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. Why not Kaepernick?: Ryan Fitzpatrick could be ‘Earl Morrall to Jameis Winston’s Bob Griese’

    Blogs

    As the football world continues to question the Bucs’ motives for signing Ryan Fitzpatrick over Colin Kaepernick as Jameis Winston’s backup, veteran NFL writer Rick Gosselin weighs in with this post titled “The Bucs are playing a mind …

    The Bucs want Ryan Fitzpatrick to mentor Jameis Winston.
  2. Mitch McConnell: Trump presidency 'indistinguishable' from what Bush or Rubio would advocate

    Blogs

    "What the administration is doing, not only am I comfortable with it, but I think the vast majority of Republicans in Congress feel that this is a right-of-center presidency, which is what we had hoped.

  3. 'Modern Family' star Sarah Hyland denies anorexia accusation

    Blogs

    Modern Family star Sarah Hyland says her skinny appearance lately is due to a medical condition.

    Sarah Hyland attends the 2nd Annual InStyle Awards at The Getty Center in Los Angeles in October. Hyland posted on social media May 24, 2017, that her skinny appearance lately is due to a medical condition.
  4. Ryan, other Republicans call on Gianforte to 'apologize' for 'mistake'

    Blogs

    MISSOULA, Mont. - Leading Republicans criticized Greg Gianforte on Thursday, the morning after the Republican candidate in Montana's special congressional election was given a court date and citation for allegedly assaulting a reporter.

    Greg Gianforte, right, receives congratulations from a supporter in Helena, Mont., in March.
  5. Mel and Betty Sembler's Drug Free America Foundation calls for special marijuana session

    Blogs

    An unlikely voice has joined the drug policy activists calling on Florida lawmakers to come back in special session focused on medical marijuana: The Drug Free America Foundation, which opposes medical marijuana and whose founders spent nearly $10 million trying to kill the 2014 and 2016 constitutional amendments to …

    Mel and Betty Sembler, pictured in 2011.