Spring River Park & Zoo Blew Off Its Promises to Do Better—So PETA Blew the Whistle

Published by PETA.

In 2018—following a hefty PETA campaign that included submitting complaints to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), posting videos, and seeing our supporters get in on the call to action—the city of Roswell, New Mexico, unveiled a “master plan” to improve conditions for animals trapped at Spring River Park & Zoo. But now, years later, most of the plan has not come to fruition: At the roadside zoo, two bears are still confined to an archaic concrete pit; a bobcat, a coati, foxes, and ring-tailed lemurs remain in cramped corncrib cages; and although a mountain lion was moved to a new enclosure, the new pen is still mostly barren and too small. So PETA again flagged these ailing animals’ inadequate living conditions, and again the USDA cited the facility for failing to meet the minimum requirements of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Feds Cite Spring River Park & Zoo After PETA Flags Ailing Animals

“There is a male longhorn steer named, ‘Geronimo,’ with overgrown, chipped, and curling hooves,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report about Spring River Park & Zoo noted. “The animal often drags the tips of the hooves on the ground as [he] walks, and a slight stumble is seen intermittently.” He’s so thin here that his “backbone and individual vertebrae are visible.”

Spring River’s July 15, 2021, citations include failing to provide the equipment needed to treat a stumbling, underweight longhorn steer (pictured above) with overgrown hooves and failing to maintain structurally sound enclosures, which allowed a black bear and a beaver to escape, the latter of whom was never found. The agency also cited the roadside zoo for lacking an exercise plan for a wolf-dog hybrid (shown below), an enrichment plan for ring-tailed lemurs, and adequate records for the incoming transfer of two black bears and a mountain lion.

Feds Cite Spring River Park & Zoo After PETA Flags Ailing Animals

“A documented and approved exercise plan helps ensure that dogs’ space requirements and exercise needs have been considered and will be provided,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture official noted after inspecting Spring River Park & Zoo. But “[a]t the time of inspection, there [was] no written documentation of an exercise plan approved by the attending veterinarian” for the wolf-dog hybrid shown here in a concrete pit that had extremely dirty pool water.

The USDA returned to Spring River on July 23, eight days after the citations above were given, and the facility still hadn’t gotten the equipment needed to treat the steer. He’d been in obvious need of veterinary and hoof care for months (since back in March, when PETA first alerted the agency to his condition), yet even with the citation, Spring River hadn’t done anything to help him.

Once again, PETA is calling for the roadside zoo to halt plans to acquire additional animals and to develop and implement a solid plan for improving the care and conditions for its existing residents. “I’d also like [to] renew PETA’s offer to donate $10,000 toward improving care and conditions for animals at the zoo, in exchange for allowing PETA to place the zoo’s two North American black bears at a sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS),” PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet wrote in a recent letter to Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh.

At Spring River Park & Zoo, two black bears are still confined to a cramped concrete pit, which contributes to and exacerbates mobility issues from arthritis and joint pain and causes other serious welfare issues.

Roswell has had every opportunity to improve conditions for animals held at Spring River, yet this roadside zoo apparently continues to violate federal law. City officials must either fulfill their pledge to do better for these animals or require Spring River to relinquish them to reputable facilities, where they will be properly cared for at long last.

Following PETA’s 2018 campaign, a mountain lion at Spring River Park & Zoo was moved to a new enclosure—but the mostly barren “home” is still inadequate for the needs of the species, lacking space, opportunities to climb and hide, and environmental enrichment opportunities.

Once upon a time, PETA looked forward to the day when we could add Spring River to the list of responsible facilities that we work with to place animals who need excellent lifetime care. We’d been hopeful when Roswell talked of building lush new habitats to get animals like the bears, bobcat, foxes, and lemurs out of wire cages and concrete pits. We had been (and still are) ready to help the facility arrange for the placement of its bears at a GFAS-accredited sanctuary. For animals’ sakes, we’re urging the city to stop pretending to modernize someday and start permitting PETA to help Spring River and the animals it’s failed right away.

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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