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For Immediate Release: 06/30/06

New complaints filed with USDA regarding animal welfare violations by exotic animal owners statewide

Sacramento, CA — The Animal Protection Institute (API) today filed three complaints with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) documenting various violations of federal law by Ohio businesses in their management of dangerous wild animals. Complaints were filed against Hope’s Heaven Sent Zoo & Etc., in Lawrence County, OH; Stump Hill Farm Center in Stark County, OH; and Burnette’s Farm and Educational Center in Cuyahoga County, OH. The documentation submitted by API includes video footage from a recent investigation into the issue of unregulated private ownership of dangerous exotic animals in Ohio.

One facility, Stump Hill Farm, has been cited numerous times by the USDA for failing to provide minimum standards of care for some animals. API investigators documented continued evidence of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations at this facility.

The USDA oversees the federal 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 includes several regulations that govern proper handling, basic care, and treatment standards for such animals.

“API’s investigation documented exotic and wild animals including bears, big and small cats, primates, and Arctic foxes kept in appalling conditions. This is unacceptable,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API. “The AWA provides clear guidance for the care of these animals and what we saw didn’t come close to meeting these minimal standards of care. If these people were keeping companion animals in similar conditions, officials would have acted to correct it long ago. What makes the animals we saw any less deserving of basic care?”

In March 2006, API also filed similar complaints with the USDA against Tiger Ridge Exotics in Wood County, OH and the Siberian Tiger Conservation Association in Knox County, OH. Ohio is one of only 12 states with no laws prohibiting the private possession of exotic animals such as cougars, tigers, bears, primates, and dangerous reptiles.

“We have provided clear, documented evidence that these three facilities are breaking the law by not giving adequate care to these animals. The USDA must act immediately on these complaints,” says Thew.

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.

B-roll footage and still photos from Ohio investigation are available by request at 916-447-3085 x205.


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

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