USDA issues warning to Bear Path Acres

Published 4:44 pm Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bear Path Acres is home to a rare white Bengal Tiger. -- FILE PHOTO

Bear Path Acres is home to a rare white Bengal Tiger. — FILE PHOTO

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued an official letter of warning to Bear Path Acres Animal Education Center Inc. on May 24, The Tidewater News has learned.

Inspections completed on Feb. 11, Sept. 15 and Nov. 13, 2015, found Bear Path Acres in violation of three statutes of the Animal Welfare Act. Inspectors found that the facility did not provide proper shelter from inclement weather for the animals kept outdoors, and that the outside exhibits were not outfitted with the proper drainage, which left standing water covering most of the animals’ enclosures. Finally, it was suggested that Bear Path Acres had not been attending adequate veterinary care to the animals.

“We are under attack by PETA [the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals],” said Debbie Jeter, founder of Bear Path Acres. “Our animals are well-cared for. We are in constant communication with the USDA to make sure we are meeting their standards.”

Lewis Crary, spokesperson for PETA, said “We’ve been tracking them for years and they have a very long rap sheet of USDA violations. PETA encourages everyone to steer clear of Bear Path Acres and all other roadside zoos.”

When asked to comment, the USDA provided The Tidewater News with a copy of the latest inspection form, completed on May 4, 2016.

This report stated, “that there were significant amounts of standing water and/or mud in multiple enclosures.”

These housed animals including raccoons, hyenas, lions, pigs, foxes, bears and tigers.

“We’ve added gravel to the enclosures to help with the drainage issues,” Jeter said. “You know, Southampton County is in wetlands. So when it rains for days and days, there’s going to be water and mud in the enclosures.”

According to the May 4 inspection file, any concerns about veterinary care had been addressed, and there were small issues with the enclosures that needed to be repaired. In one such instance, there was a bit of exposed chainlink wire at the bottom of the coyote enclosure, which could cause injury to the animal.

“We are in full compliance with the USDA,” Jeter said.