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Olympic Game Farm: The zoo built for animal ‘actors’, decades of concern and violations

The USDA repeatedly cited the zoo for animal welfare violations, from 1995 to 2018. Reports, as well as records from two lawsuits, portray animals in distress, suffering from untreated medical conditions.

KATHERINE KHASHIMOVA LONG: ‘At Olympic Game Farm, visitors can get closer to wild animals than almost anywhere else in the country — without getting out of the car. Black-tongued bison shove their faces through car windows at the drive-through menagerie. Lions and tigers lie in cages behind chain-link fences. And more than a dozen brown bears wave their paws for drivers to toss slices of bread that can be bought at the gate.

It was originally the home of animal actors for films and TV shows, including “Charlie the Lonesome Cougar” and “Northern Exposure.” Today, the Game Farm, with close to 300 animals, is a social media sensation, featured on Oprah and the Ellen DeGeneres show. It has tens of millions of views on YouTube. But as expectations around animal care have changed in the past decades, federal inspectors, local officials and concerned visitors have questioned the safety of people and animals at the zoo.

As the Game Farm received glowing news coverage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) repeatedly cited the private zoo for animal welfare violations, according to a Seattle Times review of 25 federal inspection reports from 1995 to 2018. Those reports, as well as records from two lawsuits and interviews with 10 former employees, portray a zoo in distress during the 1990s and early 2000s, with animals suffering from untreated medical conditions and staff at times fearing for their safety.

The Game Farm was last cited by the USDA in 2017 for inadequate veterinary care, and last fined in 2004. But the USDA’s inspection reports are notable for their inconsistencies, including a four-year period when they recorded the presence of hundreds of animals the facility has never owned… During the period when federal inspectors gave the Game Farm a clean bill of health, officials at Washington’s state Department of Fish and Wildlife privately opposed moving animals to the Game Farm, even those needing care, citing “awful housing conditions,” federal citations and citizen complaints, according to emails obtained in a public records request…

Game Farm management declined repeated requests by The Seattle Times for an interview, citing an ongoing federal lawsuit filed last year by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) which alleges “mistreatment and unsafe captivity” of “scores of animals.” The lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund last December could take years to resolve… The ALDF asked that the Game Farm transfer its animals to a sanctuary or become a sanctuary itself. It doesn’t know where it would place the Game Farm’s animals but, said ALDF attorney Danny Waltz, “our experience has been that sanctuaries have consistently stepped up”.’  SOURCE…


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