Bear Path Acres forced to close doors due to permit violations

Published 12:46 pm Thursday, July 28, 2016

Article updated Friday, July 29 at 10:40 a.m.

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, two permits that allow Bear Path Acres to handle and exhibit wildlife have been suspended due to violations. The suspension of the Virginia Wildlife Rehabilitator Permit and the Permit to Exhibit Wildlife Animals in Virginia has forced the roadside zoo to shut its doors.

“DGIF is … investigating the unauthorized transfer of wildlife by Ms. Jeter [owner, Debbie Jeter] to non-permitted persons, allowing the co-mingling of wildlife with domestic pets, failing to register and report wildlife and allowing the handling of wildlife by persons not possessing a Wildlife Rehabilitator’s permit at her facility, Bear Path Acres,” the department said.

Under the Code of Virginia 29.1-521, the VDGIF is authorized to permit periodic inspections to facilities and to ensure conditions are maintained to rehabilitate animals for return to the wild.

“The General Conditions for all Virginia Wildlife Rehabilitators require that permittees ‘shall abide by the rehabilitator code of ethics’ and the code of ethics require that a rehabilitator must abide by local, state and federal laws concerning wildlife, wildlife rehabilitation and associated activities,” DGIF continued.

In a letter to Jeter from the VDGIF obtained by The Tidewater News, the specifics of these violations were listed.

According to the letter, Jeter had transferred the custody of a bobcat and African serval cat to owners who do not possess a valid Virginia Wildlife Rehabilitator or Exhibitor’s permits. She also allowed a juvenile white-tailed deer in the interior of her house and allowed the animal to interact with a pet dog that was occupying the same space. Lastly, she allowed a volunteer to physically handle a raccoon at the facility who did not possess a Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Permit.

“Due to numerous violations of your permit conditions, the Department is suspending your Virginia Wildlife Rehabilitator Permit and your Permit to Exhibit Wild Aninmals in Virginia effective immediately and to remain in effect until Jan. 31, 2021,” the letter stated. “You may reapply for your permit for the calendar year 2021 in December of 2020.”

The letter also said that she has the right to appeal the decision within 30 days. Calls were made to Jeter for comment, however, all attempts were unsuccessful.

The DGIF is still investigating this situation. More information on this matter will be reported as it becomes available.