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Animals moved from Deer Haven mini-zoo after pressure from activist group

Animals moved from Deer Haven mini-zoo after pressure from activist group
Cavies formerly housed at Deer Haven Mini Zoo near Keymar are pictured in their nighttime enclosure at Foster Parrot’s sanctuary in Rhode Island. (Courtesy photo)

After pressure from an animal-rights activist group, owners of the Deer Haven Mini Zoo near Keymar have re-homed several of their animals, including two endangered lemurs.

Daniel Lutz, a staff attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund wrote in an email, “We have worked well with the Deer Haven Mini Zoo owners in moving animals from to wonderful sanctuaries, and we hope to continue to work together to re-home the animals as the owners consider winding down their zoo.”

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In April, the ALDF issued an intent to sue Deer Haven based on the belief that conditions at the zoo were violating the Endangered Species Act and state law.

Owner Bradley Gerwig disagreed with the accusations but said they did not have the money to fight the lawsuit in court. He said the lawsuit contained “lies and trumped up stuff so they could get us into court.”

“We’ve been doing this for 40 years,” he said in a phone interview with the Times on Thursday. “We’ve never abused an animal. Everybody that’s been here knows better than that.”

The advocacy group referenced audits by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that noted problems with the conditions in which the animals were housed and Animal Welfare Act violations.

The Deer Haven lemurs are pictured on the way to their new destination.
The Deer Haven lemurs are pictured on the way to their new destination. (Jason Putsche / Animal Legal Defense Fund)

The ALDF also made their own documentation of the conditions, where according to a news release from the organization, they observed “ill animals, poor sanitation, and safety hazards.” The ADLF intends to continue to “work with the zoo owners in an effort to rescue additional animals,” according to the news release.

Gerwig said that animals worth about $4,000 were taken from the zoo with no compensation, all of which he purchased legally.

“They’re well taken care of,” he said. “Nobody’s going to spend $2,000 or $3,000 on an animal and then mistreat them. If they do, there’s something wrong with them.”

He worried that the animals would not be cared for after they left Deer Haven, but said they couldn’t fight ADLF because they had too much money behind them.

“They like to go after places like us because they know they can shut us down real quick,” he said.

Animal Legal Defense Fund volunteers prepare to transport animals from Deer Haven Mini Zoo.
Animal Legal Defense Fund volunteers prepare to transport animals from Deer Haven Mini Zoo. (JASON PUTSCHE / Animal Legal Defense Fund)

The two lemurs are now housed at the Endangered Primate Foundation’s Prosimian Sanctuary in Jacksonville, Florida, according to the ADLF.

Sanctuary president and founder Tracy Fenn said the two are currently separate from the sanctuary’s other rescued lemurs so they can gain weight and muscle without competition from the other lemurs, and are receiving treatment for a parasite.

“They seem to be getting stronger and more confident,” she said.

Fenn said it’s disappointing there is not more enforcement of USDA regulations.

“It took a lot of people and a lot of different organizations working together to get these guys in a better situation,” she said.

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More information and a link to support the sanctuary is available at www.endangeredprimate.org.

“The animals from Deer Haven Mini Zoo suffered in cruel conditions for years,” Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said in a prepared statement. “Thanks to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, these animals will now live out their lives at sanctuaries prepared to meet their unique physical and psychological needs.”

Four cavies were transferred to Foster Parrot’s sanctuary in Rhode Island, and are now known as Scar, Mama, Han Solo and Yolandi, Lutz said.

A bobcat, a coatimundi and six Arctic wolves were moved to Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, outside of San Antonio.

Loving Transport and Primate Rescue Center assisted with transporting the animals to sanctuaries.

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