Feds Aim to Strip Local Roadside Zoo Owner of License

For Immediate Release:
December 15, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Tawas City, Mich.Records just obtained by PETA reveal that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has filed a formal federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) complaint against James Svoboda, owner of the now-defunct Sunrise Side Nature Trail and Exotic Park. It seeks to permanently revoke his license and prevent him from ever exhibiting animals in the future.

The complaint cites Svoboda’s long history of AWA violations, including these:

  • Failing to obtain adequate veterinary care “for a bear with an ulcerated, red wound”
  • Failing to remove excrement from animals’ enclosures often enough to reduce disease risk
  • Failing to obtain adequate veterinary care for an obese bobcat with matted hair
  • Failing to obtain adequate veterinary care for a “very thin” lion with “prominent” bones

The complaint notes that a lion bit a visitor and that for well over a year, Svoboda did not even employ a veterinarian for the facility—during which time the wound above a bear’s eye festered and grew. The bear, named Grizzy, was later confiscated by federal authorities due to the severity of his condition.

“Given his history of neglecting animals, endangering guests, and running a ramshackle roadside zoo, Svoboda should never be allowed around animals again,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA is calling on people to stay far away from sleazy exhibitors who confine and exploit animals.”

Svoboda voluntarily terminated his USDA license in August 2021 after receiving numerous citations for violations of the AWA. In September 2021, PETA rescued a remaining black bear named Dolly and three foxes from Svoboda and arranged for their transfer to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on the group’s newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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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