CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — A western Maryland zoo where five endangered animals died was ordered by a judge to send its remaining big cats to a sanctuary.
Tri-State Zoological Park in Cumberland has seen two tigers, a lion and a lemur die within a three-year span. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the zoo in 2017 after conducting undercover inspections.
U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis sided with PETA on Thursday and said the zoo engaged in "flagrant and persistent violations” of the Endangered Species Act, news outlets reported. She ordered the zoo to give up two surviving lions and a tiger.
Following a six-day trial in federal court, Xinis wrote that testimony made clear that every animal at the zoo suffered under living conditions there.
“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," Xinis added.
The zoo appealed the case on Sunday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The animals will remain at the facility while the case is under appeal.
Nevin Young, an attorney for the zoo, said the facility planned to file a motion to stay the lower court's order to remove them.
“I agree that the judge’s finding of facts don’t look good based on the unopposed testimony from PETA experts,” he said. “I think a lot of statements they made are false.”
Mbube the lion was euthanized in 2016 after “a slow painful demise” from an unknown disease, the opinion says. Bandit the lemur died in 2018 following a two-year respiratory infection and “chronic stress." Tigers Kumar and India died this year of a stroke and sepsis, respectively.