Roadside zoo week in review April 15, 2022


On April 15 the USDA uploaded a new list of federal violations. Check out this roadside zoo week in review:


On March 31 Christian Kaleta, owner of Predators Reptile Center in Mesa, Arizona, was cited with an Official Warning for failing to supply clean water for guinea pigs to drink. The water bowl was almost empty and was contaminated with feces and bedding. When provided with fresh water, the guinea pigs drank rapidly and continuously for more than a minute.


On March 31 Critter Barn in Zeeland, Michigan, was cited with an Official Warning for failing to provide veterinary care to animals and for failing to provide their animals with adequate shelter from inclement weather. Records indicate a cat that was missing an eye did not receive veterinary treatment. Numerous animals were found to be standing in mud with no bedding in their shelters during freezing temperatures.


On April 6 the USDA revoked the license of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, guinea pig and rabbit breeder Joshua Stoltzfus and he was ordered to pay penalties of $40,000. The findings of fact indicate Bellafonte euthanized a guinea pig using blunt force trauma, failed to provide veterinary care to animals, kept animals in filthy enclosures infested with feces, and failed to maintain records for animals.


On April 6 the USDA revoked the license of Wapakoneta, Ohio, animal exploiter Robert Sawmiller of Wildlife on Wheels and ordered him to pay penalties of $53,600. The 25 page complaint outlines violations dating back to 2010. Documents indicate Sawmiller was consistently uncooperative with APHIS officials, employed delay tactics to avoid inspections and interviews, withheld records and regularly refused to answer questions concerning the care, treatment, location and ownership of the animals in his possession. Sawmiller repeatedly refused to provide veterinary care to animals; in some cases the lack of veterinary care resulted in the animal’s deaths. In 2019 Sawmiller transported five brown bears and two cougars from Cricket Hollow Zoo in Iowa to his Ohio facility to prevent the animals from being placed at sanctuaries. Two of the bears died during transport. In March 2021 the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the USDA for renewing Sawmiller’s license. ALDF agreed to drop their lawsuit after the USDA agreed to cancel Sawmiller’s license.


On April 7 the USDA cited Myakka City, Florida, roadside zoo Bearadise Ranch–owned by Monica Welde and Jennifer Welde Thomas–with an Official Warning for allowing a news reporter to enter a bear enclosure and interact with an adult bear.


On April 7 the USDA cited Sidney Mielke and Diane Mielke of Work Horse Farm Rescue and Exotics in Denton, Maryland, with an Official Warning for failing to obtain veterinary care for a capybara and a prairie dog who both had missing and thinning patches of fur on their bodies.


On April 7 the USDA cited Indian Cliffs Ranch in Fabens, Texas, with an Official Warning for failing to provide veterinary care to their animals. Inspectors found two longhorn cattle with overgrown hooves, a rabbit with an opaque colored eye that kept squinting and a rabbit with a large, red, hairless mass on its side. The facility also had 15 prairie dogs escape that were never recovered.