Local Roadside Zoo in Hot Water With Feds After PETA Tip-Off

For Immediate Release:
October 13, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Newberry, Mich.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just filed a formal complaint—which could result in fines and/or license suspension or revocation—against Oswald’s Bear Ranch over an incident in which two bear cubs escaped from their enclosures, leading to one of them being shot and killed, among other concerns. The roadside zoo’s owner, Dean Oswald, provided false information about the cubs’ escapes, which the USDA argued was evidence that he had “not shown good faith.” The USDA’s action comes after PETA uncovered Oswald’s lies from public records and urged the agency to investigate the matter.

The cubs escaped from Oswald’s Bear Ranch during a power outage on April 12, 2019. One was quickly recovered, but the other—named Sophie—was shot and killed when she was found three days later ripping screen windows off a neighbor’s home and climbing onto his car. Oswald lied to USDA officials regarding when the bears had escaped and how long they had been at large, claiming that the power outage lasted until April 15, the day that Sophie was found. The agency later determined that the outage ended on April 12.

“The bears suffer greatly at Dean Oswald’s dishonest, dysfunctional operation, and the government is doing something about it,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA urges the USDA to hold exhibitors’ feet to the fire and asks the public to do its part by avoiding facilities that exploit baby animals for profit.”

PETA notes that Oswald’s Bear Ranch regularly misleads the public by marketing itself as a rescue facility despite having bred 13 cubs in the past 25 years and purchased or acquired 77 more from dealers, including at least a dozen bears in the past three years alone, for use in photo ops.

The USDA’s formal complaint also alleges that Oswald’s Bear Ranch violated the federal Animal Welfare Act by feeding bears unhealthy and inappropriate food, including “restaurant scraps, donated meat, produce and dog food.” PETA previously alerted the agency to this issue as well.

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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