Read the original article Lynsi Burton at komonews.com here.
A popular drive-through game farm in Sequim, Washington was sued last weekfor allegedly violating federal and state endangered species laws with its confinement and neglect of protected animals.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund said the Olympic Game Farm doesn’t provide adequate nutritional or veterinary care to its more than 200 animals and that they don’t offer enough space or stimulating activities for them.
Meanwhile, The Cavalry Group, a Missouri-based animal business and ownership advocacy group representing the Olympic Game Farm, said the Animal Legal Defense Fund is “bullying” the business through legal action and calls them “a radical group of animal rights extremists.”
Olympic Game Farm, located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, was a former holding area for animal actors employed by Walt Disney Studios, known as Disney’s Wild Animal Ranch, according to its website. Its animals were used in productions such as “Charlie the Lonesome Cougar,” “The Incredible Journey,” “White Wilderness,” and “Grizzly Adams.”
But, after the death of Walt and Roy Disney, and their company’s departure from producing nature films, the property was opened to the public in 1972 as Olympic Game Farm. Though the animals are no longer meant to be actors, some have still appeared in recent films, such as “Captain Fantastic” and a National Geographic documentary, according to the business.
But the farm primarily runs as an animal exhibitor that welcomes drive-through tourists. Visitors can purchase bread upon entry and feed it to the animals, who may approach their cars or even duck their heads in through windows.
The lawsuit said that Olympic Game Farm has been cited several times by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for inadequate care of its animals and that it defies endangered species laws by confining protected animals.
Moreover, it’s not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the complaint pointed out. That carries legal implications, attorney Daniel Waltz said, because zoos that aren’t accredited are not allowed by state law to possess animals found at the Olympic Game Farm, such as Roosevelt elk.
Other Washington zoos such as Woodland Park Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, the Seattle Aquarium and Northwest Trek are accredited businesses, according to the AZA database.
“OGF’s (Olympic Game Farm’s) ongoing mistreatment and demonstrated inability to provide proper care for the animals on its property, including, but not limited to gray wolves, brown bears, lions, tigers, and Canada lynx, demonstrated that OGF is unfit to property care for its animals,” the Animal Legal Defense Fund wrote in the lawsuit. “Not only have OGF’s failures harmed the animals physically and psychologically, but they harm the general public at large.”
Waltz on Wednesday said the Animal Legal Defense Fund learned of the conditions at Olympic Game Farm from members of the fund and visitors who contacted it and raised alarm.
The lawsuit argued that USDA citations in the past several years pointed out issues such as improper nutrition, disrepair at the facilities, unsanitary food preparation areas and the farm’s failure to supervise contact between the animals and their visitors.
The complaint described a 2001 incident in which a 3-year-old child was dragged from his parents’ car by a zebra while trying to feed llamas and required 10 stitches.
A Kitsap Sun story reported that the game farm gave the boy a Band-Aid.
A 2017 USDA inspection report indicated that a 4-year-old coyote named Koda and 9-year-old lynx named Persia went untreated for leg injuries. A 24-year-old brown bear named Marsha was also not given her arthritis medication, even 15 months after the medication was prescribed.
Koda was also spotted pacing inside his shelter, indicating “physical or psychological issues,” according to the USDA report. Several other animals of different species commonly pace in their enclosures at Olympic Game Farm, the lawsuit claimed.
The same USDA report said the facility did not have a written record of the animals in its custody and that the enclosures for the three tigers and a coyote were in disrepair.
The USDA, in recent years, also advised the zoo to offer animals a more species-appropriate snack than bread.
The agency in 2004 reportedly cited the farm after staff shot a cougar named “Teo” with a broken hind leg as a means of euthanasia.
Additionally, the lawsuit argued that the zoo offers no protection from heat for the bears and no refuge from the cold for its lions and other animals used to warmer temperatures.
The complaint also outlined specific suffering among gray wolves, brown bears, tigers and Canada lynx.
For example, at least one of the tigers exhibited “lameness in his back legs” and another tiger, named Amadeus, allegedly lay sick and dying in late 2017 or early 2018, but was still displayed to the public with a sign reading, “Animal is under veterinarian care.”
Brown bears also engage in “an abnormal behavior that resembles waving,” the lawsuit said.
A brown bear was spotted at the farm in September with a fresh gash about 5 inches long on its back, the complaint continued.
The Cavalry Group claims Olympic Game Farm asked them to distribute a public statement refuting the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s claims.
A Dec. 19 statement said the lawsuit made “outrageous unfounded claims damaging the defendants’ reputation” and that the complaint “is the ultimate bullying using the courts as a weapon.”
“If they get their way, you and your family may never get to see, much less interact with domestic, wild and exotic animals in the near future in addition to making your steak and chicken unaffordable,” The Cavalry Group’s statement says.
The group says Olympic Game Farm and “true conservation of wild animals” are “the victim.”
Despite the citations throughout the year, Olympic Game Farm remains accredited by the USDA as an animal exhibitor.
The farm also houses peacocks, rabbits, domestic goats, a miniature donkey, prairie dogs, yaks, deer, black bears, mountain lion, emus and bison.