End Roadside Zoos in Pennsylvania

07/16/2015 12:08 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2016

Pennsylvania has a roadside zoo problem that will only get worse if state legislators fail to pass more stringent laws.

For example, an hour's drive from Pittsburgh, in New Castle and Jonas Mills, are two appalling roadside zoos, both named Living Treasures Wild Animal Park. Living Treasures has a history of failing to comply with the federal Animal Welfare Act and has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for:

• Unsafe caging of adult tigers
• Failure to have a veterinarian-approved feeding plan for infant primates, bears, lions, tigers and other animals who have been taken away from their mothers
• Failure to provide veterinary care to sick and lame animals
• Failure to provide animals with adequate shelter during bitterly cold winter weather
• Failure to have an adequate veterinary care program, such as tuberculosis testing for primates
• Filthy conditions, unsanitary food storage, inadequate perimeter fencing and repeatedly failing to provide primates with sufficient lighting in indoor cages.

A concerned family visiting the park on July 2 was shocked to see a lion cub who was obviously in pain. They were told by a staffer that the cub had been attacked by his father. They took a video, which has been posted online. Living Treasures is now claiming that the lion was born with a "mental disability."

Living Treasures not only confines majestic lions, camels, primates, giraffes, and other large animals in tiny spaces, the owners want to open a third facility in Liberty County to do more of the same, despite concerns from residents about safety, privacy, potential water contamination, and traffic.

Living Treasures boasts its affiliation with the Zoological Association of America. That may sound impressive, but is actually meaningless and deceptive. The ZAA is a small fringe group with weak standards that endorses poorly run roadside zoos and allows the public to have unsafe contact with dangerous wild animals - it should not be confused with the highly credible and professional Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

In 2009, ZAA accredited another Pennsylvania menagerie that went out of business just two and a half years after it opened. Calling itself the Bucks County Zoo could not hide the fact that the facility was nothing more than a collection of caged animals--including primates and a tiger cub--displayed inside a warehouse at an industrial park.

A miserable black bear named Ricky was displayed in a small barren cage at a York ice cream parlor for years. Earlier this year after concerned citizens filed a lawsuit, Ricky's owner agreed to transfer her to a sanctuary, but no laws prevent similar absurd novelty displays from popping up elsewhere in the state.

Caging wild animals in substandard conditions is not only inhumane, it's dangerous. In 2007, a young woman was attacked by a Himalayan bear during a tour at the now-defunct Woodland Zoo & More in Farmington. And in 2011, an employee of the Lake Tobias Wildlife Park in Halifax Township was attacked by a 450-pound tiger and sustained a severe injury to her arm that required reconstructive surgery.

More than 72 percent of Trip Advisor reviews rank Animaland Zoo in Wellsboro as "poor" or "terrible." Tourists are disgusted by sad animals living in desolate and foul-smelling conditions.

The Humane Society of the United States will continue to raise awareness about the horrific conditions that animals in roadside zoos are forced to endure as well as urge the Pennsylvania state legislature to enact stronger laws to address problems at these facilities.

Until this happens, we urge the public not to patronize these attractions. Places that fail to treat animals humanely are not worthy of our support.