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These Tourist Traps are the Pits

Posted by at 2:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)


If your family is planning a vacation in the waning weeks of summer, there is an easy way to save time and gas and avoid bringing home awful memories: Simply drive past decrepit roadside zoos and other cruel tourist traps that use animals. Vacationers with money to spend keep these archaic exhibits in business, and animals will continue to suffer and die as long as people heed the call of highway billboards and pull over.

I’ll never forget my own family’s summer trip through Tennessee. Growing restless in the back seat of the car, my sisters and I nagged our dad to stop and see the Three Bears Gift Shop in the Pigeon Forge tourist area. That stop became family lore about how our trip ended with three girls bawling their eyes out after seeing depressed, mouldy-looking bears in concrete pits being pelted with food. Decades later, Three Bears still exists, and another generation of bears is living in the same deprived conditions. Take my word for it: Don’t go.

Bears in the Cherokee area of North Carolina are in similarly abysmal conditions. Three roadside zoos—Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park and Santa’s Land—display neurotic, hungry bears in desolate concrete pits or cramped cages in which they pace back and forth, walk in endless circles, cry, whimper and beg for tourists to toss them a morsel of food. Bears are intelligent, curious and energetic. They enjoy digging, constructing cozy nests, climbing and searching out berries and other treats. The bears in Cherokee’s zoos have nothing to do but walk a few steps or sleep on a concrete floor.

The otherwise glorious destination of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is marred by a place called T.I.G.E.R.S. This outfit rips baby animals away from their frantic mothers to be used as photo props. Do not be fooled by any claims of altruism—it’s all about the money. The operator of this roadside zoo also hauls animals around the country. Last year, an adult tiger escaped, and some years earlier, a lion mauled a model during a photo session.

If you’re thinking of heading to Six Flags in Vallejo, California, or Jackson, New Jersey, please cross these theme parks off your list. Elephants are forced to perform tricks and give rides to park visitors. Since 1995, eight elephants have died at the Six Flags Vallejo park, which still uses cruel bullhooks to “control” elephants. In one three-month period, 26 animals died at the New Jersey location.

Don’t let SeaWorld’s well-financed advertising department lull you into thinking that this is the right place for your family. Dolphins and orcas are confined to a life of swimming in endless circles in barren, concrete tanks. Nearly two dozen orcas have died in SeaWorld facilities in the last 25 years, but none died of old age. Dozens of bottlenose dolphins have also perished. If discount tickets are still enticing you, consider this: Do you want to take the chance that your child might experience the same horror as those who witnessed an orca batter a SeaWorld trainer to death last year?

When you hit the road this summer, please include compassion on your itinerary. Don’t pass a few hours at places where animals will continue to languish in misery long after you’re back home.

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7 Comments

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    Rosemary Bernier says...

    August 26th, 2011, 8:10 pm

    All of this is so sad and hurts me badly and I think the worst part is not being able to help these beautiful, magnificent creatures of God. I do my best with petitions and donations but I know it will never be enough until man is content to let animals live their lives out in peace!

    Ellie says...

    August 27th, 2011, 12:13 pm

    This makes my heart sick. I too know that as much that is being done it’s not enough to rescue all the animals from misery. Much education is needed. If we start with the young maybe in generations from now if we’re all still here there will be no more animal suffering. I pray this to happen.

    Sibylle Hartmann says...

    August 29th, 2011, 7:26 pm

    People who treat animals this way seriously lack a part in their brain. I hope someday there will be a cure for such people, because it is a disease.

    Dave Bernazani says...

    September 2nd, 2011, 9:25 pm

    If on vacation, if you like animals, please DON’T stop at roadside zoos. They exploityour love of animals in the worst possible ways: they take their freedom and keep them in small, lonely, concrete and metal cages. To see them will only depress you and make the owners of such sad, pathetic “zoos” richer. Please don’t contribute to the abuse: DRIVE PAST ROADSIDE ZOOS!

    ANNE PICKARD says...

    September 5th, 2011, 11:49 am

    Could the city’s commisioners where these roadside zoos are, have a open meeting and get input from the citizens about these zoos to have an ordinance in place to shut down these so-called zoos. There must be something that could be done to end the suffering of these animals.
    I agree with Dave. Please do not contribute to these zoos, do not stop but drive past. Thank you.

    JoAnne Gallop says...

    December 24th, 2011, 9:06 pm

    Never stop petitions and contacting gov’t officials never take no for an answer the bears will be saved if we all stick together their is power in #s

    kaylien says...

    May 8th, 2014, 6:12 pm

    i believe that all animals have the right to freedom, dignity and respect. they dont deserve to be caged up and treated horribly. all animals need a voice, and that voice only comes from people who love animals and want to take a stand for them. If they are to be caged in any way or placed in zoos or in ciruses, they should be treated with respect, dignity and love. I am sure no one would want to be treated the way they treat the animals or have their loved ones treated that way.

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