Lawyers Put Bear Pits on Notice: ‘We Will Sue For Grizzlies’

Posted on February 12, 2013

For immediate release

Lisa Franzetta, ALDF
Megan Backus, ALDF 

Cherokee, N.C. — In light of the latest developments at Chief Saunooke Bear Park (CSBP)–including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s suspension of the bear pit’s license and a PETA investigation that revealed alleged cruelty to animals, anti-Tribal racism, drug use, and more–the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has sent a 60-day notice letter to Kole Clapsaddle, owner of CSBP, notifying him of the group’s intention to sue under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on behalf of the protected grizzly bears kept in the rundown park’s barren concrete pits. The lawsuit will seek forfeiture of the bears.

The ESA lists grizzly bears as "threatened," and it is illegal to harm, wound, or harass them. The following violations occurred regularly at CSBP:

  • Grizzly bears are denied adequate veterinary care, including a bear who had an open cut on her face and other bears who routinely had loose stool. The park also confines the bears–who have a remarkably well-developed sense of smell–amid their own waste for prolonged periods.
  • The bears are also kept in barren concrete pits that deny them everything that is natural and important to them. They exhibit recognized symptoms of suffering, including repetitive pacing, head tossing, and circling.

In addition, a CSBP worker was caught on video in PETA’s undercover investigation stating that it took a shooter "20 shots … square in the head" to kill a bear from CSBP. The worker said that he eats bears from CSBP who attack a person–and PETA’s investigation found that some CSBP workers have been attacked by frustrated bears up to eight times each.

"Chief Saunooke’s barren pits inflict precisely the sort of harm to these threatened bears that the Endangered Species Act was designed to prevent," says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. "These bears need to be moved to reputable sanctuaries, where they will no longer suffer the constant harassment and neglect they have endured at Chief Saunooke for years."

Although the ESA allows for permits to engage in otherwise prohibited activities under very limited circumstances, such as to enhance the survival of a species, CSBP does not have a permit and could not legally qualify for one.

A copy of ALDF’s notice letter is available upon request.

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