Feds Bring Formal Complaint Against Notorious Mobile Zoo

After Multiple PETA Complaints and More Than 100 Citations, Roadside Zoo Could Lose Its License

For Immediate Release:
March 3, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Mobile, Ala.

Following seven complaints filed by PETA over the substandard conditions at the Mobile Zoo, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has filed a formal complaint against the facility for its long-standing animal-welfare and public-safety violations. Among many other violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the 14-page complaint notes multiple failures to provide animals with veterinary care, clean shelter, and safe enclosures. The complaint further states that John Hightower, who operates the facility, “has threatened to shoot animals rather than to provide them with veterinary care, and has made veiled threats to USDA personnel.”

This is the first step in a disciplinary process that could result in a fine of up to $10,000 per violation and/or in license suspension or revocation.

“Decrepit enclosures, suffering animals, and piles of waste have all been on display at the Mobile Zoo,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “These willful violations of federal law are among the many reasons why PETA’s motto reads, in part, that ‘animals are not ours to use for entertainment’—and it’s why PETA tells families to stay far away from this facility.”

The USDA has cited the Mobile Zoo for at least 114 AWA violations since 2006 alone. Recent violations noted in the USDA’s complaint include the following:

  • Denying bears protection from sweltering conditions, leaving them panting and salivating excessively
  • Failing to supply veterinary care to numerous animals, including a deer with a puncture wound, a bear with loose stools, a leopard with hair loss and swollen eyes, and a tiger with a bloody cut on her face
  • Failing to provide primates, including a solitary chimpanzee named Joe, with adequate enrichment
  • Instructing visitors to feed Joe by pelting him with peanuts
  • Confining animals to cages that were strewn with rotting food, excreta, filth, debris, and swarming flies (Some were infested with roaches or had standing water.)

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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