Animal welfare group again sues Iowa zoo, focusing on lions


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — An embattled northeast Iowa zoo is facing a second lawsuit — this time regarding treatment of its endangered African lions.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and five Iowans filed a lawsuit Monday against the Cricket Hollow Zoo in Manchester, the Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/29SOUbl ).

Earlier this year, the national group successfully sued the zoo to force the removal of endangered lemurs and tigers.

The most recent lawsuit claims that Cricket Hollow Zoo confines African lions in small, barren enclosures, disrupting and impairing the large cats.

Zoo visitors have seen “a female lion retching in her enclosure, a lioness repeatedly ramming herself into her cage fencing, enclosures strewn with fly-laden meat and feces, and flies feasting on the ears and noses of African lions,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims that Cricket Hollow Zoo’s treatment of lions violates the federal Endangered Species Act.

A phone message left Saturday by The Associated Press at the zoo was not immediately returned.

Jessica Blome, senior staff attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said the group wanted to include lions in its first lawsuit, but at the time, it was unclear whether the lions were designated as an endangered species. Federal designations have since changed, she said, making it clear that the lions are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Blome said she’s confident in the latest case against the zoo, because the previous lawsuit caused the zoo to give up its tigers.

“All of the evidence that applied to the tigers applies to the lions,” she said.

Five tigers died at the zoo from 2013 through 2015, a California veterinarian testified in court last fall. The veterinarian said the tigers had received inadequate care and described the animals’ enclosures as covered in feces and old food.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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