Cricket Hollow Zoo lawsuit will proceed to Oct. 5 trial date; judge denies motion for summary judgement

A federal lawsuit seeking to remove endangered animals from the troubled Cricket Hollow Zoo near Manchester will proceed to trial in October after the judge denied a motion for summary judgement filed by animal welfare attorneys.

Chief Magistrate Judge Jon Stuart Scoles heard nearly an hour of oral arguments Thursday (8/6) before denying the motion and setting a pre-trail conference for Sept. 29. The bench trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 5 in U.S. District Court, Northern District, in Cedar Rapids.

The lawsuit was filed last year by the Animal Defense Legal Fund (ADLF) and two Iowa residents against Cricket Hollow owners Tom and Pamela Sellner. The suit seeks removal of endangered and protected animals from the roadside zoo, alleging poor care causing harm to the three lemurs, five tigers and two grey wolves at the facility.

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.

Results of that May inspection have not been made public because the Sellers have appealed the USDA findings of inspectors. The report will be made public after the appeal is heard and decided by an internal USDA review committee, a USDA spokesman said.

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.

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