Cricket Hollow Zoo license temporarily suspended by USDA; reasons for shutdown remain unknown

Federal officials have suspended the license of Cricket Hollow Zoo, the "roadside" zoo near Manchester, Iowa, which has been cited repeatedly for animal welfare violations over the past five years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) June 16 placed the zoo under a 21-day suspension. No explanation was given for the suspension, and calls and emails to USDA officials were not immediately returned. The suspension is to expire today, July 7.

The zoo, owned and run by Pamela and Tom Sellner, has been the target of animal welfare groups concerned with the treatment of the more than 300 animals ranging from lions and tigers to lemurs and primates at the facility.

USDA inspectors have cited the zoo for dozens of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations since 2010, but Iowa ag department inspectors who have accompanied the federal veterinarians have yet to cite the facility for any problems. Both the USDA and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship license the zoo annually.

In recent depositions filed in a lawsuit against the zoo in federal court in Iowa, a large animal vet with years of experience in caring for lions, tigers and wolves, called the zoo's veterinarian care "woefully inadequate." A nationally recognized expert on lemurs working at the Duke University Lemur Center said the housing conditions for lemurs at the zoo "should never be permitted."

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