A visitor to Ponds & Plants in Dayton, TN, photographed the conditions at the roadside zoo that has received 18 U.S. Department of Agriculture violations in the past year.
Ponds & Plants is owned by David Manser.
The facility’s website describes it as part botanical garden, part pet store, part zoo, part playground, part wildlife refuge, and part sculpture garden.
Manser also builds zoo enclosures for other facilities. His website lists Zoo Knoxville, San Diego Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, San Antonio Zoo, Fort Worth Zoo, the Tennessee Aquarium and others as his clients.
Manser is currently awaiting trial on child rape and incest charges for allegedly sexually assaulting two children under the age of 13 from 2007-2009. Rhea county District Attorney General Mike Taylor said Manser’s case is set for trial in May 2022.
In February, the USDA inspected Ponds & Plants and cited Manser with five violations.
The inspector found that two marmosets were living in an enclosure that was so filthy that it was attracting a “cloud” of flies, according to the report.
The marmosets were being fed a diet of shrimp or deli turkey, cheese, produce, marshmallows and half of a TUMS tablet. TUMS tablets are an antacid used to treat heartburn. The inspector said the facility needed to contact their veterinarian and develop a diet that is appropriate for the species.
The water receptacle for the prairie dogs was covered in dried mud and the water was a discolored green brown with debris floating on top. The water receptacle for the African Crested porcupine contained opaque brown water.
The inspector found the enclosure for the prairie dogs, cavy and an African Crested porcupine did not have the USDA required perimeter fence to act as a secondary containment measure if the animals were to escape.
The facility was also cited with a repeat violation for failing to maintain adequate records for the animals they acquired and disposed of since the last USDA inspection.
The USDA conducted another inspection of Ponds & Plants in May and cited Manser with three more violations.
The inspector found the facility had still failed to update and maintain adequate records for their animals.
Ponds & Plants had made no changes to build a perimeter fence as required and an enclosure housing pigs was in need of repair.
In July, the USDA re-inspected Ponds & Plants and found nine violations.
The inspector found the facility was still failing to maintain records for numerous animals they had acquired and disposed of.
Several rabbits, guinea pigs and marmosets were housed outdoors with no climate control in temperatures that reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the USDA inspection report.
The marmosets were again found in filthy conditions with a roach and multiple flies in the enclosure. The food supplies for the marmosets were not being stored in a manner that prevents contamination and deterioration and the inspector found the shelves and walls of the refrigerators were dirty and coated with brown grime.
A porcupine enclosure was filled with old corn cobs, food waste and enrichment wastes that were causing an odor, documents indicate.
The concrete pond which also acts as a water source for the pigs was a bright green color due to contamination by algae, dirt and mud. The inspector noted that “some types of algae may be toxic to animals.”
The facility had still made no changes to meet USDA requirements that their enclosure be surrounded by a secondary perimeter fence.
In October, the USDA attempted another inspection at Ponds & Plants but was unable to complete an inspection. The inspector left a phone and email message and cited Manser for not having a responsible adult available to accompany the inspector, documents indicate.
Roadside zoos that do not want to be inspected by the USDA simply ignore the inspector's calls. The noncritical violation they receive for missing the inspection is often much less severe than the violations they would receive if the USDA were to complete an inspection.
A visitor to Ponds & Plants shared photos of the conditions for the various animals under Manser’s care.
To report Ponds & Plants visit https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/complaint-form
Information for your complaint:
USDA license number: 63-B-0183
Ponds & Plants February 2021 USDA inspection report:
Ponds & Plants May 2021 USDA inspection report:
Ponds & Plants July 2021 USDA inspection report:
Ponds & Plants October 2021 USDA inspection report: