For Immediate Release:
January 20, 2022
David Perle 202-483-7382
Newberry, Mich. – Today, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was notified that because of a recent civil penalty and critical noncompliance with the federal Animal Welfare Act, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is no longer legally permitted under the state’s Large Carnivore Act to offer cub petting until at least 2026. PETA had feared that the state might not get word of the federal penalty, and it can now take action if necessary.
Oswald’s was ordered to pay the $2,400 civil penalty last month to settle a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) complaint stemming from a tip from PETA that the roadside zoo’s owners had lied about the circumstances surrounding the death of a bear cub. Two cubs escaped during a power outage that began and ended on April 12, 2019. One was recovered the same day, but the other—named Sophie—was killed three days later after she was found ripping screens off a neighbor’s windows. One of the roadside zoo’s owners, Dean Oswald, lied to USDA officials by claiming that the power outage had begun late on April 13 or 14 and lasted through the morning of April 15—the day Sophie was found—stating that that was when the bears had escaped.
“Roadside zoos like this are in business to exploit vulnerable bear cubs, and the public should avoid them like the plague,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA is urging officials to crack down on Oswald’s Bear Ranch if it attempts to offer bear photo ops or cub petting in violation of state law.”
PETA notes that Oswald’s regularly misleads the public by marketing itself as a rescue facility even though it has bred 13 cubs in the past 23 years and purchased or acquired 77 others from shady dealers, including at least a dozen in the past three years alone, for use in photo ops. Once the bears become too big to be used for photos, Oswald’s moves them to enclosures where they have been seen pacing and swaying their heads back and forth in evident psychological distress.
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 newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.