Unlicensed Felon Is Running Wild-Animal Exhibit: Take Action, PETA Tells Feds, State Officials

For Immediate Release:
November 22, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Wilkesville, Ohio – Today, PETA sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Operations Director Robert Gibbens, urging immediate action against CY (previously Cyril Vierstra), the locally based Union Ridge Wildlife Center owner and operator who pleaded guilty in October to multiple felonies relating to his theft of $287,565.11 in public funds and who continues to display primates, tigers, and other wild animals without a license. PETA notes that CY’s recent plea and his previous lies to authorities disqualify him from ever being relicensed.

PETA also fired off a letter to Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda, calling for an investigation into CY’s apparently intentional failure to notify the ODA of his possession of a chimpanzee named Tonka—who was part of a PETA federal Endangered Species Act lawsuit—and his failure to obtain and submit the legally required import permit and health certificates for Tonka. CY admitted that he kept Tonka from July 2021 to February 2022 after his former owner brought him there in violation of a federal court order requiring that the chimpanzee be sent to an accredited sanctuary. PETA later located Tonka and arranged for his transfer to a sanctuary, where he is thriving, and notes that every other animal exploited by CY deserves the same.

“This brazen animal exploiter has repeatedly shirked the law, and officials need to crack down on him now,” says PETA General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA stands ready to assist the Ohio Department of Agriculture in finding proper homes for the animals still in CY’s custody, and we urge the public to stay away from his apparently unlawful operation.”

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 PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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Media Response Team.


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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