Rescued! Remaining Captive Animals Removed From Waccatee Zoo Following PETA’s Lawsuit

For Immediate Release:
May 4, 2023

David Perle 202-483-7382

Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Today, PETA and The Wild Animal Sanctuary (TWAS) rescued the remaining nine animals—one llama, two North American black bears, and six emus—from Waccatee Zoo, following a lawsuit against the facility and its operators by PETA and concerned citizens. The rescued animals, including both black bears (one of whom will be renamed after being known at Waccatee as “Spook,” a racist slur), are now on their way to a TWAS sanctuary in Colorado. The notorious outfit cited the ongoing lawsuit as the reason for its closure. It had racked up numerous animal welfare violations and was dubbed by PETA “the worst roadside zoo in America.” Photos of the animals rescued from Waccatee are here.

“Waccatee spent years exploiting vulnerable animals and allowing suffering ones to languish in cramped enclosures, but now these survivors will get the care they so desperately need and deserve,” says PETA General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “Thanks to the lawsuit by PETA and concerned citizens as well as the sanctuary provided by TWAS, this shoddy roadside zoo has been shuttered and animals have been saved.”

“We are extremely pleased that the Court granted the emergency request for relief and directed Waccatee Zoo to account for all of its animals,” says Jonathan D. Brightbill, partner at Winston & Strawn LLP, which is representing PETA and its co-plaintiffs in the ongoing lawsuit. “Now the last of the roadside zoo’s animals are going to an appropriate sanctuary.”

Both black bears, who are thin and suffer from a chronic skin condition, will receive immediate veterinary care at the sanctuary, where, following their rehabilitation, they’ll have acres to explore, soft ground for digging, and opportunities for climbing, foraging, and socializing with other bears. The llama and emus will have a massive enclosure with space to take shelter from wind and rain as well as warm indoor areas.

PETA and its co-plaintiffs’ lawsuit under the federal Endangered Species Act and South Carolina’s public nuisance law alleges that Waccatee confined and exhibited more than 460 animals in conditions in which they were deprived of appropriate veterinary care and other necessities—chronic neglect that caused animals to suffer and led to the death of an endangered tiger named Lila. About five months after filing the lawsuit, PETA learned that Waccatee was secretly transferring animals out of the facility and filed an emergency motion to prohibit further transfers. PETA’s work continues on behalf of the transferred animals, many of whom were sent to other roadside zoos or sold at shady exotic-animal auctions.

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, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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