Roadside zoos dot the American landscape. They’re generally small menageries where wild animals like lions, tigers, monkeys, wolves, and others are kept in captivity, and often suffer badly.
The animals frequently live in small, dirty cages. They are fed inadequate food, and are denied medical care. They have little in the way of mental stimulation — often, not even the company of other animals, since many roadside zoos keep animals confined alone in their cages. Sometimes roadside zoos also encourage dangerous interactions between animals and visitors, such as bottle feeding tiger cubs.
These facilities continue to operate due to a patchwork of mostly-lax state and federal laws, and lax enforcement of those laws. At the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we use all the legal tools at our disposal to secure more and better protections for animals at roadside zoos.
We secure new legal protections for animals held captive at roadside zoos: In 2018 the Animal Legal Defense Fund scored a major victory for endangered animals living in captivity at roadside zoos. A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit issued a unanimous decision upholding a district court’s 2016 ruling that Cricket Hollow Animal Park (formerly Cricket Hollow Zoo), a roadside zoo in Manchester, Iowa, violated the Endangered Species Act by providing substandard care for the four tigers and three lemurs who were the subject of the lawsuit.
This ruling is significant for Cricket Hollow’s animals, and sets important precedent that we will use to help many more.
We secure better living conditions for animals held captive at roadside zoos: Our lawsuits often result in the owners of roadside zoos either being ordered to move their animals to sanctuaries, or choosing to do so voluntarily.
We fight for stronger laws, and better enforcement of existing laws: The Animal Welfare Act is the chief federal law that governs roadside zoos. The law itself, as well as its enforcement by the Department of Agriculture, are frequently criticized for allowing roadside zoo operators’ inhumane practices to go unchecked. State laws vary considerably, with some having such lax oversight that the states become known as havens for cruel roadside zoos.
Captive animals need better laws, and better enforcement of those laws. Our legislative affairs team advocates for stronger state and federal laws. And we are also using the regulatory process to advocate for stronger protections under existing laws.
For instance we are urging the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to change to the way it grants Animal Welfare Act licenses to roadside zoos. The current licensing program makes it incredibly easy for facilities that are violating the AWA to remain licensed. We have submitted comments to the USDA opposing the rubber-stamp license policy, in addition to challenging the dangerously permissive procedure in court.
Animal protection advocate and actress Kim Basinger sent a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster with an urgent request the company end all animal posts on its platform.January 25, 2021 Press Release
Concerned about animal abuse facilitated by Craigslist posts, an Animal Legal Defense Fund supporter began responding to “pet” ads in September 2020. After responding to more than 400 ads, the supporter shares their experiences and tips for helping protect animals being traded on the platform.January 21, 2021 Legal Resource
The Animal Legal Defense Fund files amicus brief in divorce case concerning custody and visitation of companion animalsJanuary 20, 2021 Press Release
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Challenging the USDA for Public Records of Inspection Process at Nonhuman Primates Research Facilities
Animal Legal Defense Fund and Rise for Animals v. United States Department of Agriculture
Tofurky v. Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry