TACOMA, Washington – A Tacoma petting zoo that offered close visits with otters, sloths, and other exotic animals was recently fined by the US Department of Agriculture for mistreating animals and allowing to dozens of people to be injured during these visits, according to the archives.
The failures of City Goat Farm and Zoo between April 2019 and February 2020 led to nearly 80 people injured “of varying degrees of severity” during animal encounters, according to a quote from the USDA.
The quote also pointed to the deaths of two animals, a sloth and a type of anteater called tamandua, as the result of failure “to demonstrate adequate experience and knowledge of the species they support.” A fennec fox in the zoo’s care was also said to have been so badly injured that he had to have a leg amputated.
Posted on July 27, the quote lists seven animal welfare law violations related to animal handling, structural strength of petting zoo facilities, and record keeping. The fine is $ 7,500.
When the incidents allegedly took place, City Goat Farm and Zoo operated an indoor petting zoo at 120 138th St. S. in Tacoma and an outdoor farm in Spanaway. The business was split in June when Malisa Cloud took over the indoor petting zoo from former owner Donald Miller.
Cloud, now owner of Debbie Dolittle’s Animal Experience, said she no longer had exotic animals such as otters and sloths at the indoor petting zoo. She said the animals have been moved to Miller’s outdoor farm where people can still visit otters and other animals.
The indoor petting zoo received media attention in 2020 as he struggled to stay financially afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. Q13 Fox reported this owner at the time, Miller, was in debt of $ 200,000.
Miller said that when contacted by the USDA he was given a choice between losing his license and a fine which he said started at $ 11,500 which he was able to negotiate up to $ 7,500. . Miller said staff at the petting zoo go over the rules with visitors for interacting with animals multiple times to try to protect them. He said sometimes people still don’t listen and get bitten.
Miller said no petting zoo plans to kill animals in its care.
“It’s not what you want to do,” Miller said. “You are there to appreciate them and let the public enjoy and educate with them. When something like that happens, it devastates everyone. “
Zoosanitary and Phytosanitary Inspection Service inspectors discovered the sloth’s death during an inspection on December 10, 2019. The sloth, Malia, died on October 26, 2019 after falling from a climbing structure, according to the report. quote.
An autopsy of the sloth revealed that the cause of death was blunt trauma to the head. According to the quote, the autopsy also found that the sloth was suffering from “severe wasting,” had signs of chronic stress, and signs of older bruises on the body not associated with the sloth’s fall.
“The results were found to be consistent with mishandling, neglect and ignorance of animal care,” the quote reads.
The death of the tamandua was discovered during an inspection on July 2, 2019. The animal died on June 27, 2019. According to the quote, the petting zoo did not quarantine the animal after taking possession of it. . The animal is also said to have suffered weight loss and has never been examined by a veterinarian.
Miller disputed that the animal was never examined by a veterinarian. He said the petting zoo has a veterinarian on staff who examines the animals every week. Miller said the petting zoo only had possession of the tamandua six or seven days before he died.
“We got there one morning, and it was just dead,” Miller said.
A month later, inspectors learned that a loose metal ramp designed for ferrets was being used in a fennec three fox pen. According to the quote, a female fennec fox suffered an open fractured leg and had to have a limb amputated.
The allegations list three incidents where customers were bitten by otters or capybaras. In an incident with an otter, the bite broke the skin and spilled blood.
Photos on the company’s Facebook page show people petting otters lounging on a towel in their lap. Allegations in the quote related to animal mishandling indicate that the establishment has failed to minimize the risk of harm to the animal and customers by providing barriers or sufficient distance between people and animals.
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