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Located in the lush countryside of western North Carolina is a tourist haven that attracts visitors from all over the world. Three roadside zoos — The Cherokee Bear Zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park, and Santa's Land — are deplorable reminders that neglect and cruelty to captive wildlife is not limited to squalid, poverty stricken areas of the world.

Observing the Cherokee bears living in concrete pits and begging for food would be shocking if one were in the slums of a third-world country, but it is inconceivable that these bears are held captive by a Native American tribe in the heart of one of America's favorite tourist destinations.

Emmy Award-winning game show host Bob Barker, PAWS' co-founder Ed Stewart, and PETA spokesperson Debbie Leahy, traveled to North Carolina recently after receiving numerous complaints about the roadside slums in which the bears and other captive wildlife are forced to live as "tourist attractions."

"I have traveled all over the world monitoring wildlife in horrendous situations," Ed Stewart stated, "but this is one of the most archaic and appalling displays in my experience. I am amazed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the regulatory agency that inspects animal exhibits, has allowed this to continue."

PETA had requested a meeting with the Honorable Michell Hicks, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, to discuss releasing the bears to a more suitable environment and PAWS offered to provide a natural habitat refuge for the bears at ARK 2000.

Even though Santa's Land, one of the roadside zoos, is a facility open to the public, the Cherokee Band refused to allow Ed Stewart, Bob Barker and Debbie Leahy to view the animals or to discuss alternatives to the exploitation of the bears. Santa’s Land recently advertised that it was giving away one female and three male black bears in Animal Finder's Guide, a trade publication that caters to hunting ranches and animal dealers.

USDA has permitted this inexcusable violation of the Animal Welfare Act to continue for decades. The Cherokee Band Indians have violated the beliefs of their ancestors who revered all wildlife and respected their right to be free. The state of North Carolina has ignored appeals from appalled tourists who have complained for years.

It is time to take action to relieve the suffering of the Cherokee Bears and to close these dismal roadside zoos that are such a sad misrepresentation of our country and its history to tourists from around the world.


"What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected."

 Chief Seattle

Chief of the Duwamish, Squamish and allied Indian tribes (1786-1866)



1. Write to the United States Department of Agriculture and insist that they enforce the laws that protect captive wildlife and close the bear pits.

Attention: Dr. Gibbens
2150 Centre Ave.
Building B, Mailstop 3W11
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8117


2. Boycott North Carolina as a tourist destination and let the Bureau of Tourism in Asheville, N.C. know why you are avoiding their area.

Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau
Kelly Miller – Vice President and Executive Director
Elaine Rich – Director of Chamber Relations
Tom Robertson – Director of Visitor Services
Dodie Stephens – Director of Public Relations
P.O. Box 1010
Asheville, North Carolina  28802


3. Write to Chief Hicks and express your disgust at the Cherokee's treatment of the bears. Urge the Council of Cherokee Indians to stop breeding bears and to provide permanent refuge for the remaining bears in a suitable habitat.

Chief Michell Hicks
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
49 Council House Loop
Cherokee, NC  28719


4. Boycott Harrah’s Cherokee as a tourist destination and let them know why you are avoiding their resort.

Harrah's Cherokee
777 Casino Drive
Cherokee, NC 28719
Phone (828) 497-7777



Performing Animal Welfare Society
PO Box 849, Galt, CA 95632

(209) 745-2606 office/shelter
(209) 745-1809 fax

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