Feds Crack Down on Roadside Zoo After Lion Bites Visitor

Sunrise Side Nature Trail and Exotic Park Racks Up Animal Welfare Violations Following PETA Complaint

For Immediate Release:
September 4, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Tawas City, Mich. – After PETA alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reports that a lion bit off part of a visitor’s finger at the Sunrise Side Nature Trail and Exotic Park in Tawas City, Mich., the agency cited the facility for three violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

According to the newly released inspection report, on July 26, a 15-year-old Sunrise Side tour guide opened an unlocked gate and allowed a visitor to enter the area between the perimeter fence and the lion’s enclosure. When the visitor reached into the lion’s cage, the lion bit off the tip of her middle finger. The inspection report indicated that there’s no documentation that Sunrise Side provided the teenage employee with any training. In response, the USDA cited the facility for failing to maintain adequate barriers between animals and the public, failing to lock the perimeter fence gate, and failing to train its employees properly.

“A lion who’s been deprived of everything that’s natural and important to him, untrained and underage employees, and lack of care for visitors’ safety are a recipe for disaster,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA is warning people that if they care about animals—or their and their children’s safety—they should never buy a ticket to Sunrise Side or any other roadside zoo.”

In April, the USDA cited Sunrise Side after finding that it didn’t have a program of veterinary care for the lion and that the facility has been repeatedly cited for failing to have a responsible adult present to allow the USDA to conduct inspections.

Since 1990, dangerous incidents involving big cats in the U.S. have resulted in the death of 126 big cats and 23 humans and the injury of more than 255 humans. PETA, whose motto states, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way,” maintains detailed records of these incidents.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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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