PETA routinely receives complaints about poor conditions at roadside zoos and privately run menageries throughout the country—facilities that often market themselves as tourist attractions or as refuges for rescued animals. After receiving disturbing information about cruelty, danger, and neglect for animals at one so-called “sanctuary” in Oklahoma known as G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park (GW), PETA sent an undercover investigator to document conditions and see what was really going on.
Instead of being “an upscale zoo for rescued animals” as claimed on its Web site, PETA found dead, dying, and injured animals; extremely crowded conditions; a serious lack of basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care; shamefully inadequate cages; and untrained and insufficient staff who were intentionally cruel to numerous animals.
Of the more than 1,000 animals at GW, including tigers, bears, lions, cougars, leopards, chimpanzees, wolf hybrids, macaque monkeys, and baboons, PETA’s investigator discovered starving animals going without food—sometimes for days at a time. Animals were routinely hit, punched, kicked, sprayed with cold water, and struck with rakes and shovels. And they were blasted with fire extinguishers to break up frequent fights.
PETA’s investigator witnessed many horrors between February and June 2006:
- Two healthy adult tigers were killed, and their teeth were cut out to be given away as gifts before their carcasses were dumped into a reeking, festering garbage pit.
- Two badly injured horses in excruciating pain, including a former racehorse with a broken leg, were dumped at GW, and staff let them suffer for days until they could be butchered.
- Tigers attacked a lion and chewed off her leg. When she pulled out the stitches, her open wound went untreated. Although she moaned for weeks, she was given nothing for pain.
- A wallaby was found dead, lying in a pond in near freezing temperatures, from apparent hypothermia.
- A parent and two small children paid to handle two tiger cubs without being informed that the cubs were infected with ringworm, a contagious fungal infection of the skin.
- Two lion cubs, recently declawed, were forced to interact with the public until their paws bled.
- A tiger named Mikala, who hobbled around in pain on three legs after GW had her declawed, suffered in this condition for two years before she was destroyed.
- Terrified goats and chickens were often used as “bait” to lure big cats into cages.
- Animals repeatedly escaped because of the inadequate cage security and careless personnel.
- Employees were instructed to falsify USDA-required paperwork regarding feeding schedules and environmental enrichment for primates to cover up the fact that animals went hungry for days at a time and that the psychological well-being of primates was not being met.
GW also breeds exotic animals, churning out litters of tigers, lions, bears, and other exotic animals. Some are deformed, likely because of inbreeding or inadequate nutrition for the mother during pregnancy. Newborns, many just hours old, are removed from their mothers and dragged around the country to shopping malls and fairgrounds to be used in his cheesy magic act and for photo ops where the public pays a few bucks for a Polaroid shot posing with a small cub. Many of the babies died within a few weeks, presumably succumbing to the stress of travel and handling by the public.
You Can Help
In January 2006, GW paid a $25,000 fine to settle charges of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and was placed on probation for 18 months. Failure to comply with the AWA during the probation period will result in the revocation of GW’s exhibitor license. PETA’s investigation uncovered plenty of evidence that GW has not cleaned up its act. Please contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at [email protected], and ask that the agency revoke G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park’s federal license.