January 16, 2014
Tell the USDA to Improve Conditions for Captive Bears!
We often share stories of the miserable conditions animals endure in roadside zoos – and now we have the chance to help bears trapped in this deplorable situation. A petition has been filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to require better treatment of bears in captivity, and they are accepting public comments from now until January 27, 2014. Please write today.
There are weak regulations for roadside zoos under the Animal Welfare Act, so they can get away with exploitation of animals for the sake of profit. Bears are often kept in concrete pits and cramped cages, which prevent them from escaping, and utterly fail to provide for their most basic needs. Boredom, frustration, and deteriorating mental health drive bears to exhibit abnormal behaviors like head-butting the cages and spending most of their waking hours pacing. Recent studies show that bears are just as complex and intelligent as primates, yet the USDA has disregarded their specific needs for space and enrichment, as well as their dietary and behavioral needs.
Hundreds of captive bears across the country will continue to suffer in substandard conditions unless the USDA implements rules that specifically address their unique and complex needs. We urgently need your help to bring about this change. The USDA is accepting public comments on this matter until January 27, and it is critical that the agency receives overwhelming support for these regulatory improvements.
A sample comment is below, but it is always most effective to use your own words.
For the animals,
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The USDA is supposed to ensure the humane treatment of animals, so it is appalling that it allows roadside zoos and other licensees to keep bears in tiny cages and even concrete pits that deprive the animals of the opportunity to satisfy their basic needs and instincts. Bears in the wild have home ranges of up to thousands of miles, yet the USDA currently allows licensees to keep bears in cages in which the animals can only take a few steps in any direction.
Boredom, frustration, and deteriorating mental health drive bears to exhibit abnormal behaviors like head-butting the cages and spending most of their waking hours pacing. Recent studies show that bears are just as complex and intelligent as primates, yet current regulations do not consider their needs for space and enrichment, or their dietary and behavioral needs. Last year, a North Carolina judge ruled that a roadside zoo committed illegal cruelty to animals by forcing a bear to live in nearly complete sensory deprivation in a concrete dog run that USDA inspectors deemed acceptable.
Clearly, something must change in order to fulfill the intended purpose of the Animal Welfare Act. Please implement the proposed regulations requiring that captive bears be provided with adequate space, enrichment, naturalistic habitats, nutritious diets, and opportunities to den, explore, run, bathe, and engage in other behavior that is necessary for a bear’s minimum physical and psychological well-being.