Collins Zoo owners sue wildlife agency, file for continuance

By Sheri Falk - bio | email | Twitter

COVINGTON COUNTY, MS ( WDAM) - A lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries by the owners of Collins Zoo will have to wait until a new judge is appointed to hear the case.

The suit against the state agency accuses officials of harassment and violation of rights in connection with a series of raids at the Collins facility.

The owners of the zoo are seeking monetary damages against the agency and individuals for what they claim is 20 years of harassment.

The latest incident occurred in March when representatives confiscated animals they claimed were not being properly care for.

Brian Neely, attorney for the zoo owners, said the recent death of Judge Bob Evans was the reason behind Monday's postponement. Neely added the zoo is licensed and certified by the federal government and is regularly inspected by the USDA. He said the zoo has never been cited for non compliance, and at least three justice court hearings in the past have found no abuse of animals.

Zoo owners were issued 22 citations by the State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in March of 2010 after the Humane Society conducted a month-long undercover investigation alleging the mistreatment and neglect of animals as well as major safety violations.

Nineteen of the citations were given for illegally housing dangerous animals.

After conducting a 28-day undercover investigation at the Collins Zoo, The HSUS filed the complaint against the zoo with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks alleging significant welfare and safety violations of state laws which governs the possession of wild animals considered inherently dangerous to humans.

Tammy Daley, a volunteer at the zoo for 20 years, said the complaint is misguided. She added, the animals are well cared for, and many of them were pets others were unable to raise.

A Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks spokesman said earlier this year the department planned to make sure the zoo is in compliance or it will be shut down.

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