The day after a fire burned alive more than 35 animals at a roadside zoo, and exposed another 18 decaying animal corpses unrelated to the fire, Jordan Patch of Animal Adventure Park was one of several roadside zoo owners purchasing animals from Special Memories Zoo.
Before the burned and decaying corpses were even removed from the Special Memories Zoo property, the surviving animals were quickly being sold in an attempt to deflect the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit against the zoo. The animal welfare group's lawsuit sought to place the zoo’s animals at accredited sanctuaries.
Jordan Patch did business with Gretchen Crowe, a zookeeper who has been cited for leaving animals in filthy enclosures and for depriving animals of water so severely that after their empty water bottles were filled the primates completely emptied them, and after being filled a second time, all of the primates immediately began drinking the bottles again, according to USDA inspection reports. Several former zoo employees have shared photos of decaying animal corpses at Special Memories Zoo, claiming Crowe starved the animals to death.
The barn located on the Special Memories Zoo’s winter property burned down on the evening of March 24, 2020. Authorities could not determine the cause of the fire, but arson was not ruled out. Both of the elderly zoo owners and Crowe were home on the evening of the fire, only a short distance from the burning barn. 35 animals were killed. Officers discovered an additional 18 decaying animals not involved in the fire that Crowe admitted she hadn’t checked on in nearly three months.
Special Memories Zoo is now permanently closed. Owner Gene Wheeler has passed away and his wife Dona and zookeeper Crowe have been permanently banned from owning or exhibiting animals again, or working with any organization that has animals.
Wisconsin certificates of veterinary inspection indicate the day after the barn fire, March 25, Animal Adventure Park purchased two aoudads from Special Memories Zoo and had them shipped from Wisconsin to New York. The veterinarian who signed the veterinary inspection forms is Dr. Thomas Young. Young is under review by the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association for allegedly covering for the zoo's animal neglect, allowing Crowe to go unpunished for her animal cruelty.
The shipping company Animal Adventure Park used also purchased numerous other animals from Special Memories Zoo, including a goffin cockatoo named Peaches whose former owner has been searching for her. One transfer document for two Siberian lynx, five lizards and two snakes first lists the address of Animal Adventure Park as the purchaser, which is then crossed out and replaced with the address of the shipping company. It is possible that some of those animals may have been purchased by Animal Adventure Park at the time the aoudads were being delivered.
According to the Animal Adventure Park Facebook page, the roadside zoo is an “Environmental Conservation Organization.” However, purchasing animals from shady roadside zoos known for animal cruelty, while supporting that roadside zoo’s attempt to prevent the animals from going to a sanctuary, does nothing to conserve the environment and only serves to incentivize the sale and trade of exotic animals.
Wisconsin Certificates of Veterinary Inspection