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'Dog As Lion's Dentist' Video Filmed At Zoo With Troubled History

05/24/2013 05:15 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2013

A viral video of a dog playing dentist to a huge Barbary lion was filmed at a zoo that has a troubled history.

The video shows a 5-year-old dachshund licking the teeth of a male lion that zoo staff say it lives with. Published on a wide range of news sites around the world, the video has been promoted as an adorable display of an unlikely inter-species friendship.

The animals' home, Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in the rural town of Wynnewood in central Oklahoma, has been investigated multiple times by animal rights groups and U.S. agencies.

In 2011, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) told Reuters that the zoo was under scrutiny for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs. In a video on the zoo's website, zoo owner Joe Schreibvogel said the deaths occurred during an 18-month period in 2009 and 2010, and claimed the cubs died from "bad KMR" (kitten milk replacement) made by pet food manufacturer PetAg.

Garold Wayne Interactive was also the subject of a 2011 undercover investigation by the Humane Society, after which the investigator said five tigers perished during the four months he worked there. He also obtained footage of sick and lethargic tigers, and of tigers being whipped and hit by staffers at the encouragement of park management.

What's more, Shreibvogel's zoo was fined $25,000 by the USDA's Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service in 2006 for a host of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including failing to maintain clean and safe premises for the animals, failing to establish and maintain adequate veterinary care, failing to keep animals' food protected from mold and contamination by vermin and failing to minimize risk of harm to animals during public exhibitions, according to USDA documents. Those violations resulted in the temporary loss of the zoo's license and an 18-month period of probation.

The zoo eventually got its license back after complying with regulations outlined by the USDA.

In his video response to the case, Schreibvogel denied that he or his staff abused animals.

The same year as the Animal Welfare Act violations, an undercover PETA investigation released a report stating that animals living at the zoo had gone hungry from lack of food and had been abused and beaten by staff. PETA also said it had witnessed incompatible animals attack and harass one another.

Schreibvogel declared in another video response that PETA's report had been "doctored."

Zoo spokesman Daniel Cotton told The Huffington Post by phone that the facility cares for more than 1,000 animals, including Siberian tigers, grizzly bears, white lions and even an 800-pound alligator once owned by Michael Jackson. The zoo's stated mission is to give homes to abandoned, misplaced and abused animals. On its website, it claims to have rescued more than 1,400 animals and to have placed more than 1,200 in zoos and sanctuaries around the world.

Cotton also said that the massive, EF-5 tornado that ravaged the nearby city of Moore on Monday caused about $18,000 in damage to the zoo, but that no animals were hurt by the tornado.

(Hat tip, HyperVocal)

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