On February 11, 2016, in Kuehl v. Cricket Hollow Zoo, Case No. C14-2034, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa ruled that the owners and operators of the Cricket Hollow Zoo, located in rural Manchester, violated the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) take prohibition by failing to provide adequate sanitation and timely veterinary care to tigers, and failing to provide adequate sanitation, in compliance with generally accepted animal husbandry practices, and appropriate environmental enrichment to lemurs under their care. The court reasoned that the omissions caused injury to the animals and constituted “harassment” within the taking provision of the ESA. The court’s determination was supported by expert testimony from Plaintiffs’ witnesses Peter Klopfer, Ph.D., an expert in the behavior and care of lemurs, Jennifer Conrad, D.V.M., and David Allen, an expert in zoo administration. Mr. Allen testified that the zoo was operating at a loss and had insufficient resources to ensure adequate conditions for the animals. The court also considered U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports documenting a history of violations at the facility and eye-witness testimony from the individual plaintiffs.
The court further found that plaintiffs were entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief as the violations were pervasive, long-standing, and ongoing and, therefore, likely to continue. The court ordered the animals to be transferred to a licensed facility and enjoined defendants from acquiring additional animals on the endangered species list without first demonstrating the ability to care for the animals.
Cricket Hollow Zoo is a family-run dairy farm and education facility that obtained an exhibitor’s license from the USDA and a state permit to operate a zoo. The facility houses 300-350 birds and animals, including a cougar, tigers, lions, lemurs and bears.