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For Immediate Release: 04/06/06

Investigation Exposes Public Safety and Animal Welfare Issues at North Carolina Tourist Attractions; Complaints Filed with USDA

Sacramento, CA — The Animal Protection Institute (API) has filed four complaints with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) documenting various violations of federal law by four North Carolina tourist attractions: Santa’s Land in Cherokee, Cherokee Bear Zoo in Cherokee, Charlotte Metro Zoo in Charlotte, and New River Zoo in Fleetwood. The documentation submitted by API includes video footage from a recent investigation into the issue of unregulated private ownership of dangerous exotic animals in North Carolina.

The investigation documented numerous violations of federal law including:

  • Allowing the public, including children, to have direct contact with dangerous wild animals such as bears and tigers
  • Animals confined or displayed with inadequate and unsafe barriers
  • Facilities failing to provide adequate shelter and proper upkeep of pens and caging of dangerous exotic animals

The USDA oversees the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which extends minimal protection to dangerous exotic animals who are exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale, used in research or transported commercially. The AWA has established several regulations that govern safety measures, proper handling and basic care and treatment standards.

“We have provided clear, documented evidence that these facilities are breaking the law and endangering the public. The USDA must act immediately on the findings from this investigation,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API.

Despite recent incidents where one North Carolina child was killed and another brutally mauled by wild animals kept as pets, North Carolina is one of only 13 states with no laws prohibiting the private possession of exotic animals such as cougars, tigers, bears, primates and dangerous reptiles.

“At least 20 serious injuries and deaths caused by privately-owned exotic animals have been reported in the U.S. in the last year alone,” Thew continues. “The owners of these facilities are playing roulette with people’s lives. The USDA must act on these complaints before another tragedy happens.”

API is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation and public education. API also manages a Primate Sanctuary that is currently home to more than 400 primates, many of whom were rescued from abusive or exploitative private ownership situations. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.

Additional b-roll footage of investigation details is available by request at 916-447-3085 x205.


Zibby Wilder
Animal Protection Institute (API)
916-447-3085 x205

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