Judge orders removal of 300 remaining animals from Cricket Hollow Zoo in decade-long legal battle

An Iowa District Court judge Monday (11/25) ordered the removal of the remaining 300 animals confined at Cricket Hollow Zoo, apparently ending a nearly decade-long legal battle over cruel treatment and neglect of endangered and exotic animals at the troubled roadside zoo near Manchester.

In the most recent lawsuit brought by four Iowa residents and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in 2018, the roadside zoo owned by Pamela and Thomas Sellner was found to violate Iowa's animal cruelty standards.

Iowa District Court Judge Monica Wittig ruled the remaining animals – including bears, raccoons, angora rabbits, cougars, a camel and a llama – should be removed from Cricket Hollow.

The ALDF said it will assist in transferring animals from Cricket Hollow Zoo to reputable sanctuaries and rescues for rehabilitation. The zoo’s owners also will be barred from owning any exotic animals or wildlife in the future, according to the court ruling.

“The testimony and exhibits provided a picture of exotic animals that are left to eat and defecate in the same areas where they live," according to the court ruling. "Many, if not all of the animals do not have a clean water source constantly available to them. Proper sustenance that is not contaminated is also not provided. These issues are systemic. There is no effort on the part of the Sellners to modify any of their husbandry practices to provide for a better environment for the animals. The Sellners have shown no interest in rectifying problems by hiring informed staff, retaining a properly trained veterinarians and maintaining proper shelter.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection records of the zoo "show a history of improper care," according to the court ruling. "There have been reports dating back to 2010 up to and including 2019 showing recurrent violations."

"The watering practices have been found to be inadequate," the court order stated. "The veterinarian care has been inadequate. Sanitation issues have been noted with concerns related to pests, flies, vermin, and excreta not only in food but also in shelter areas."

Livestock owned by the Sellners were exempted from the removal order, but all other animals were to be "removed immediately," and all costs associated with the case were ordered to be paid by the Sellners.

Remaining animals to be release included seven black and brown bears, two mountain lions, two foxes, two coyotes, one hybrid wolf/hound, three baboons, two macaques, one camel, one lama, and all small mammals, reptiles and birds.

In previous lawsuits filed in federal court, the ALDF and four plaintiffs were successful in forcing the zoo to give up its endangered animals, four tigers, three lemurs and two African lionesses.

CLICK HERE to download the district court ruling.

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