Cricket Hollow Zoo lawsuit gets underway in federal court this week; bench trial expected to last a week

Testimony begins Monday (10/5) in a federal lawsuit seeking to remove endangered animals from the troubled Cricket Hollow Zoo near Manchester, Iowa.

The lawsuit by the Animal Defense Legal Fund (ADLF) and two Iowa residents alleges Cricket Hollow Zoo owners Pamela and Tom Sellner provide poor care for five tigers, three lemurs and two grey wolves on display at the roadside facility.

The bench trial before Chief Magistrate Judge Jon Stuart Scoles in U.S. District Court, Northern District, is expected to last a week.

The zoo has some 300 animals at the zoo, which has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Agricultural Department (USDA) over the past five years for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The zoo was fined nearly $7,000 in 2013 for federal animal welfare violations and was closed for 21 days this spring after an inspection in May.

Most recently, the U.S. Agricultural Department filed a complaint against the zoo July 30 alleging inadequate veterinary care and "repeated failures to meet minimum standards for animal facilities and husbandry." That case is pending before U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The ADLF and plaintiffs Tracey Kuehl of Bettendorf and Lisa Kuehl of Boone also have filed suit against the zoo in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., over the USDA's licensing of the facility. That lawsuit seeks to end automatic renewal of the zoo's license by the USDA, requiring the agency to first determine if care of animals at the zoo meets federal animal welfare regulations.

Expected to testify at the trial will be Tracy and Lisa Kuehl; Tom and Pamela Sellner; Dr. Jennifer Conrad, a large cat and captive wildlife veterinarian from Los Angeles; Dr. Peter Klopfer, a lemur expert who is retired from Duke University; and a veterinarian and nutritionist who have worked for the zoo.

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