By Ruth Ingram
The roadside Collins Zoo on U.S. 49 has lost its exhibitor’s license, ending for now a months-long quest by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to close the facility over alleged inhumane treatment of animals.The license for the embattled zoo, which has operated for 43 years and is a fixture for those traveling south to Hattiesburg or the Gulf Coast, was jerked following the Department of Agriculture’s undercover investigation and legal complaints to state and federal officials by The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society officials said in a news release.
A U.S. administrative law judge issued an order in the case April 26, and Department of Agriculture officials are making it public today. As part of the investigation, three tigers seized in January 2012 from the zoo are being rehabilitated at the Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, owned and operated by The Fund for Animals in partnership with the Humane Society.
Zoo owners Gus and Betty White have fought government agencies for nearly 25 years over animal confiscations, hundreds of alleged violations and a civil lawsuit. They denied the Agriculture Department’s claims, saying inspectors misinterpret the rules and standards.
“We are appealing it,” Betty White said today of the ruling. “As it’s under appeal, we don’t have to close down or anything.
“This is just a long line of harassment we’ve been getting, mainly from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife,” she said. “They’ve all joined together, which is a lot of government agencies do. We’ve never had any safety issues or anything like that.” More....