Cricket Hollow Zoo inspection finds animals in mud so deep their legs sunk all the way into muck

More than three dozen camels, sheep, llamas and cattle at the Cricket Hollow Zoo near Manchester, Iowa where found living in enclosures with mud so deep their legs sunk half to all the way down into the muck, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) May inspection report.

The May 27 report – kept under wraps until this past week because of an appeal by the zoo owners Tom and Pamela Sellner – said the enclosures "throughout the facility were severely muddy with large areas of standing water and/or small puddles created from hoof prints that have filled in with rain water. . . "

"Some of the animals (camels, sheep, llamas and cattle) had wet, muddy legs and/or feet," the report said. "Some of the animals had mud/wet fur extending halfway up their legs and some of the animals had mud/wet fur extending up the entire length of their legs."

The very poor condition of the animal enclosures was listed as a severe non-compliance item (NCI) and was to be corrected by the zoo owners by 5 p.m., May 29.

However, when USDA inspectors returned June 15 to follow-up and make sure the conditions were corrected, they were denied access at three different times because no one was available to provide entry to the facility.

Inspectors returned June 24 and were again denied access because no one was available to provide entry.

The May inspection and refusal of access then prompted a 21-day suspension of the zoo's license. The zoo reopened July 9.

The recent episodes in May and June involving the zoo also apparently triggered USDA legal action, with the agency filing a formal complaint with the Secretary of Agriculture July 30. The complaint could lead to revocation of the zoo's federal license, and closure of the troubled facility.

Since 2005, the zoo has been fined more than $10,000 for Animal Welfare Act violations.

The May inspection found 11 total violations, the most serious non-compliance involving drainage of animal enclosures, plus 10 other less serious violations. A total of five violations cited in May were repeat violations, previously found at the zoo and cited for correction by the zoo owners.

The other violations found at the zoo involved excessive flies in the bear shelter, maggots within the waste in the kinkajou enclosure, rodent droppings within the food storage room and "a strong, foul odor of fecal waste and ammonia in the 'education building,'" which houses the chinchillas, African crested porcupines, fennec foxes and kinkajous.

The State of Iowa's Agriculture and Land Stewardship Department also licenses the zoo, but has not inspected the property since March 4, when the state inspector accompanied a USDA inspector. Because of extremely cold weather the inspection focused mainly on the indoor animals.

Since then, state ag inspectors have stopped accompanying USDA inspectors on Cricket Hollow inspections, opting not to participate in the May, June or July zoo visits.

CLICK HERE to download the complete USDA May 27 Cricket Hollow Zoo inspection report.

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