Cherokee Bear Zoo Slapped With Citations, Fines Following PETA Complaint

Feds Find Workers at Notorious Facility Have Potentially Deadly Contact With Dangerous Animals, Unprotected Exposure to Caustic Chemicals

For Immediate Release:
February 6, 2014

Shakira Croce 202-483-7382

Cherokee, N.C.

Following an October 2013 PETA complaint, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited and fined Cherokee Bear Zoo (CBZ) for multiple violations of federal laws protecting workers. Specifically, CBZ was cited for allowing workers to come into direct contact with bears during feeding and cage-cleaning as well as with caustic bleach with no eye or face protection. According to OSHA documents just obtained by PETA, in addition to receiving five citations, CBZ was fined $3,120. Video footage and photographs taken in June and August 2013 showed that CBZ attendants were standing inside concrete pits, each containing multiple bears. There were no barriers of any kind to protect the workers.

“We’ve known for years that Cherokee Bear Zoo is a hellhole for the animals locked up there, and now OSHA has confirmed that the lives of workers at this despicable menagerie are routinely placed at risk,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “The day that CBZ stops denying the animals and employees their most basic rights and necessities is the day it shuts down for good.”

Among other things, CBZ was cited or fined for the following: An employee was exposed to potential attacks while hand-feeding at least one bear, an employee assisted with the mating process by luring a male bear to a female bear enclosure without protection or barriers, and CBZ failed to supply eye or face protection to employees using bleach while cleaning the animal enclosures. PETA is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate for potential Animal Welfare Act violations because the bears were also directly exposed to caustic bleach.

The bears at CBZ languish in small, virtually barren concrete pits, which don’t allow them to express any of their natural behavior. Instead, they pace endlessly, a sign of suffering and deprivation, which often leads to frustration. This, in turn, can lead to aggression, which places employees who come into direct contact with the extremely powerful bears at increased risk.

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