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The following places are common final destinations of zoo surplus animals:


  • Roadside Zoos

Roadside zoos are non-accredited facilities, yet many surplus animals from accredited zoos end up there.


Anyone can open a roadside zoo, with no previous zoo management required.


These horrific facilities focus solely on amusing customers, while the care of the animals is greatly neglected.


Investigations of roadside zoos have revealed animals kept in tiny, poorly constructed, and filthy cages. They also suffer a lack of water and species-appropriate food, as well as a lack of veterinary care.


Social animals are kept alone and solitary animals are kept in groups.


Most of the animals at these facilities display “zoochosis” type behaviors.


Many of these facilities are understaffed and the staff members are untrained, inexperienced, and often abusive to the animals.


An undercover investigation by PETA of G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Oklahoma found that animals were kicked, punched, and struck with shovels.


Fights between animals were broken up with cold water or fire extinguishers.


The park also breeds exotic animals, including lions and tigers.


The newborns, only hours old, are taken from their mothers and paraded around fairs and malls for photo ops.


Many of them die within weeks, succumbing to the stress of being handled by people and the lack of nutrition they require from their mothers.


Once the surviving cubs are a few months old and have lost their baby appeal, they are listed for free in trade publications that offer exotic animals to pet collectors, breeders, and hunting ranches.

Zoo ethics, are zoos good or bad, circus animal abuse, hunting ranches, animal captivity
  • Exotic “Pet” Trade

The exotic animal trade is a multi-billion dollar industry.


According to National Geographic, “Wildlife trafficking may very well be the world’s most profitable form of illegal trade, bar none, and the U.S. is the main destination for exotic and endangered wild animals.”


Animals in the exotic “pet” trade are imported from their natural habitats or can come from backyard breeders, but many of them are surplus animals from zoos.


An estimated 10,000-20,000 big cats are kept as pets in the US; many of them costing less to buy than a purebred dog.


Most of these animals are hybrids, i.e. lions crossed with tigers, and therefore are of no help to the conservation of species. Many of them are also inbred, causing serious physical and mental problems.


Wild animals do not adjust well to life as pets, since they require special diets, housing, and care.


Many of these pets are purchased as babies for their cute-factor. Once they have grown up and become difficult to control, they are abandoned by their owners or have to be euthanized.


To date in the US there have been 2,037 incidents of exotic pets attacking people, and 82 humans have been killed by exotic pets.


Exotic animals can also be carriers of diseases deadly to humans, like the herpes B virus, with which an estimated 90 percent of all macaque monkeys are infected.


It is also estimated that 90 percent of all reptiles carry and shed salmonella in their feces. Close to 100,000 reptile-related salmonella cases are reported to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) every year in the United States.

Zoo ethics, are zoos good or bad, circus animal abuse, hunting ranches, animal captivity
  • Circuses

Circuses, just like marine mammal shows at aquariums, are questionable practices.


Many surplus zoo animals end up being relocated to the circus.


Circuses in the United States are held accountable by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) which is enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


Under the AWA, circus animals must be provided with a minimum standard of care and treatment, however, these laws do not protect against the neglect and abuse often found in circuses.


Less than 100 APHIS inspectors are responsible for monitoring over 12,000 animal-related facilities in the US. As a result, circuses are inspected infrequently at best.


Despite the lack of government presence monitoring circus practices, every single major circus in the US has been cited for violating the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act.


Like zoo animals, circus animals suffer many of the same physical problems. Repetitive, psychotic behavior is prevalent, and arthritis and joint problems are common due to immobility.


On average, 96% of a circus animal’s life is spent in chains or cages.


When a circus animal is not in a cage, it is forced to perform unnatural and dangerous tricks; like jumping through rings of fire. Behind closed doors circus animals are trained with chains, muzzles, whips, electric prods, and other painful devices.


Animals are electrocuted, kicked, hit with sticks, and stabbed with bullhooks (a weapon-like staff that is used to strike the sensitive parts of an elephant) that often draw blood.


One circus was even documented using blowtorches on elephants to make them learn tricks.


Circuses have also proven to be dangerous to people.


Since 2000, there have been more than 35 dangerous incidents involving elephants escaping from circuses, running through streets, attacking bystanders, and killing their handlers.


Since 1990, there have been over 123 documented lion attacks in circuses.

Zoo ethics, are zoos good or bad, circus animal abuse, hunting ranches, animal captivity
Zoo ethics, are zoos good or bad, circus animal abuse, hunting ranches, animal captivity
  • Hunting ranches

After the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, hunting "ranches" began to pop up in the United States.


At these places, wealthy people could pay to hunt exotic animals that they could no longer legally hunt in the wild.


Today it is estimated that several thousands of these ranches exist in the US, and can be found in almost every state; 500 of them in the state of Texas alone.


At hunting ranches, exotic animals (some endangered) like antelope, bears, zebras, and rhinos are hunted inside fenced enclosures offering hunters a 100% guarantee they will leave with a trophy.


These ranches do not require that a hunter has a hunting license or any firearm experience; many times resulting in missed or multiple shots, and an agonizing death for the animal.


With entrances fees upwards of several thousand dollars, animal welfare is of no concern to the owners of these ranches.


In the 90’s, a report by the Humane Society of the United States revealed that since the 50’s the San Diego Zoo had sold more than a hundred surplus animals directly to Catskill Game Farm in New York (a facility with direct dealings with hunting ranches). The zoo also sold directly to hunting ranches.


Around the same time, “60 Minutes” aired this information to the public.


In response the San Diego Zoo said it would stop all dealings with these types of facilities. A few weeks later, the San Diego Zoo resumed selling animals to dealers with hunting ranch ties.


When asked about surplus animals a curator at the Memphis zoo remarked, "There is no wild to return them to. Zoos should stop billing themselves as conservationists. They're not. They are producing animals nobody besides hunting ranches wants.”

Zoo ethics, are zoos good or bad, circus animal abuse, hunting ranches, animal captivity
Zoo ethics, are zoos good or bad, circus animal abuse, hunting ranches, animal captivity

The Fate of Surplus Animals

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