PETA Sues Waccatee Zoo Over Animal Care

Facility Violates Endangered Species Act and State Law, Court Filing Contends

For Immediate Release:
April 27, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Joined by members of the public who visited Waccatee Zoo and were appalled by its mistreatment of animals, PETA has just filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina against the local roadside zoo, under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and South Carolina’s public nuisance law. The lawsuit alleges that the facility confines and exhibits more than 460 animals—such as lions, ring-tailed lemurs, and other ESA-protected animals—in conditions in which they’re deprived of appropriate veterinary care and other necessities.

Among other allegations listed in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue the following:

  • Inadequate veterinary care for Lila the tiger, among other failings, led to the endangered tiger’s death at the facility. She had spent months wasting away, losing fur, and pacing in her cramped cage.
  • Endangered parrots are confined to cramped, unsanitary cages where they can barely expand their wings fully, let alone fly. Parrots at Waccatee appear to exhibit abnormal feather-plucking behavior, indicating psychological distress likely caused by solitary confinement and environmental deprivation.
  • Visitors regularly observe the lions at the facility, Princess and Simba, pacing back and forth in small, unsanitary cages. They live in solitary confinement, even though lions are highly social animals.

Because the plaintiffs allege that the facility’s mistreatment of all the animals constitutes a public nuisance under state law, they ask that the court issue an order that transfers the animals to reputable facilities.

“Animals are languishing in this ramshackle roadside zoo’s cramped enclosures, where they have plucked out their own feathers, have been denied companionship, and are wasting away,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “The plaintiffs look forward to bringing this hellhole before a judge and getting these long-suffering animals to reputable facilities where they will receive the care they desperately need.”

After PETA sent Waccatee an official notice warning of its intent to sue, the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined the outfit $7,800 for six alleged Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations. Over two decades, the agency has cited Waccatee—which PETA calls “the worst roadside zoo in America”—for more than 100 violations of the AWA. These violations include failing to provide animals with adequate veterinary care and keeping bears and cougars in enclosures lacking adequate space. Last year, a federal inspection report revealed that Waccatee had left two limping sheep without veterinary care, failed to provide animals with clean water, and neglected safety protocols, leading to the escape of a capuchin monkey during the inspection.

In addition to PETA Foundation counsel, the plaintiffs are represented by Jonathan Brightbill, Kyllan Gilmore, and Sharon Lin with Winston & Strawn LLP.

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 PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

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