In a Win for Zuckerman Spaeder Client PETA, Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Against Maryland Zoo that Violated the Endangered Species Act
After a six-day bench trial in the fall of 2019, a Maryland federal district court ruled on behalf of Zuckerman Spaeder client People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. (PETA) that Tri-State Zoological Park of Western Maryland, Inc., its owner and operator Robert L. Candy, and an associated entity Animal Park, Care & Rescue, Inc., violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in their treatment of several threatened and endangered animals. On Friday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, which had forced the zoo to transfer a lion and two tigers to a Colorado sanctuary and permanently barred the zoo from possessing any other animals protected under the ESA.
“This case sends a strong message that roadside zoo operators who fail to provide adequate veterinary care, nutrition, shelter and enrichment to the world’s most vulnerable animals will be held to account, ” said Zuckerman Spaeder partner Marcos Hasbun who, along with partner Adam Abelson, represents PETA. “Working with PETA, we will continue to ensure that such animals receive the protections to which they are legally entitled.”
The district court decision found that Cumberland, MD-based Tri-State and its owner Robert Candy committed “flagrant and persistent violations of the ESA.” From December 2016, when Zuckerman Spaeder and PETA gave notice of the lawsuit, through the start of the trial in 2019, five of the nine ESA-protected animals at issue had died. According to the court ruling, these animals shared “frighteningly similar experiences…all lived in squalid conditions, languished with no enrichment, [and] failed to receive preventative care…”
The Fourth Circuit rejected all arguments made by Tri-State in its appeal, including that PETA did not have standing to bring the lawsuit. Separately, Zuckerman Spaeder and PETA have brought a new civil complaint against Tri-State to obtain relief for more than 100 other animals at the zoo that are not protected under the ESA. On January 21, 2021, a Maryland district court rejected Tri-State’s attempt to dismiss that lawsuit.