Freedom for Bears at Chief Saunooke Bear Park

Posted by Danny Lutz, ALDF Litigation Fellow on July 12, 2013

Great news has trickled out of North Carolina: Eleven bears have been removed from terrible conditions in gladiator-style bear pits and now inhabit a new sanctuary home.

The black and brown bears had long suffered at Chief Saunooke Bear Park, a roadside zoo that lost its license to exhibit, because of its multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Forced to live inside pits ranging from 300 to 1300 square feet and to beg for food from visiting humans, the bears exhibited signs of psychological harm, constantly pacing on abrasive concrete and repeatedly weaving their heads.

Though imprisoned, the bears had formidable support outside Chief Saunooke Bear Park’s walls. Years of local and national pressure and especially powerful advocacy by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alerted federal authorities to the terrible bear pit conditions. And earlier this year, we at the Animal Legal Defense Fund sent Chief Saunooke Bear Park a letter threatening to sue for its ongoing harm to the roadside zoo’s grizzlies. As a result, this bear story truly has a happy ending: the bears now roam the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary, and Chief Saunooke Bear Park has shuttered its operations.

Our efforts to seek relief for these eleven bears is just one of many actions on behalf of bears. In another example, we brought a lawsuit that rescued Ben the Bear from a barren concrete cage and permanently transferred Ben to a sanctuary. We will continue to work to move bears from entertainment conscription to sanctuary protection.


32 thoughts on “Freedom for Bears at Chief Saunooke Bear Park

  1. Inga says:

    that it took years is deplorable, but I’m still so glad for the happy ending.

  2. marip zoncada says:

    this is
    so wrong!

  3. Regina Toledo says:

    Freedom for Bears !!!!

  4. HIlary Cornet says:

    This is great news. Are all the bears out of that terrible place now?

    1. ALDF says:

      They are free!

  5. Lucy Muller says:

    What glorious news. Four years ago an Englishman visiting in the U. S. saw these poor bears and could not believe we allowed such animal abuse. He wrote to me as did a Native American woman, because I write an animal column. We wrote to everyone we could think of, but the Chief of the Cherokee Nation seemed to be deaf or uncaring. Today I could tell, my dear, caring friends from such diverse places, that the people of the United States do care and we have justice. Thank you ALDF and PETA and everyone who never gave up.

    1. Carol Palmer says:

      Hi Lucy,

      I am hoping that you can write about our tiger in a cage in an area just West of Baton Rouge, LA where there is another injustice. This owner was given an illegal permit by a politician to have this full grown tiger and keep him in a cage. He has been there for years. He is fed and has water, but this man has no concept of the size space an animal of this size needs. It has been an ongoing battle,but this man must know someone who keeps supporting his permit, and these lawsuits and court judgements have done nothing. So, I would like to see a national group to intervene and move this beautiful animal to a safer and more appropriate place. I appreciate anything you can do to help him.

      1. Ruth Dodson says:

        Carol, I would suggest you take pictures if possible and start a facebook page to free this poor creature. Louisiana is full of good people, if only they were informed I am sure something would be done. Local politics can be so corrupt, not just in your area!

  6. alice ansfield says:

    hi, here’s more info on the story. great combined effort!!

  7. diane van malderen says:

    Vrijheid voor de beren van Saunooke Bear Park

  8. Michelle Sibinovic says:

    Thank goodness!!!! The global animal welfare
    community, activists all over the U.S. and both
    ALDF & PETA did a phenomenal job! Now onto the most
    important question: what will happen to the rest of
    the bears? If bears s till remain its not over yet.

  9. Jenny Grinstead says:

    Wonderful news!Thanks for not giving up, for your dedication and to ADLF and PETA for their support, kudos to you all.

  10. Heartening news, well done everyone involved

  11. Heartening news, well done everyone involved.

  12. Claire Wheeler says:

    Thankyou so much.xxxxxxxxx

  13. Carol Palmer says:

    Please get a tiger out of a small cage at a Louisiana truck and quickstop/gas station. He has been caged for years here in a small cage alone. He is fed and has water, but this is not an appropriate place for a large wild animal. He is an ad for this man’s business, and he has an illegal permit so he knows someone in the government.He finally had a judgement against him, but, the tiger is still there. He deserves to have a better place to live out his life. If anyone can help, there are a lot of animal lovers who would be forever grateful. Thanks

    1. Kathie says:

      Carol, try contacting Tigers fir Tomorrow. They are located in north Alabama, They have a website. Also contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Peta.

