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For Immediate Release: 03/03/08

Embattled Ohio exotic animal owner under federal microscope — again

Shocking USDA report renews calls for animals to be seized, facility permanently closed

Akron, OHBorn Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute (Born Free USA) is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to shut down L&L Exotics Animal Farm in Copley Township, OH. Despite reports that the owner’s license had been revoked by court order, a disturbing new inspection by the USDA has detailed numerous continuing and serious animal welfare failings and potential public safety issues at the facility.

L&L Exotics owner Lorenza Pearson, previously cited for more than 950 violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), continues to demonstrate he is incapable of properly managing such a facility.

The tragic list of incidents include the death of Pearson’s two-year-old son, mauled by a tiger in 1983; the mauling of his two-year-old grandson in 1998; and in 2006, an attack on a USDA veterinarian by a tiger and a fire that killed a black bear cub and two tiger cubs.

“The owner of this facility has a 25-year history of putting the safety of people and animals at great risk. He is perhaps one of the most flagrant abusers of the federal Animal Welfare Act in this country,” says Nicole G. Paquette, Esq., Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Born Free USA. “This most recent USDA report confirms that the only way to manage this deplorable situation is to confiscate all animals in his care before more people and animals are injured or even killed.”

The USDA report, dated February 4, 2008, notes continued non-compliance with, and serious breaches of, the AWA including:

  • Poorly maintained enclosures for potentially dangerous animals, such as lions and bears. Some metal doors had "bars that have been completely rusted off.” "These areas are very close to being unable to contain the animals and will be a route of potential escape if not repaired."
  • Poor maintenance of perimeter fence around bears and a female lion. "This area does not serve as a secondary containment for the animals in the enclosures. This is an ongoing problem at this facility."
  • Some bears kept locked in den boxes for extended periods. "There are now bears forced in dens which do not afford them enough space to stand erect if they choose. ... These bears must be allowed free access to a larger area to ensure their health and well-being".

In 2007, Pearson’s USDA license was reportedly revoked and he was found guilty of 26 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The presiding judge, Victor W. Palmer, commented that the violations were “in every sense egregious, obvious violations ... that substantially endangered the health and well-being of the animals Mr. Pearson kept at his facility.

“I am shocked that this man, with his horrific history of animal care, has been allowed to continue to keep animals,” adds Paquette. “If the USDA fails to act immediately to ensure the safety and health of the animals who continue to suffer in his care then their credibility is on the line. And, what further proof is needed to convince the Ohio legislature that regulations on the private ownership of dangerous wild animals are long overdue? Lack of action now can only be interpreted as a lack of concern for public safety and animal welfare.”

Born Free USA (formerly known as the Animal Protection Institute) has worked with Ohio Representative George Distel on HB 45, legislation which will regulate the private ownership of exotic animals such as lions, tigers, bears, and nonhuman primates. The bill is being held up in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Born Free USA (www.bornfreeusa.org) is a national non-profit animal welfare and conservation organization and a member of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition (www.cwapc.org).

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266

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