By Mitch Weiss
Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians said Wednesday they're planning to sue a North Carolina roadside zoo that houses bears in concrete pits on reservation land unless they release the animals to a reputable sanctuary.
An attorney for two tribal elders filed a notice of intent to sue the operators of the Cherokee Bear Park for violating the federal Endangered Species Act.
The act allows citizens to file lawsuits for violations, but it requires them to give 60-days' notice to the violators and federal regulators, said James Whitlock, an attorney for tribal elders Amy Walker and Peggy Hill.
If the bear park doesn't come into compliance, the next step is to file a federal lawsuit, he said.
Walker and Hill said the bears are being held in tiny cages in barren concrete pits.
"The Cherokee Bear Zoo is an open concrete grave for these intelligent animals and they must be move from the despicable facility to a place where they'll cared for, not abused and neglected," Walker said.
The owners of the bear park could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.
This is the latest development in the long, public campaign to close three privately owned bear zoos on the Cherokee Indian Reservation: Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park and Santa's Land. More....