Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues Iowa Zoo over Endangered Species Act ViolationsPosted on June 11, 2014
Manchester’s Cricket Hollow Zoo Faces Lawsuit over Cruel, Illegal Conditions
For immediate release:
Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Megan Backus, ALDF
MANCHESTER, Iowa — Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) along with several Iowa residents, filed a lawsuit against Delaware County’s Cricket Hollow Zoo owners Pam and Tom Sellner for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in failing to provide adequate care for animals housed at the facility. On March 4, 2014, ALDF warned the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Cricket Hollow Zoo of their plan to sue the zoo owners for violating the ESA by “wounding, harming, and/or harassing” endangered animals like tigers, lemurs, and wolves at the zoo. Extensive photographic evidence, visitor observations, and expert analyses indicate that animals at the zoo are mentally and physically suffering in illegal conditions. ALDF offered to relocate suffering animals to reputable wildlife sanctuaries, but the owners have not responded to ALDF’s offer.
Veterinary experts and federal inspections show alarming conditions for animals housed at the Cricket Hollow Zoo. Tiny enclosures for large carnivores like lions, tigers, pumas, and wolves have been found with accumulating feces and food waste. In June 2012, zoo visitors observed an emaciated lioness vomiting and numerous enclosures strewn with fly-laden meat. Inadequate shelter may have caused at least one big cat to die from exposure to the cold. Primates like lemurs—who are extremely social and wide-ranging in the wild—are kept in isolation in small spaces. Lemur expert Dr. Peter Klopfer concluded that the zoo’s actions are “akin to locking a human prisoner in an isolation ward the size of a telephone booth” and that “these animals are highly stressed, certain to be psychologically impaired, and likely susceptible to disease.” In 2011, the USDA determined that these conditions do not facilitate the well-being of animals and fined the zoo over $6,800 for ongoing violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The lawsuit alleges the zoo is massively understaffed.
“This roadside zoo violates the Endangered Species Act,” said Stephen Wells, executive director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We tried to work with the Cricket Hollow Zoo, but now we turn to the courts to ensure these suffering animals are moved to reputable sanctuaries where they can receive proper medical treatment and care.”
The Iowa law firm Wertz & Dake is providing pro bono counsel in the case.
Copies of the complaint are available by request.