Judge Details Parade of Horrors at Maryland Zoo

BALTIMORE (CN) — Slamming the “fetid and dystopic conditions” of a Maryland zoo, a federal judge ordered Thursday that any animals that managed to survive must be transferred to a sanctuary.

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis released her findings following a six-day bench trial in Baltimore between People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Tri-State Zoological Park of Western Maryland.

A federal judge included this documentation of feces and decaying vegetables in kinkajou cages and the aviary in a Thursday ruling that holds the Tri-State Zoological Park of Western Maryland liable for multiple violations of the Endangered Species Act. (Credit: U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland via CNS)

Her 47-page opinion includes more than two dozen pictures of squalor, documented by PETA in a two-year undercover investigation.

“The uncontroverted testimony reflects that every animal at issue suffered under Tri-State’s living conditions,” Xinis wrote.

Among photos of dung-splattered cages and animal necropsies, Xinis noted, “Filth and feces dominate Tri-State.”

“Rotting vegetables spilled over large receptacles, decaying meat sat in piles outside the kitchen and in the furnace room under the nearby reptile house, and decomposing carcasses were left for days in the enclosures for the tigers and lions,” she added.

PETA contends that the conditions it uncovered beginning in 2014 are typical of many private parks. More formal inspections followed before the group filed suit in 2017 under the federal Endangered Species Act. 

“PETA has been fighting for the animals at Tri-State for more than a decade and will now get these survivors moved to an accredited sanctuary as soon as possible,” Brittany Peet, director of captive animal law enforcement for the PETA Foundation, said in an email.

With Judge Xinis refusing to grant the zoo a stay of her ruling, Peet said he has likely saved the lives of the zoo’s remaining big cats.

“Defendants’ protracted and flagrant violations of the ESA render it likely that the remaining protected animals will be irreparably harmed were the court to stay its order pending appeal,” the judge wrote. 

A representative for the zoo did not return a request for comment.

PETA notes that the zoo has faced complaints about its treatment of animals since 2006 when the earliest records of mistreatment were made available.

Beyond concerns about the state of the animals’ pens, Xinis criticized the quality, or lack thereof, of the medical treatment the zoo provided. 

“Tri-State has never provided adequate veterinary care to its lemurs, tigers, and lions,” the judge wrote.

She noted the veterinarian on staff had no formal training with big cats, a fact to which she admitted at trial.

Compounding these failures was the zoo’s lack of record-keeping, which Xinis called key to maintaining the health of such animals. 

“No record exists that any of the Big Cats received routine vaccinations for common and highly communicable diseases,” she wrote, going on to quote the old adage, “If it is not written down, it did not happen.”  

Thursday’s opinion follows a similar win for PETA against Tri-State this past July when Xinis found the zoo responsible for the death of a female tiger, Cayenne.

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