Defamed by Humane Society, Zoo Owner Says

     MIAMI (CN) – Radical activists with the Humane Society defamed a Miami zoo owner by bringing up his past conviction for cutting a federal informant into pieces with a machete, the man claims in court.
     Mario Tabraue says the defamatory statement appeared in the Humane Society of the United States’ report on zoos accredited by the Zoological Association of America, which competes with the larger organization that the Humane Society of the United States endorses, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
     Under the heading “Problems with The Zoological Association of America facilities and members,” the publication states that “Tabraue was released from prison in the year 2000 after serving only 12 years of a 100-year sentence,” according to the complaint filed on Aug. 12 in circuit court.
     The report purportedly quotes a federal agent as calling Tabraue a “ruthless and violent drug dealer,” adding that “he had been charged in a federal racketeering indictment that included murder, drug trafficking, corruption and obstruction of justice.”
     “Tabraue used a machete and circular saw to cut up the body of a murdered federal informant,” the report states, according to the complaint.
     In his lawsuit, Miami-based Tabraue emphasizes the next part of the report, which says, “before his arrest, Tabraue used an exotic animal business as a front for his drug trafficking.”
     The italicized statement “is false,” the complaint states.
     Tabraue says this statement also “falsely imputes” that his organization, Zoological Wildlife Foundation, “was, and still is, being used as a front for illegal activity.”
     An appendix attached to the society’s report allegedly lists “facilities that HSUS contends committed acts of animal cruelty, including animal slaughtering.”
     “By listing Mr. Tabraue and ZWF among these accusations, HSUS implies that Mr. Tabraue is incapable of caring for animals, and that ZWF is not a reputable zoo,” the complaint states, abbreviating the name of the zoo Tabraue co-founded. “These implications are also false.”
     Indeed, Tabraue “has devoted his adult life to the care and advocacy of endangered animals, including the rescue, rehabilitation and release of Florida native wildlife,” the complaint states.
     Tabraue emphasizes that some describe the Washington, D.C.-Humane Society of the United States “as a radical animal rights group that inaccurately portrays itself as a mainstream animal care organization.”
     Neither Tabraue nor his zoo “did anything to become a HSUS focal point in its smear campaign against ZAA,” the competing accreditation organization, according to the complaint.
     “While ZWF’s owner, Mr. Tabraue, was convicted of drug-related crimes 30 years ago, he served his time, and operates ZWF in the best interests of the animals under his care,” the complaint states.
     Tabraue and his zoo seek damages for defamation and violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
     They are represented by Diana Fitzgerald with Fitzgerald & Isaacson.
     The Humane Society of the United States Inc. did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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