PETA Files Legal Appeal Over USDA's Refusal to Hand Over Animal-Welfare Records Related to Waccatee Zoo
For Immediate Release:
June 29, 2018
David Perle 202-483-7382
Myrtle Beach, S.C. – This afternoon, PETA filed an appeal with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) contending that the agency is violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by withholding inspection photos and video footage of suffering animals at Waccatee Zoo, a roadside zoo in Myrtle Beach with a history of federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations. Nearly a year after PETA submitted a FOIA request for these records, the agency responded by saying that it wouldn’t provide inspection photos or video footage to PETA in order to protect the roadside zoo’s “privacy interests.”
A USDA inspection report shows that the agency cited Waccatee Zoo in May 2017 for failing to give adequate veterinary care to several animals, including a lion who was walking abnormally and two baboons who engaged in abnormal repetitive behavior. It was also cited for two underweight monkeys with hair loss, for a goat and several sheep with overgrown hooves—which can be extremely painful and can cause foot infections, abscesses, and lameness—and for failing to supply adequate space to bears who were unable to move more than a few steps in any direction in their enclosure. In its response to PETA’s FOIA request, however, the USDA announced that it would be withholding the photos and video footage documenting these violations—and it sent the group a redacted version of this report (which it had previously published in full on its website) as well as a redacted complaint that it had received from a concerned citizen.
“Suffering animals are put on display day in and day out at Waccatee Zoo while the USDA is fretting about violating the roadside zoo’s feigned privacy,” says PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “The USDA should be holding these facilities accountable for violating the law, not shielding them from scrutiny. PETA is more determined now than ever to shut hellholes like Waccatee Zoo down and ensure that the miserable, imprisoned animals are moved to reputable sanctuaries.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—has been campaigning against the USDA’s lack of transparency ever since the agency removed thousands of inspection reports from its website. The group has published many of the scrubbed documents, filed lawsuits against the agency over the blackout, and more.
For more information, please visit PETA.org.