After a long and hard-fought battle by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), and concerned citizens, “Ben the Bear” has been rescued from abhorrent conditions at a North Carolina roadside zoo and will now live out the rest of his life at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a beautiful accredited wildlife sanctuary in northern California.

Before his relocation, Ben spent six long years imprisoned at Jambbas Ranch. Deemed nothing more than “Attraction no. 2” and locked away in a small kennel, Ben was deprived of even the most basic necessities. His world consisted of nothing more than a barren 12-foot-by-22-foot concrete floor and a chain-link fence with an old bowling ball and some moldy stumps of wood. He was fed dry dog food, which his “caretakers” dumped onto the same concrete floor where he urinated and defecated. His interaction with others was limited to being gawked at by passersby, listening to screaming children, and getting the occasional piece of bread tossed to him by a tourist.

Ben spent his waking hours pacing, a result of profound deprivation and a sign of chronic distress. Two concerned citizens saw him and agreed to take action. With our help, they filed a cruelty-to-animals lawsuit. Their case was heard by Cumberland County Court District Judge Kimbrell Tucker, who saw that the evidence was clear: Ben’s needs were “not being met dietarily, veterinarily, and, most importantly, environmentally.” The judge stated that Ben’s enclosure did “not meet the requirements … for this bear’s health and well-being.” She issued a preliminary injunction that allowed PETA and ALDF to transfer Ben to California pending her final ruling in the case. A happy day!

FedEx immediately agreed to help fly Ben across the country for free. His safety and comfort were essential, and PETA made sure that he traveled in climate-controlled transport trucks to and from the airport and was accompanied by a transport team—veterinary expert Mel Richardson, Ed Stewart from PAWS Sanctuary, and PETA attorney Carney Anne Chester—throughout the trip. The flight crew cheerfully dubbed their mission “Bear Force One.”

When Ben explored his vast new, spacious habitat for the first time, he pawed at and smelled the ground—likely the first time he had ever felt grass beneath his paws. Within minutes, he was already bathing and splashing in his own pool, ridding his body of grime for the first time in years. That night, he slept soundly on a comfortable bed of fresh hay and natural foliage.

On August 27, the court ruled in Ben’s favor, and thanks to the judge and all those who worked hard to make it happen, the sanctuary is now his permanent home. Ben will continue to bask in the sun, roll in the grass, splash in the water, and act on his natural instincts to forage, explore, and hibernate in a 2-acre habitat designed especially for him. For the first time, Ben will finally get to live like a bear.

Ben’s rescue would not have been possible without the support of caring PETA supporters like you! Please help us save more animals by supporting PETA’s Investigations & Rescue Fund today.

Help us spread the good news! Share Ben’s beautiful story with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter now.

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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