearly not interested in taking care of animals and more interested in making money. We had a group of seven kids who all were disgusted at the conditions of the animals before we left. My four year old summed it up with her original observation of, "I think that zebra is sad because it is living in such a small place." The "habitats" here are concrete slabs with cages around them. Not enough space or stimulation for the animals. It doesn't seem that they are socialized appropriately, though I am not an animal expert, common sense says this is wrong and this place should be shut down. It's heartbreaking. I will not give this "zoo" any stars at all!!!! I was literally in tears by the time we left this place. The cages they keep these animals in are absolutely ridiculous!!!! Every single animal's rib cage was showing. Especially the lion's. The otter is in a very small box ALONE! What kind of monster keeps an otter locked up like that by itself?!? Monkeys in cages no bigger than you would keep a small dog in for a few hours let alone every minute of every day. I have never cried at a zoo before but I was in tears through out most of our visit. The owners should be ashamed of themselves!!!! This is the saddest zoo i have ever visited. The enclosures are far too small and every one of the animals looked miserable. My family and I couldn't even finish walking through because of how sad it was. I would not recommend this zoo to any animal lovers. I regret giving them any money whatsoever. I will not be coming here ever again.

Zootastic Park, Troutman, North Carolina

I will NEVER return to this "zoo"!!! This was the most DEPRESSING outing I have ever taken in my entire life and I am upset that I spent any of my time and money on this horrific experience. There were multiple animals with very evident injuries, the environment was pitiful and looked like a complete wasteland, there were no evident sources of water and many of the animals we encountered seemed traumatized and afraid. All three adults in the car, including myself, were extremely upset upon leaving this place and I just thank god that the child with us was too young to understand the atrocities that were happening here. Absolutely disgusting!! DO NOT SUPPORT THIS "BUSINESS"!!! I visited zootastic of lake Norman located in Troutman NC ...The giraffe is kept in a small room... can't stand up straight and the only way the animal gets fresh air is thru a door way covered in wire. The carrots we was given for the giraffe were old, dried and some had mold. The room was about 20' by 20' maximum. MANY animal enclosures were too small including the white and golden tigers, both giraffe enclosures, Jaguars, wolves and many more. Most enclosures had excess amount of feces, little shelter, green water, and trash. Multiple animals paced back and forth(especially the big cats). During the wagon ride we noticed very little grass in the large enclosure were the zebras, llamas, wildebeast, donkeys etc are... there is electrical wire laying everywhere along the side of the road where the wagon drives. I saw storage tubs in many cages made into make shift shelters and I even saw a Mountain Dew bottle cut in half to be used as a feeding bowl in the cage for birds. In the hyenas cage there was a half eaten storage tub. Some of the water and/or food bowls had feces in it. A lioness had blood on the side of her face and down one of her front legs. The animals enclosures had mostly man made shelters out of concrete or wood, fire hose or wood to climb on, and some had the storage tub as a "shelter" or a run down carrier. None had trees or natural landscaping. None of the animals had natural enrichments, many appeared distressed. In the giraffes barn there were many birds in chicken wire cages. The small cage size you would usually house a small finch or two were housing multiple macaws, cockatoos, and other birds. The largest room in the place was the gift shop which is a shame. Some enclosures were empty. The servals, cougars, jaguars and 2 tigers enclosure had no space for them to run. The wolves were in a dog yard sized enclosure... they need and deserve so much more. I left Zootastic feeling very sad but motivated to be their voice. This is a horrible place for the animals! I don't have to explain much more than that. If you know what you're looking at, and truly care for animals, you'll see for yourself. DO NOT SUPPORT A PLACE THAT KEEPS ANIMALS IN THESE KINDS OF CONDITIONS. It is truly heartbreaking, despicable, deplorable, and simply CRUEL to keep them in tiny, dirt, wired little pens. THIS PLACE SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN, AND THE OWNERS ASHAMED OF THEMSELVES. Terrible "zoo"....NO STARS!!! If I could give it zero I would. Awful experience for my children seeing sad animals in tiny enclosures. It is hard to believe this place is legally in business. If you care about animals avoid this place. Tigers, lions, hyena, monkeys, mountain lion, panthers and a huge bear in tiny enclosures. So so sad! Hopefully the law steps in and these animals get a real life somewhere.

Cherokee Bear Zoo, Cherokee, North Carolina

Discovered this by accident when trying to make a U turn in Cherokee. My daughter was in tears at the thought of a bear cub being forced to take pictures with tourists all day. Haven't people learned anything from the recent tiger cub scandal? How is this allowed in 2020? This makes me just sad. My partner and I visited Cherokee this past Saturday. We live in Asheville and often travel to towns, eat lunch, hike and buy gifts for our friends and family to support our close communities. We saw the Cherokee Bear Zoo on the road and were so excited to see it, until we entered the museum! We were horrified! This is animal abuse! They need to not only to be shut down but also seriously fined or put in jail for doing this to bears. I am sick to my stomach and skipped the entire visit to the town of Cherokee after this being our first stop in town. Please report these people and shut this place down. This is not how animals should be treated especially by such an animal, nature loving people as American Indians! Until this place is shut down I will never step foot in Cherokee and will make sure no one else I know will either. If I could give this place 0 star, I would. The bears are trapped in very small and confined place. Very inhumane and you should be ashamed of yourself for treating animals like this. I will spread the words to tell people not to go. This has to be an embarrassment to the Cherokee people. Native Americans are supposed to represent Mother Earth, stewardship, and respect of all life. These animals living in horrible inhumane conditions. The Bears are walking the trail of tears. So sad. Please do not support this business with your dollars.


We must work harder than ever to shut down roadside zoos.

By their very nature, places that exploit animals are rife with potential for abuse and neglect. No tiger, bear, or any other animal would choose living in a cramped, dingy cage at a roadside zoo over playing, swimming, and being with their families. Just like humans, animals have their own thoughts, needs, likes, dislikes, and even culture. Roadside zoos ignore all of that and reduce an animal’s existence to the amount of money they can generate.

Don’t pass a few hours at a place where animals will languish in misery long after you’ve gone home. Please don’t buy a ticket. Instead, explain to your friends and family why you stand against this cruelty.

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.

Get the Latest Tips—Right in Your Inbox
We’ll e-mail you weekly with the latest in vegan recipes, fashion, and more!

By submitting this form, you’re acknowledging that you have read and agree to our privacy policy and agree to receive e-mails from us.