Feds Sued for Rubber-Stamping License Application of Tri-State Zoo

PETA Lawsuit Takes On License Renewals of Facilities That Violate Animal-Welfare Laws

For Immediate Release:
August 26, 2015

David Perle 202-483-7382

Cumberland, Md.

PETA filed a lawsuit this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that challenges its policy of automatically renewing federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licenses. The USDA does this even when the agency knows that the applicants are in violation of the AWA­—such as the Tri-State Zoological Park in Cumberland.

The AWA, which the USDA is charged with administering, prohibits licensing a facility that is not operating in accordance with the act. Yet the Tri-State Zoo was cited nine times six months prior to its license renewal in April 2015. These citations include failing to have an enrichment plan for an isolated marmoset, which is necessary for the animal’s well-being, and consistent visitor complaints about an isolated spider monkey and an isolated capuchin—who is apparently so stressed from the conditions of his confinement that he picks at his skin until he bleeds. A June 2015 PETA complaint documented rotten food and animal waste in a kinkajou’s food bowl and in the enclosure that housed the animal—an issue that the Tri-State Zoo was cited for in April 2014, more than a year earlier.

“The USDA hands out license renewals like Halloween candy to exhibitors who leave caged animals to suffer without veterinary care when they need it,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA is calling on the government to stop rubber-stamping the applications of businesses that abuse animals and break the law.”

PETA’s lawsuit argues that applicants cannot simultaneously violate the AWA and be in compliance with it—so the USDA’s rubber-stamping policy is illegal. In March 2015, the USDA issued an official warning to the Tri-State Zoo for its repeated violations of the AWA—and then renewed its license the next month.

Other facilities implicated in PETA’s lawsuit include exhibitors in Alabama, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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