Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PETA wants Dade City zoo investigated

DADE CITY — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission a letter Thursday asking for an investigation into Dade City's Wild Things attraction. PETA alleged "egregious violations" involved with allowing people to have close encounters with the animals.

Randy Stearns, president and animal trainer at the 22-acre zoo and animal rescue, said PETA has a vendetta against the zoo and its philosophy.

"They spend more on postage stamps," he said, "than we do on our entire budget."

Animal encounters are part of the attraction at Dade City's Wild Things, which boasts these types of activities as well as having more than 200 animals on exhibit and more than 100 species. It's home to Cornelius, better known as the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay.

At the zoo on Thursday, Stearns and his mother, Kathy, the zoo's director, explained their philosophy. They said Wild Things is nonprofit and exists on donations and revenue. They do not get any grants, they said.

They said they started the zoo as a rescue 20 years ago, and they think education about these types of animals is important. They house animals for the duration of their lives and allow people access to species they'd otherwise never get a chance to see.

Kathy Stearns said she understands why some people think these animals should only be in the wild. But the wild is disappearing, she said, and it's important to make sure the animals are taken care of and happy. As for the investigations, she said, she has nothing to hide.

"I get inspected every other month," she said, "and most of the complaints are anonymous."

A primary part of PETA's complaint is that the attraction allows swimming with animals; patrons can pay to swim with baby tigers and small alligators.

"The bottom line is Dade City Wild Things is either ignorant or just doesn't care," said Brittany Peet, a lawyer who represents PETA from Washington, D.C. "We're just asking the FWC to investigate our claim."

Gary Morse, a spokesman for the FWC, said PETA's complaints are "old news," and there are no violations at the zoo. Everything there is within state and federal rules. Morse said the zoo provides a public service by housing and caring for the animals.

"When we seize animals, they help us out," he said. "Without these facilities the wildlife would perish."

PETA may take issue with how the zoo is run ethically, he said, but there are no legal issues. Morse agrees that moving the animals would be more detrimental to them than letting them stay.

"Where would they go?" he said.

Jon Silman can be reached at jsilman@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6229. Follow @Jonsilman1 on Twitter.

PETA wants Dade City zoo investigated 10/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]