Group seeks emergency court order to remove African lions from troubled roadside zoo

An Iowa man visiting the Cricket Hollow Zoo with his two children June 24 says in court documents one of the roadside zoo's two lions "was in such a terrible condition that both children and myself feared that she would die at any moment."

"We didn't need to get too close to her cage to know that there was something terribly wrong with her, because she just stood in one corner of her cage shivering even though she was in direct sunlight," Jeff Marlin, of Hiawatha, Iowa, testified in a court filing seeking immediate removal of the now-endangered animals from the troubled zoo near Manchester.

"She also could not stand or walk properly. Both her hind legs were bent as if she wanted to sit, but she seemed to be too sore or agitated to do so," Marlin's deposition stated. "She was panting so hard that I feared she was hyperventilating, but she was too weak to move to the shade. She just looked so sickly, we all thought she would die," according to the deposition filed in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.

Marlin shot a video of the sick lion and the footage and his testimony are part of a court motion by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and five Iowa residents seeking immediate removal of the lions from Cricket Hollow Zoo.

One of the two African lions at Cricket Hollow Zoo, near Manchester. The photo is part of a court filing seeking immediate removal of the lions from the roadside zoo.

The motion seeking a preliminary injunction against the zoo and owners Pamela and Tom Sellner was filed July 11, but a hearing date has yet to be set before U.S. Chief Magistrate Jon Scoles.

The ADLF and Iowa plaintiffs Tracey and Lisa Kuehl, Kristina Bell, Nancy Harvey and John Braumann, had hoped to get an expedited review of the motion because of the poor health of the lions at the zoo.

In the previous lawsuit against the zoo, Judge Scoles ruled the poor conditions at the zoo violated federal regulations covering endangered animals, and ordered removal of five tigers and three lemurs from Cricket Hollow. The animals were transferred to other zoos last week.

The Sellners have appealed Scoles' ruling to the Eighth District Appellate Court in St. Louis. They also sought to delay the transfer of the tigers and lemurs until the appeal was heard, but Scoles denied that request.

At the time of the initial lawsuit against Cricket Hollow, African lions were not on the endangered species list of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They have since been added, prompting the ADLF and the other plaintiffs to now seek removal of the lions because of similar concerns about the care and treatment provided by the Sellners.

CLICK HERE for the full deposition submitted Jeff Marlin, of Hiawatha, Iowa.

CLICK HERE for the preliminary injunction being sought by ADLF and five Iowans.

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