Federal authorities closed down the Chief Saunooke Bear Park in Cherokee, North Carolina, on Tuesday after citing the owner, Kole Clapsaddle, and park staff with multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended the owner's exhibitor license and ordered him to pay $20,000 in fines for failing to provide proper housing, food, and veterinary care.
PETA led the campaign against the zoo after finding that staff fed the animals unsanitary, rotten food and that the animals were placed in incompatible groups that resulted in aggression.
Leaders at PETA hope that the gruesome zoo will be shut down for good, but the USDA says it is not able to take custody of the bears.
USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said his department will not take custody of the bears. Clapsaddle will have an opportunity to come into full compliance with the regulations.
The USDA can confiscate animals if it can prove they are in “a state of unrelieved suffering,” Sacks said.
“That’s the only time we can take an animal, not because they’ve been written up for 20 different things or an animal advocacy group tells us to,” Sacks said.
There is no word on how long Clapsaddle will have to improve the conditions at the park before the USDA takes away the park's license for good.