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Zoo Accused of Being 'One of the Worst' Is No More

South Carolina's Waccatee Zoo has been shuttered as part of a settlement with PETA
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2023 9:15 AM CDT
Zoo Accused of Being 'One of the Worst' Is No More
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Robert Cochran)

Three months ago, PETA removed nine animals from what it called "one of the worst roadside zoos in America." Now, that venue has been shut down for good. The animal rights group has reached a settlement with the Waccatee Zoo, located in South Carolina's Myrtle Beach area, that permanently shutters the facility, reports WPDE. The agreement also bans its owners, identified by the Post and Courier as Jeff and Kim Futrell, from owning or displaying wild or exotic animals; breeding domestic animals; or working or volunteering at other roadside zoos.

PETA's complaint against the zoo, filed in April of last year, alleged neglect that included not giving the resident creatures enough food and water, housing some of them in tiny enclosures with no companions, and not cleaning them or taking care of injuries properly, per the Washington Post. The suit claimed the zoo's improper care caused the deaths of a pair of leopards, a chimp, and a tiger named Lila, who eventually died of malnutrition. "She had spent months wasting away, losing fur, and pacing in her cramped cage," the complaint noted of the tiger, alleging that the animal was skeletal by the end of her life.

The zoo, which operated for 35 years, once claimed nearly 500 animals on its premises, though by earlier this year there were only nine left—a llama, six emus, and two North American black bears. PETA arranged to have those final nine removed from the site in May and brought to Colorado's Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg. "This victory blocks Waccatee's operators from ever again mistreating wild animals as they did for decades," PETA attorney Brittany Peet says of the settlement in a release.

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Peet adds that the animals rescued from the facility a few months ago are "thriving" in their new homes, and that her organization "will continue to ask everyone to help us advocate for all animals still trapped in roadside zoos by never patronizing such operations." An attorney for the Futrells says that his clients deny PETA's allegations, settled to avoid further expenses tied to the case, and that the settlement wasn't an admission of wrongdoing. (More zoo stories.)

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