Success! Ricky the Bear Freed From Her Cage at Ice Cream Store

After spending almost two decades in a cage outside of Jim Mack’s Ice Cream in Pennsylvania, a black bear named Ricky has finally been freed and is settling into her new home at a sanctuary thanks to public outcry from the Care2 community and a settlement reached between animal advocates and her owner.

In December, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of four residents who were concerned about her health and well-being seeking to have her moved to a sanctuary and bar her owner, James H. McDaniel, Jr., from replacing her with another bear.

Her advocates argued that she was being kept in conditions that violated the state’s wildlife protection laws, which require the humane care and treatment of animals, and that her being there posed a threat to public safety.

For Ricky, life as a living roadside attraction didn’t consist of much more than pacing back and forth in a barren cage with concrete flooring day after day and being fed corn and dog food through a chute by visitors.

DSC03784Credit: Kelly Bennett

Photos and video footage taken by Kelly Bennett, one of the plaintiffs who originally contacted the ALDF for help, showed the sad life of a bear being kept someplace she clearly didn’t belong. A veterinarian who personally examined Ricky said she would experience “a slow torturous decline in physical and mental health” if she remained where she was.

DSC03794Credit: Kelly Bennett

Her heartbreaking story and lawsuit to free her garnered international public support, with more than 193,400 people signing the Care2 petition set up by two of the other plaintiffs in the case urging the store’s owner to release her – including British comedian Ricky Gervais, who shared it on social media.

In a settlement reached between McDaniel and the law firm BakerHostetler, which filed the case, McDaniel agreed to release Ricky, and her advocates agreed to drop the lawsuit.

Ricky’s new life began on Monday, when she was welcomed at the 720-acre Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo.,where she will have 15 acres of grassland to roam and the opportunity to engage in natural behaviors, including exploring, foraging, denning and bathing – she’s already hit up her new tub for a soak.

Ricky_05Credit: ALDF

According to the ALDF, she’s doing well so far and will be slowly transitioned into her new environment through custom enrichment and a climate-controlled rehabilitation center before she is moved into her new habitat where she will eventually have the company of other bears.

“Ricky’s transport went flawlessly. She arrived early this morning and made an easy transition from her transport cage to her interim enclosure. She’s spent the day sleeping on straw and resting up from her trip. Once she’s acclimated to her new surroundings she’ll meet her new habitat-mates. We’re excited to welcome Ricky to her new home and this new stage of her life,” said Matthew Liebman, ALDF senior staff attorney.

Ricky_01Credit: ALDF

Her advocates couldn’t be happier for her. Bennett said in an email that she couldn’t even describe what it felt like to watch them load her into the transport vehicle and drive her off, but that she is ecstatic about the outcome and grateful for the legal team from the ALDF and BakerHostetler.

“The amount of work everyone put in to get that poor girl into a sanctuary is astounding. I am also deeply appreciative of the veterinarians who were expert witnesses in the case, and The Wild Animal Sanctuary for opening their beautiful environment (and their hearts) to this innocent bear,” she said, adding that she hopes to visit Ricky this spring.

Ricky_03Credit: ALDF

While Ricky’s story is a huge success, it’s also a sad reminder about why wild animals like her shouldn’t be kept as pets or attractions. If you have an animal like her in your community, or know of one who needs a human voice, starting a petition is a great way to raise awareness and advocate for them.


Photo credit: Animal Legal Defense Fund


Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

So great for this bear; the people who kept this bear locked should pay!!

Jane R.
Jane R3 years ago

No animal whether large or small belongs in a cage! hey should be free to roam open land.

Loesje vB
Loesje Najoan3 years ago

Great news Ricki the bear is free!! :)

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

Fantastic. What is wrong with people that they feel the need to put these bears in such tiny cages.

Fran away F.
Fran F3 years ago

Continuing to send Ricky good wishes!

donald Baumgartner

Great news !!!!

Adrienne L.
Adrienne L3 years ago


Patrick To
Patrick To3 years ago

That is wonderful news ! I hope he is happy in his new environment. People power Ricky

Olga Nycz-Shirley

Super outcome. Brilliant.

Christine Jones
Christine J3 years ago

Another success story from the wonderful ALDF. Congrats to all involved.
It's a reminder that people power is the answer. If we all refuse to give our custom to places that exploit animals, whether at home or when we are visiting as tourists, the irrefutable law of supply and demand will work its magic, and these practices will die out.