PETA Sues USDA After Failure to Protect Bears Abused at Cherokee Bear Zoo

Petition to Aid These and Other Bears Suffering in Rundown Roadside Zoos Ignored by Agency

For Immediate Release:
October 24, 2013

Shakira Croce 202-483-7382 

Cherokee, N.C. — As reported by The Wall Street Journal, PETA has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for failing to respond—for more than a year—to a formal request that the agency adequately protect bears suffering in roadside zoos across the country. 

One of the facilities named in the underlying petition is the notorious Cherokee Bear Zoo. For years, the USDA has allowed roughly a dozen bears to languish in deep concrete pits where they have virtually no protection from the elements. They are forced to drink from and bathe in the same trough of putrid water and beg tourists for food. They pace in endless circles, a sign of chronic distress, yet the USDA refuses to remove the bears or revoke the zoo’s license.

“Not only has the USDA ignored the egregious neglect of and cruelty to bears, it has also ignored its duty to respond to formal petitions that request action for animals who are in trouble and dependent on agency action,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “Bears are living in concrete pits with no semblance of a natural life, thanks to the USDA’s failings. This regulatory failure is one reason why PETA urges everyone to stay away from roadside zoos, where animals routinely suffer every day of their lives.”

PETA’s 65-page petition, submitted in September 2012, requests that the agency create specific rules governing the keeping of bears so that the animals will be under the protection of specific guidelines. The Administrative Procedure Act provides that all such requests must be responded to—either affirmatively or negatively—within a reasonable period, but more than a year has gone by and the USDA has failed to do so. 

PETA’s complaint is available here, and photos are available here. For more information, please visit


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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