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For Immediate Release: 01/29/08

USDA suspends North Carolina “zoo”; Born Free USA promises to continue fight for increased regulation of dangerous wild animals in North Carolina

“Tiger World” to be under increased scrutiny as lawmakers continue to debate legislation

Charlotte, NC — Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA) is applauding this month’s USDA action against Steve Macaluso, owner of the now-closed Metrolina Wildlife Park. The USDA fined Macaluso $5,000 and barred him from operating a zoo facility until 2015 after repeated violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

North Carolina officials and animal welfare advocates have voiced strong concern over the sale of the facility to Lea Jaunakais, who plans to rename the facility “Tiger World” and operate it as an unaccredited zoo.

Born Free USA filed an official complaint against Macaluso in March 2006 after its investigation of his facility revealed various serious safety issues including video documentation of animals kept in completely inadequate conditions, owner Steve Macaluso behaving recklessly (being bitten by a tiger, putting his head into the mouths of tigers, sitting on tigers) and endangering the public by allowing people to have direct contact with an adult tiger and failing to secure a gate separating tigers from zoo visitors.

“This facility has a horrendous record on public safety and animal welfare,” says Nicole Paquette, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Born Free USA. “The new owner of ‘Tiger World’ studied under Mr. Macaluso and we are concerned about the standards of care she will employ at this new facility. She has stated that she will not seek sanctuary accreditation of her facility which raises speculation by the animal protection community as to what is her intent behind starting this facility.”

Born Free USA is working with North Carolina legislators to develop and re-introduce a bill banning the private ownership of dangerous wild and exotic animals in North Carolina. In early February, a legislative study committee will begin to look at this issue in greater detail with the goal of recommending legislation to be introduced when the legislative session begins in May.

“If Ms. Jaunakais is going to go through with this venture we urge her to become a true sanctuary and take in many of the thousands of unwanted animals that need homes rather than using animals simply for financial gain,” adds Paquette. “We will be watching to see that she holds herself to the higher standard of animal care she claims to strive for.”

Born Free USA is a national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the US and globally. More information is available at www.bornfreeusa.org.

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266, press@bornfreeusa.org

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