USDA Now Has to Defend Renewing Shady Roadside Zoo’s License to Operate

In another victory for animals in captivity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now going to have to defend renewing a license to a troubled roadside zoo in Iowa that has a long history of animal welfare violations.

The Cricket Hollow Animal Park, formerly known as the Cricket Hollow Zoo, has been in the spotlight in recent years over its failure to properly care for numerous species it holds captive.

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the USDA renewed the zoo’s license on the very same day it issued the zoo 11 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in 2014, and ongoing problems were acknowledged by the agency long before that. By 2015, the zoo had been cited for over 100 violations during five years, including inadequate staffing, unsanitary facilities and poor veterinary care.

Although the USDA did briefly suspend the zoo’s license, the agency’s failure to take meaningful action and allow the zoo to remain open prompted the ALDF and two Iowa residents to file a lawsuit, arguing that the license renewals violate the agency’s own regulations.

Unfortunately, a judge ruled in the USDA’s favor because the agency doesn’t require compliance as a prerequisite for license renewals. As long as a facility says they’re in compliance, the USDA calls it good. This troubling process has allowed it to automatically renew licenses, or “rubberstamp” them for facilities that should otherwise clearly be shut down.

“It’s obvious that licensees cannot be trusted to police themselves, and it is the responsibility of the USDA to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act,” said ALDF Executive Director, Stephen Wells. “To receive an exhibitors license, a facility must demonstrate it complies with the Animal Welfare Act–and the USDA cannot disregard compliance problems that it knows exist.”

The ALDF appealed, and the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia just agreed that the USDA can’t renew an exhibitor license to a zoo it knows is violating the AWA, which overturns a previous dismissal of a case. Now the case is headed back to court, and the USDA is going to have to defend renewing the Cricket Hollow Animal Park’s license.

This latest win follows two other successful lawsuits brought by the ALDF against the Cricket Hollow Animal Park. After suing the zoo in 2014 for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA), four tigers and three lemurs were removed, and the case helped set a precedent for intervening on behalf of endangered animals living in captivity.

After lions were protected under the ESA, the ALDF went back to court in an effort to move two lionesses from the zoo to a sanctuary, and their effort paid off.

While this case plays out, the ALDF is also going to be working towards changing the USDA’s current license renewal policy, which the agency is currently considering.

For more on how to help, check out the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

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97 comments

Glennis W
Glennis W2 days ago

Should never have happened Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 days ago

So horrible and cruel Take them to a nice sanctuary Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W2 days ago

Should be closed Deplorable Thank you for caring and sharing

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Elaine W
Elaine W2 days ago

Noted this hopeful improvment.

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Kelsey S
Kelsey S3 days ago

Thanks

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Carl R
Carl R3 days ago

thanks!!!!

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Peggy B
Peggy B7 days ago

TYFS

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Nicole H

TO : MEGAN HARGAN : Sorry, but as I am not an American, I do not understand your comment, viz. by saying that these license renewal and road zoo situations are not Trump's regulations, but rather existing / allowed by Obama. Road Zoos existed very long before Obama was president. And I agree that this President could have done something about it / the lack of competence of the USDA, but lots of presidents before Obama also allowed those atrocities or not ?? So, really do not understand what your point is in making this a political issue between those 2 presidents. Of course Trump will NOT DO ANYTHING about this delicate but disgusting matter. Wildlife animals are here to be shot by his sons / sons in laws because they are trophy hunters....

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Nicole Heindryckx

I suppose the USDA is paid with taxpayers' money ? Well, then it is even more disgusting. One may not even think ONE single moment that million of "good" U.S.$$$$$ of people's taxes are used for an organization where there is NO SINGLE PERSON with 1 GRAM of "normal working braincells". Where all the employees have NO HEART, NO COMPASSION and NO EMPATHY.... There is NO money for a decent health care.... but millions are just thrown away to organizations that DO NOTHING RIGHT !! SHAME on the Government of the U.S.A. Glad I am living on the other side of the world. And sure, we also have some "idiot" laws and regulations, but it is a very very very long time ago that road zoos could be found here..

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Nicole Heindryckx

2.-On a daily basis, we are fighting the "archaic" zoos, with small cages, or tiny places where animals can only take 10 steps from one side to the other of their "prison" . An additional cruelty for road zoo animals is transport from town to town, over highways, but also in crowded, noisy city roads with high amounts of CO2. These animals have NO CHOICE, like we have !! And last, but not least : ANIMALS ARE NOT OUR TOYS, THEY ARE NOT ON THIS PLANET FOR OUR AMUSEMENT !!! For centuries we have abused them, either for working and now for our "pleasure". This MUST stop in the 21st century. We have learned and still learn so many every day about the wildlife animals' needs, their compassion and empathy for each other (elephants for instance), their intelligence, and the psychological traumas they have, CAUSED by our greed. Licenses for Road Zoos should NOT be renewed. Once their license is expired, ALL their animals should be re-located to sanctuaries, where they can enjoy - for the first time in their live - some freedom and stress-free lives. STOP THESE ROAD ZOOS and - AGAIN - I beg you to stop visiting these places of suffering and cruelties !! We HAVE the possibility to STOP their activities. SO, KEEP YOUR MONEY IN YOUR POCKETS and use it for something else....

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