Agency fines NC bear pit, suspends license

CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) -- Federal officials have suspended the exhibitor's license of a North Carolina bear pit and fined the owner $20,000 over inhumane conditions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an order this month after earlier citing Chief Saunooke Bear Park in Cherokee with multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Inspectors found the private zoo was failing to provide the bears with appropriate food, proper veterinary care and a safe enclosure.

The federal action followed a long public campaign against the tourist attraction by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and an incident where a 9-year-old girl was bitten while feeding a baby bear a mixture of dry cereal and cat food.

The suspension will remain in place until inspectors determine the facility fully complies with animal welfare standards.


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