One year ago today a Facebook post made by a former Special Memories Zoo employee went viral with over 1,600 shares. That post sparked the idea for Roadside Zoo News. That post gave us hope that people were ready to listen. It gave us hope that people weren’t going to allow the type of animal cruelty that occurs at roadside zoos to continue. Most importantly, it gave us hope that we could use social media as a tool to share the stories of the employees, volunteers and animals that suffer at these horrible places. It has been a constant uphill battle but we promise that in the end, we will persevere because we will not stop demanding humane treatment for the innocent animals imprisoned at roadside zoos.
This is too insane to believe. I took these pictures today of the barn at the Special Memories Zoo (SMZ) winter quarters. It apparently caught fire last week and many animals reportedly died.
As many of you know I worked at SMZ from October 2014 to April 2015. I quit and reported them to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) who later did an inspection and cited them for animal welfare violations. After they received the USDA violations the zoo falsely reported a baby kangaroo and four baby goats as stolen and sent the police after me. They also tried to sue me for sharing the pictures of the dead animals.
Check out this timeline I came up with -- if this isn’t some Joe Exotic craziness I don’t know what is!
2000-SMZ opens to the public.
2008-Outagamie Sheriff’s office receives information from three confidential informants that between August 2008 and December 2008 60% of the animals at SMZ died and were buried on the property. The informants claimed some of the animals were killing each other because they were starving to death.
08/2014-Zoo is cited for failing to remove feces from a fisher enclosure resulting in excrement a foot wide and 6 inches tall which appeared wet and soiled.
10/2014-I’m hired at the zoo.
02/2015-Animals begin dying. Hundreds of birds die and are left to rot. Many animals starve to death in squalid conditions. Only two employees are caring for the entire zoo with the animals residing at two separate locations about 7 miles apart.
4/27/2015-I get home from SMZ and file an animal neglect report with the USDA along with pictures of all the dead animals. I also contacted the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
4/28/2015-I notify zookeeper Gretchen Crowe I am quitting and turn in my keys.
5/4/2015-USDA completes inspection based on my report and cites zoo for failing to provide water to animals, failing to clean cages resulting in completely soiled enclosures with no dry places to lay down, rodent feces contaminating feeding areas and piles of feces that appeared to have mold growing on them.
5/6/2015-SMZ reports a baby kangaroo and four baby goats stolen and sends the police after me. Officers interrogate me and search my job, my landlord’s apartment and my parent’s farm.
5/27/2015-G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma, the same zoo featured in Tiger King, has a fire killing 7 alligators and a crocodile.
5/28/2015-Violations found at SMZ on May 8 finally receive media coverage thanks to help from the HSUS. Coverage was delayed due to media reporting on the missing goats and kangaroo.
06/2015-SMZ begins making all employees sign a document agreeing not to take any photographs.
06/2015-SMZ sends me a cease and desist letter, threatening to sue me for slander.
02/2016-An employee is bitten by a bear. USDA cites SMZ for failing to adequately train employees.
04/2016-USDA files an official warning against SMZ for failing to provide water to primates, failing to have enough trained employees, failing to maintain adequate husbandry practices, failing to have an adequate perimeter fence, and failing to remove excreta from enclosures in a timely manner.
2017-SMZ obtains three 2-week-old lion cubs from G.W. Zoo a.k.a. Joe Exotic, in Oklahoma.
06/2017-PETA sends complaint to USDA regarding the illegal interstate transfer of the three lion cubs SMZ obtained from G.W. Zoo.
11/2017-04/30/2018-Current employees document neglect and report to the HSUS and ALDF. HSUS sends a letter to the USDA urging them to complete an inspection.
05/07/2018-USDA completes inspection, finds no non-compliance issues. Employees who reported neglect are fired.
11/2018-Country music star Tanya Tucker visits SMZ during the off-season, likely as an undercover informant for the ALDF, and takes photographs documenting neglect. The zoo owners were fans of Tucker and had named a tiger after her.
04/2019-Tanya Tucker and ALDF begin a campaign to shut down SMZ.
09/2019-ALDF files intent to sue SMZ for violations of endangered species act, offers to rehome all animals at no charge.
09/2019-03/2020-SMZ begins rehoming as many animals as possible.
02/2020-ALDF files 37 page complaint against SMZ in federal court.
03/18/2020-SMZ files response to complaint, denying all charges. SMZ says the majority of the zoo’s animals have already been rehomed and they plan on only keeping some farm animals and a camel due to the poor health of the zoo’s owner.
03/20/2020-Documentary Tiger King is released, outlining the many issues at roadside zoos. SMZ purchased lion cubs from G.W. Zoo, featured in Tiger King, in 2017. In one episode a building catches fire killing 7 alligators and a crocodile. It is suggested Joe Exotic may have had a role in the blaze.
03/24/2020-Mysterious barn fire occurs at SMZ. Former employees report prior to the blaze additional animals were moved into the barn. Animals reportedly burned alive include a black buck, pigs, goats, chickens, nilgai, alpaca, camel and zebu.