PETA Calls for Investigation of Mobile Zoo, Seizure of Animals

Protected Tortoises Held and Harmed, Big Cats Neglected, in Apparent Violation of State and Federal Law, Including Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release:
November 25, 2013

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Wilmer, Ala. – PETA has filed complaints with the state of Alabama and the federal government calling for investigations of John Hightower and his enterprise, The Mobile Zoo—a Wilmer-based roadside menagerie with a history of animal-care violations. Specifically, PETA is asking the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to investigate the fact that, according to agency records, the roadside zoo is holding—and breeding—at least 14 gopher tortoises without the requisite scientific-collection permit. PETA is also asking the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to investigate Hightower for possessing the threatened tortoises, several of whom may have been taken unlawfully from the wild. This, along with other apparent violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), means that the animals may be subject to forfeiture, which would allow the FWS to place them in appropriate new homes.

PETA has obtained photographs that show tortoises at The Mobile Zoo confined to filthy glass tanks with no access to soil in which to burrow, which would constitute harming the animals in apparent violation of the ESA.

“The Mobile Zoo is not only a hell on Earth for the animals held captive there, it’s also apparently violating multiple state and federal laws,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “It’s the duty of Alabama and the federal government to investigate these apparent violations, and, if they’re confirmed, to remove the animals from this despicable facility now.”

PETA’s complaint to the FWS also points out apparent ESA violations related to big cats. Following a PETA complaint this summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that The Mobile Zoo unlawfully denied adequate veterinary care to a leopard suffering from “loss of hair around both eyes with a crusty and thickened appearance” and held tigers in cages with pooling water and rusted, insecure fencing. Video taken on November 15 shows that the leopard still suffers from hair loss around her eyes. 

PETA has filed complaints with the state of Alabama and the federal government calling for investigations of John Hightower and his enterprise, The Mobile Zoo—a Wilmer-based roadside menagerie with a history of animal-care violations. Specifically, PETA is asking the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to investigate the fact that, according to agency records, the roadside zoo is holding—and breeding—at least 14 gopher tortoises without the requisite scientific-collection permit. PETA is also asking the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to investigate Hightower for possessing the threatened tortoises, several of whom may have been taken unlawfully from the wild. This, along with other apparent violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), means that the animals may be subject to forfeiture, which would allow the FWS to place them in appropriate new homes.

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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