Cricket Hollow's animals to be relocated by July 17; new locations seen as having similar shortcomings

The endangered tigers and lemurs ordered removed from Cricket Hollow Zoo will be sent to new facilities by July 17, but both locations face some of the same shortcomings cited by animal rights advocates in their federal lawsuit against the Manchester roadside zoo.

Chief Magistrate Judge Jon Stuart Scoles ordered the endangered animals be removed from Cricket Hollow Zoo while the case is on appeal with the tigers going to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center near Centerpoint, Indiana, and the lemurs relocated to the Special Memories Zoo, near Greenfield, Wisconsin.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and five Iowa residents who successfully argued Cricket Hollow's poor care violated Animal Welfare Act standards had opposed relocation of the endangered animals to those sites.

The ALDF introduced U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports of Special Memories from May 2015 that indicated animals there lacked water and lived in unsanitary conditions. The local sheriff's department in Wisconsin also received information from three "confidential informants" in 2008 that more than half of the animals there had died, and some monkeys had resorted to cannibalism because they were starving to death.

The "head keeper" at Special Memories denied the allegations. She testified the zoo "hadn't done chores yet" when the USDA inspector arrived and the zoo was "set up by a disgruntled employee," according to the court filing. She also denied the allegations about starving monkeys and claimed one of the informants made the fraudulent report to receive lenient treatment on a federal tax charge.

The ADLF had recommended the lemurs be transferred to the Prosimian Sanctuary operated by the Endangered Primate Foundation in Jacksonville, Florida. The sanctuary has nine lemurs and has operated since 2010. While the sanctuary is subject to inspections by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, it does not have a USDA license.

The Exotic Feline Rescue Center where the Cricket Hollow tigers are headed has four employees responsible for cleaning, feeding/watering and monitoring 230 large cats. In 2013, an employee at the facility was attacked by a tiger after the individual failed to secure a door to one of the cages.

There are approximately 90 primary enclosures for the leopards, lions, pumas and tigers at the rescue center.

The ADLF had urged the tigers be transported to the Wild Animal Sanctuary (WAS) in Keenesburg, Colorado. The sanctuary has 52 employees, 160 volunteers and an annual budget of approximately $13 million.

Patrick Craig, executive director of WAS, told the court the 720-acre facility is a true sanctuary where tiger enclosure are generally 15 to 25 acres and house seven to 10 tigers. Craig told the court he visited the Exotic Feline Rescue Center and expressed concern about the "very, very small cages" in which the animals are confined.

Judge Scoles indicated in his ruling that the Exotic Feline Rescue Center probably would not be his first choice for placement of the Cricket Hollow tigers, but he was confined to determining if it was "capable of meeting the needs" of the tigers. As to the lemurs new home, Scoles said the lack of USDA licensing ruled out use of the Florida sanctuary.

CLICK HERE to download the court order.

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