Animal Legal Defense Fund Warns Iowa Zoo over Endangered Species Act Violations

Posted on March 6, 2014

Manchester’s Cricket Hollow Zoo Could Face Lawsuit over Cruel, Illegal Conditions

For immediate release:


Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund


CC Tambako the Jaguar

MANCHESTER, Iowa — This week, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) delivered a formal letter warning the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Delaware County’s Cricket Hollow Zoo owners Pam and Tom Sellner that ALDF and several individual Iowans plan to sue the zoo owners for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by “wounding, harming, and/or harassing” endangered animals at the Cricket Hollow Zoo. Extensive photographic evidence, visitor observations, and expert analyses indicate that animals at the zoo are mentally and physically suffering in illegal conditions. ALDF’s letter documents these conditions and offers assistance in improving the care for the zoo’s animals by helping to relocate suffering animals to reputable wildlife sanctuaries but warns that if the owners do not take action within 60 days a lawsuit is imminent.

Veterinary experts and federal inspections show alarming conditions for animals housed at Cricket Hollow Zoo. Tiny enclosures for large carnivores like lions, tigers, pumas, and wolves have been found accumulating with feces and food waste. In June 2012, zoo visitors witnessed 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. Additionally, the zoo houses at least one declawed endangered cat, despite a 2006 policy issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) stating that declawing exotic carnivores is inappropriate veterinary care and “can cause ongoing pain, discomfort, or other pathological conditions.”

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 treatment of animals at this roadside zoo violates the Endangered Species Act,” said Stephen Wells, executive director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We hope the Cricket Hollow Zoo owners will act in the best interest of these suffering animals and work with us to move them to reputable sanctuaries where they can receive proper medical treatment and care.”

Copies of the letter are available by request.

12 thoughts on “Animal Legal Defense Fund Warns Iowa Zoo over Endangered Species Act Violations

  1. schaefer says:

    Please Help !!!

  2. pam hall says:

    something needs to be done we need a petition

  3. Becky Cherry says:

    Disgusting must be stopped !!!

  4. Pascale says:

    Where is the petition please??

  5. Debbie Richardson says:


  6. Theresa says:

    Please petition now!

  7. jeanne semple says:

    this is absolutely horrific, no reason but greed for this . hurting animals like this for a few dollars and then you can sleep at night. subhuman. we need to get them out asap and that isn’t soon enough.

  8. Victor Hoffmann says:

    Forget the fines! SHUT DOWN THAT ZOO!

  9. EYG says:

    Go kick some butt ALDF!!!! And people who are able donate to this organization should do so. They put their money where their mouth is. This is appalling.

  10. Sabine Heitkemper says:

    Stop this as soon as possible!!

  11. candice tharp says:

    they need to be shut down and animals placed in a sancuary

  12. maryann says:


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