PETA sues USDA over roadside zoo licensing

PETA sues USDA over roadside zoo licensing
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An animal rights activist group is suing Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueZinke blames 'environmental terrorist groups' for scale of California wildfires Overnight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate Sen. Sanders blasts Zinke: Wildfires 'have everything to do with climate change' MORE and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for renewing the licenses of five roadside zoos despite the alleged mistreatment of their animals.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) argues in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that the USDA renewed Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licenses for five applicants that exhibit animals at roadside zoos in Arizona, Maryland, Colorado, Texas, North Carolina and Ohio despite having information showing the applicants chronically subject animals to inhumane care and treatment.

According to the USDA's website, individuals and businesses that exhibit animals to the public must obtain a license from the agency's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. But before a license is issued, the USDA requires the applicant be in compliance with all AWA standards and regulations for the humane care and treatment of animals. 

PETA alleges in the lawsuit that the USDA knew or should have known with certainty, based on its own records, that the self-certifications of compliance with the AWA submitted by the five applicants were false.

“The USDA’s own inspectors documented, and continue to document, the suffering of animals confined by these applicants to filthy, barren, unsafe enclosures, often without clean water, palatable food, protection from the elements, or adequate veterinary care—all in violation of the AWA,” PETA said in its 40-page complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

The animal welfare group is asking the court to strip the zoo operators of their licenses and order the USDA to stop granting license renewals to entities that are in violation of the AWA.

The facilities named in the lawsuit are The Camel Farm in Yuma, Ariz.; Deer Haven Mini Zoo in Keymar, Md.; Laughing Valley Ranch in Idaho Springs, Colo.; Bayou Wildlife Park in Alvin, Texas; and Henry Hampton, who operates the Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville, N.C. and The Farm at Walnut Creek in Sugarcreek, Ohio.

USDA spokeswoman Amanda Heitkamp said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

Updated at 11:32 a.m.