The Tri-State Zoological Park in Cumberland, Maryland, has appealed the decision

By Helen Murphy
January 02, 2020 02:59 PM
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A small zoo in Maryland has been ordered by a judge to give up three of its big cats after several animals died at the facility, multiple outlets report.

The Tri-State Zoological Park in Cumberland, Maryland, was sued by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in 2017 after the organization conducted undercover inspections, according to the Associated Press.

The outlet reports that four animals — two tigers, a lion and a lemur — have died within the last three years at the zoo.

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sided with PETA last week after a six-day trial, and the zoo was ordered to give up two surviving lions and a tiger to a sanctuary, the Washington Post reported.

In Xinis’ written opinion, the judge reportedly wrote that the zoo kept animals in “fetid and dystopic conditions,” adding that “filth and feces dominate” in the facility.

According to the Post, Xinis also wrote that the zoo engaged in “flagrant and persistent violations” of the Endangered Species Act.

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

The AP reports that the zoo appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. While the case is under appeal, the animals will remain at the zoo, the outlet reported.

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Nevin Young, an attorney for the zoo, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment, but told the AP that the zoo planned to file a motion to stay the court’s order.

“I agree that the judge’s finding of facts don’t look good based on the unopposed testimony from PETA experts,” Young told the AP. “I think a lot of statements they made are false.”

PETA celebrated the news in a press release after the judge’s decision.

“This landmark ruling sends Tri-State and every other roadside zoo a clear message that keeping social species in isolation and sentencing sick animals to slow, painful deaths will not be tolerated,” Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, said in a statement.

“For more than a decade, PETA has fought tooth and nail for the animals at Tri-State, and we’re pleased that the court has given these survivors a new lease on life,” the statement continued.

According to the AP, one of the zoo’s lions was euthanized in 2016 after suffering from an unknown disease, while the lemur died in 2018 after a respiratory infection and “chronic stress.” One of the two deceased tigers died in 2019 of a stroke, while the other died in 2019 of sepsis.