Waccatee Zoological Farm in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has sent their animals to Zootastic Park in Troutman, North Carolina, in an effort to moot a lawsuit brought by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and prevent the animals from being placed at accredited sanctuaries.
Waccatee Zoo was dubbed the worst roadside zoo in America in 2020 due to their animal care. Animals languished in small cages where they incessantly paced and exhibiting signs of mental distress referred to as zoochosis. A tiger named Lila spent years declining in a barren cage on concrete as she lost all her fur until she died last year.
In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture fined Waccatee Zoo $7,800 for animal welfare violations. PETA sued the zoo earlier this year for their inhumane treatment of animals.
Court records indicate PETA was in settlement negotiations with Waccatee Zoo owner Kathleen Futrell when communications suddenly ceased in summer 2022.
Social media posts indicate animals were being moved off the property earlier this week and the zoo sign was removed. Court documents say a number of animals escaped during the transfers and a bison was seen "stumbling and fighting to get away."
Owner Jeff Futrell told News 13 they were closed for remodeling. News 13 wrote that when they asked Jeff if the animals' habitats were impacted by the renovation he was combative.
A social media post made by a zoo supporter, which has since been deleted, indicates Waccatee Zoo has closed permanently. Futrell's U.S. Department of Agriculture license to exhibit animals to the public expired today.
PETA filed an emergency motion for preservation of animals today. The motion indicates that PETA representatives and witnesses obtained evidence that the majority of Waccatee Zoo's animals were transported to Zootastic Park.
Zootastic is a troubled roadside zoo that has repeatedly been cited for egregious violations including monkeys who suffered from frostbite, wolves whose ears were being eaten by maggots, animal escapes, animal attacks on humans, inadequate veterinary care and unsafe and unsanitary animal enclosures.
Court documents indicate the attorney for Waccatee Zoo wrote to PETA after the close of business today, confirming that Waccatee Zoo has permanently closed and transferred the animals to Zootastic.
PETA attorneys noted that Waccatee Zoo's efforts to secretly transfer the animals to another roadside zoo in an effort to moot the lawsuit is similar to efforts seen in other lawsuits including PETA v. Dade City’s Wild Things, Inc. and ALDF v. Special Memories Zoo.
"Defendants’ sudden, secretive transfers of animals—many to an out-of-state roadside zoo of equal disrepute—throws the status of both these animals and this litigation into doubt," court documents say. "In so doing, it appears to be an attempt to frustrate this Court’s ability to provide complete relief under the ESA and South Carolina public nuisance law."
PETA is asking the judge to issue an order preserving any remaining animals and determining the ongoing location and status of the animals at issue.
Download emergency motion for preservation of animals:
Download letter indicating Waccatee Zoo is permanently closed: