In May, our Humane Society International team assisted with the extraordinary rescue of 200 wild animals, including zebras, kangaroos, lions, tigers and bears, from a ramshackle roadside zoo in Montreal, Canada. Many of the animals were confined in dark, barren, dilapidated enclosures, many were suffering from a variety of medical conditions with no veterinary care, and many showed signs of psychological distress, like compulsive pacing. Some of the animals did not appear to have access to water or proper food when rescuers arrived.

Life has since changed
dramatically for these animals, who we have been transporting to
sanctuaries and specialized facilities throughout Canada and the United States.
Today, I am excited to introduce you to five of them -- a family of three
kangaroos, a zebra and an emu – who are finally getting the life they deserve,
one of comfort and hope, at our own Cleveland Amory Black Beauty
Ranch in Murchison, Texas. 

The transition has been a
particularly happy one for Rachel, Ross and Joey, the three members of the
kangaroo family. In the wild in Australia, kangaroos live in large or small
groups called “mobs.” Our rescuers could see right away that the three were
good friends who enjoyed being together, and we were eager to see them continue
living as a family unit.

 At Black Beauty, a
sprawling, 1400-acre sanctuary that’s home to more than 800 rescued animals,
Rachel, Ross and Joey are spending their days laying in the sun, exploring
their new space – a one-acre pasture -- and grazing on the green grass. They
are shy, Noelle Almrud, the director of Black Beauty Ranch, tells me, but the
staff are more than happy to give them their space. While these wild animals
will never know what it’s truly like to live in the wild, here they will have
enough room and a chance to indulge in their natural behaviors.

The zebra, Zuko, is now in quarantine and he will soon move to a 15-acre pasture that he will share with the emu and other animals.

It’s a far cry from life at the
roadside zoo.

Roadside zoos typically obtain animals from questionable sources, house them inadequately, provide little veterinary care, and give them no access to any behavioral or enrichment programs.

The owner of the unaccredited facility in Montreal has since been arrested and charged with neglect and cruelty to animals under the Canadian Criminal Code. We are happy that these animals are finally out of their terrible situation, but to truly end the suffering of countless animals trapped in such enterprises, we’ll need to tackle the problem of roadside zoos head-on.

zoos typically obtain animals from questionable sources, house them
inadequately, provide little veterinary care, and give them no access
to any behavioral or enrichment programs. When the animals are no longer seen
as useful, they are dispensed with – for instance, we have found that when
tigers bred for “cuddling” and tourist selfies at U.S. roadside zoos grow too
old for such activities, they usually end up being warehoused at
substandard operations and pseudo-sanctuaries.

 That’s why we have made
ending roadside zoos a priority. Through our undercover investigations we
have been working to show the misery animals endure at these operations.
At Black Beauty Ranch, we have provided permanent sanctuary to many
animals rescued from roadside zoos. We are also attacking the problem of
roadside zoos through legislation. In Canada, our HSI staff has been
campaigning for more than a decade to achieve meaningful improvements to the
animal welfare provisions in the criminal code. In the United States, we are
working toward the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act in
Congress. The bill was introduced in the House in February and a similar Senate version,
which would, among other things, prohibit facilities like roadside
zoos from using lion, tiger and other big cat cubs for
selfies and petting, was introduced last week. 

We will not rest until we’ve
wiped out this problem for good, but we cannot do it without your
help.  Please call your lawmakers and ask them to support this important bill.