Augusta Free Press

Investigation of roadside zoo reveals dead, dying animals, neglect and abuse

An undercover investigation at Natural Bridge Zoo revealed abuse and neglect of animals including the persistent mistreatment of tiger cubs—from birth—used for public handling and trauma inflicted on primates bred for the exotic animal trade. The Humane Society of the United States conducted the nearly five-month investigation at the private menagerie in rural Natural Bridge, Va.
The investigation also found chronic and serious problems throughout the roadside zoo, including a critical lack of veterinary care, crowded conditions, filthy cages, animals fed rotten produce and deteriorating meat, no psychological enrichment for primates and other unsafe conditions.
The HSUS documented:
Matthew Gray, Virginia state director of The HSUS said: “The Natural Bridge Zoo is woefully behind the times and as a result, the animals are suffering and public safety is compromised. We’re urging Virginia legislators and Department of Natural Resources to strengthen state law by ensuring that animals in private hands and at roadside zoos are humanely treated and to limit the possession of primates to only qualified facilities in order to protect both captive wildlife and the public. We must put an end to this dangerous and cruel business.”
The HSUS has filed legal complaints with state and local officials for potential violations of animal cruelty laws, with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for potential violations of state wildlife law, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for likely violations of the Endangered Species Act.  HSUS is further urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to act on a legal petition that was filed in 2012 by a coalition of animal protection organizations seeking explicit regulations prohibiting public contact with dangerous wild animals no matter the age of the animals. This cycle of breeding, exploiting, then dumping baby animals after a few months fuels the exotic pet trade, puts animals at risk, endangers the public, and creates a burden for both law enforcement and nonprofit sanctuaries.
Read more in the investigation report.