Challenging the USDA for Reissuing Roadside Zoo’s License

The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the USDA in federal court for reissuing an Iowa roadside zoo license despite frequent violations recorded by the USDA’s own inspectors, including inadequate staffing, filthy enclosures, and deficient veterinary care.


August 6, 2021

Work Type




Confirmed on Appeal

Next Step

Case Closed

Life was not good for the animals at the Cricket Hollow Animal Park formerly known as the Cricket Hollow Zoo in Manchester, Iowa. Five tigers died in the span of two years, due to inadequate veterinary care. Another tiger was found to be suffering from open wounds, and hadn’t been treated by a veterinarian. A capuchin monkey, denied veterinary care, lost her hair and was seen chewing her tail from boredom and frustration. At least five lemurs also died.

Over the course of several years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) documented a horrifying list of federal Animal Welfare Act violations at Cricket Hollow. These included animals who died of exposure to harsh weather; animals suffering with untreated injuries; animals being handled improperly; small, filthy enclosures; lack of access to clean water and food; food contaminated with vermin; the list went on and on.

And yet the USDA continued to renew Cricket Hollow’s Animal Welfare Act exhibitor license despite these documented violations. In fact the zoo was issued 11 violations by the agency the day its license was renewed. In 2015, USDA reissued the license again, despite the fact that according to the USDA’s own inspection reports, it had cited the facility for over 100 violations in the prior five years. Citations included inadequate staffing, unsanitary facilities, and poor veterinary care.

In 2014, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the USDA for its renewal of Cricket Hollow’s animal exhibitor license. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case in 2016.

In October 2017, this dismissal was reversed by the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ruled that the USDA cannot “arbitrarily and capriciously” renew an exhibitor license to a roadside zoo it knows is in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. Our lawsuit was remanded to the District Court.

Shortly after this decision, in December 2017, the USDA revoked Cricket Hollow’s exhibitor license and issued a $10,000 fine against roadside zoo owners Pamela and Thomas Sellner. In the decision to revoke the license, Administrative Law Judge Channing D. Strother noted it was inconsistent with the Animal Welfare Act to allow licensees with “chronic violations to continue to operate without sanctions.”

As of July 2018, Cricket Hollow’s appeal of the USDA’s license revocation is on appeal. Our lawsuit against the USDA for issuing the license also remains pending.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund has successfully filed several lawsuits against and involving the Cricket Hollow Animal Park formerly known as the Cricket Hollow Zoo a roadside zoo in Manchester, Iowa. Please see cases (below)  for more about the other lawsuits.

Recent News

Related Cases

Looking for case and legal resources? View Resources

See More

Donate to Protect Animals

Help animals win the legal protections they so desperately need and deserve, and ensure they have an advocate in courtrooms and legislatures across the country.

Take Action Now