      1. Kathie says:

        Sorry, it us Tigers for Tomorrow.

      2. Jacqueline Herder says:

        Kathie, this is about poor Tony isn’t it? What kind of judges, what kind of politicians are these? I know they will be severely punished after this life. I still believe in justice somehow. Maybe you should ask the President for help, and Pope Francis (for the poor but also for suffering animals) and of course the Dalai Lama! Don’t trust local justice and government: they are no good!!!

  14. Susan Pateracki says:

    Great News. Now lets get all the others released. Thank You for the great job!

  15. ChrisL says:

    Sounds horrible- glad to hear the Bears have been moved. Hope they do well. They are smart animals.

  16. Susan Pateracki says:

    The way people treat animals needs some very strict actions. It seems as though that those who should be paying attention arent paying attention.

    People have viewed animals as objects for so long that they are unable to view them as living creatures. These long years have brought us to the critical point we are in now. With Factory Farms, Wildlife Killing, vertually every type of animal is abused and tortured. The result of this is pet abuse, torture, and killing is higher than ever before. At the same time child abuse, torture, and murder is higher than anytime. The two most Vulnerable Victims are children and animals.

    What has been allowed to keep getting worse is the cause for a major lack of empathy in society. People light their pets on fire all of the time. People torture pets and videotape them to sell to other sick people. Every living creature is tortured.

    Every single day a baby or child is being tortured and killed by their own parents. This doesnt count child abductions, child rapes, child molestation, child trafficing. The lack of empathy has bred people with no feelin of pity.

    Those that can do something about this, needs to do it now. They have ignored us for so many years that they have also ignored the screaming of children. The crying of babies. In one day there are several in our country. a recent day, a mother stabbed her baby in the face 90 times because her breasts hurt when nursing her baby.

    Dear God, stand up and stop this. End this causing such a horrible torture of any that cant protect themselves. That is why the Bible even references it.

    True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on animals. It is our duty as Humans to extend our circle of compassion to all animals as well. Today’s moral breakdown.

    Animals cannot speak, but they can suffer, and their Creator, God, knows their sufferings, and will hold those who cause them to suffer unnecessarily responsible. It is a sin against their Creator, God. , Jesus said I say unto you, they who partake of benefits which are gotten by wronging one of God’s creatures, cannot be righteous.;

  17. Alkyss says:

    Save the bears !!!!!

  18. Sara Paoluzzi says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing this fantastic news, me and many members of Care2 pushed a lot for the freedom of this amazing creatures. Your job is incredible, thanks guys!!!

  19. DEB SPANHAKE says:

    So glad your efforts paid off to get these bears sanctioned the joint effort the teamwork in caring and doing and the bears will prove the worth they are so lucky to have people like you that gave a lot to make this happen for them. KUDOS

  20. Val says:

    Please save the Bears!

  21. Val says:

    Please save the Bears! Treat Animals with Respect.

  22. marilyn B. says:

    Please save the bears

  23. Barb Navoro says:


  24. meadowlark says:

    How I praise God that finally something good has come from signing all those petitions. Congress needs to stand up and listen to the voices of the American citizen and tax payer , and to campaign along side with those who oppose all and any sort of animal abuses and cruelty . Serious laws to protect animals need serious attention and proposals.There should be no room for any shades of grey permitted or tolerated when it comes to animal suffering and distress. Sin and cruelty is a reproach to any people. Acts of brutality should never even be presumed as normal or accepted as the way to control any animal. If abuse, torture,and to cause suffering is wrong to do it to any human, then it is also wrong to do it to any any animal. They too , are a live and feel just as any human does. Thank you to those who stepped Up to rescue and end the suffering and horrible lives these bears endured because of mankind’s greed.

  25. Kurt Amsler says:

    Due to your “weak” animals protecting lows – it took years!!!! I’m still so glad for the happy ending….

    Kurt Amsler Switzerland

  26. julie says:

    thank you for saving these bears! When I’m protesting against captivity people often ask if it does any good – wish the fight wasn’t so long, but thank you for the success stories!

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