Protecting Endangered Species

PETA logo

Zuckerman Spaeder represents People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in two separate federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) citizen-suits against roadside zoos for allegedly harming and harassing endangered species. The team representing PETA is led by partners Marcos E. Hasbun and Adam Abelson along with partner Conor B. O’Croinin and counsel Justin A. Cochran.

In the case against the Tri-State Zoological Park of Western Maryland, Inc., PETA alleged the zoo violated the ESA by failing to provide, among other things, adequate veterinary care, shelter, enrichment, and nutrition to tigers, lions, and lemurs. After a six-day bench trial in November, 2019, the Court agreed, finding in a comprehensive opinion that, in the three years prior, five endangered species “died early and tragic deaths,” and that the surviving protected species, together with those that died, had been “harassed, harmed, or both in a most grievous fashion” in the zoo’s “fetid and dystopic conditions.” The Court ordered the surviving protected animals transferred to a reputable sanctuary, and permanently enjoined the zoo from owning or possessing any endangered or threatened species.  This ruling helps ensure that vulnerable, captive protected species receive the heightened protections to which they are entitled under the ESA. The zoo’s appeal is pending.

Tiger in a cage

In an unrelated ESA suit pending in Florida, PETA alleged that Dade City’s Wild Things (DCWT) violates the ESA by, among other things, prematurely separating tiger cubs from their mothers, forcing cubs to have contact with the public, and transporting adult tigers and cubs in a manner that harms them. After PETA proved during a two-day evidentiary hearing that DCWT had engaged in serious discovery violations, which  the Court found “confounding,” “brazen,” and “rare in the judicial system,” the Court ordered entry of a default judgment in PETA’s favor, dismissal of DCWT’s counterclaims with prejudice, and the award of PETA’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses for DCWT’s failure to comply with the Court’s discovery orders.  Further, the Court permanently enjoined DCWT from owning or possessing any endangered tigers. 

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