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'Worst roadside zoo in America' will never reopen, per settlement

PETA settled a lawsuit with the operators of a Myrtle Beach zoo who agree not to collect animals ever again.
'Worst roadside zoo in America' will never reopen, per settlement
Posted at 9:53 AM, Aug 31, 2023

The owners of a roadside zoo in South Carolina that closed in 2022 settled a court case with PETA by agreeing not to reopen the zoo. 

PETA had dubbed the Waccatee Zoo in Myrtle Beach the "worst roadside zoo in America."

PETA said the owners of the Waccatee Zoo agreed not to own or exhibit wild and exotic animals, breed domestic animals or exploit them for profit, or work or volunteer at other roadside zoos. 

“This victory blocks Waccatee’s operators from ever again mistreating wild animals as they did for decades,” said Brittany Peet, PETA general counsel for captive animal law enforcement. “PETA is delighted to see the survivors thriving in their new sanctuary home and will continue to ask everyone to help us advocate for all animals still trapped in roadside zoos by never patronizing such operations.”

SEE MORE: Ohio official used town funds to buy a wildebeest for his roadside zoo

The Waccatee Zoo said it started over 20 years ago as a private collection of exotic and domestic animals. The collection grew to over 500 acres that included 100 species of animals. 

"You'll be closer to animals than you'd imagine you could be," the zoo said.

PETA said more than 460 animals lived at the zoo "in conditions in which they were deprived of appropriate veterinary care and other necessities." 

In 2021, PETA sent a letter to owner Kathleen Futrell demanding answers about a tiger that went missing that PETA presumed had died. 

"Over the course of the past year, Lila lost all of her fur except for a small patch on her face. She also had a severely hunched back and an abnormal gait, consistent with painful osteoarthritis," Michelle Sinnott, PETA's associate director of captive animal law enforcement, wrote to Futrell in 2021. "By December of last year, Lila’s condition was dire. She was bald, she had lost a significant amount of weight, and she had poor muscle condition, consistent with muscle wasting. Based on her condition, it appeared Lila was not receiving appropriate veterinary care. It now appears that Lila is missing, and we can only presume that she has died after suffering for years in the dismal conditions at your roadside zoo."

SEE MORE: Tiger dies in 'freak accident' at Colorado zoo

"This isn’t the first time you’ve failed to adequately provide for the animals at your facility," Sinnott added. "Chico the chimpanzee, a highly social species, lived in solitary confinement for nearly 30 years until his untimely death in 2015. You refused to allow Chico to go to an accredited sanctuary and assuming she’s died, you’ve now failed Lila too."

In April 2023, PETA announced it had in its possession nine remaining animals from the zoo, including a llama, two black bears and six emus. PETA said the two bears were thin and had a chronic skin condition. 

“Waccatee spent years exploiting vulnerable animals and allowing suffering ones to languish in cramped enclosures, but now these survivors will get the care they so desperately need and deserve,” said Peet. “Thanks to the lawsuit by PETA and concerned citizens as well as the sanctuary provided by [The Wild Animal Sanctuary], this shoddy roadside zoo has been shuttered and animals have been saved.”

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