Outrageous Federal Claim: Photos of Suffering Must Be Kept Secret

PETA Files Legal Appeal Over USDA's Refusal to Disclose Animal-Welfare Records Related to Notorious Tri-State Zoological Park

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2018

Contact:
Moira Colley 518-466-6815

Cumberland, Md. – Today, 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 records, including photographs of suffering animals at Tri-State Zoological Park, a roadside zoo in Cumberland with a history of federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations.

Nearly a year and a half after PETA submitted a FOIA request for these records, the agency finally responded by providing heavily redacted versions—with several fully blacked-out pages—and withholding all photographs, claiming that releasing them would constitute an “invasion of personal privacy.”

“It’s indefensible that while the animals are put on public display at Tri-State every day, the USDA now refuses to reveal the suffering that has been found and photographed during inspections of the place,” says PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “The agency is supposed to hold these facilities accountable for violating the law, not shield them from scrutiny, and PETA wants these animals to be moved to reputable sanctuaries.”

Since 2008, the USDA has cited Tri-State for 74 violations of the AWA. These violations—which prompted a 45-day suspension of the facility’s AWA license in 2013 and an official warning against it in 2015—included failing to provide animals with basic veterinary care, clean and sanitary environments, appropriate enrichment, and adequate shelter from the elements. One recent incident at issue in PETA’s appeal is a citation for failing to provide a thin, ailing lion with adequate veterinary care—and the animal died a few months after it was issued.

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.

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“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