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A Gift for Captive Bears: Your Voice

PHOTO: A bear at a roadside zoo in a barren cage. The group PETA is asking the USDA to enforce humane standards for bears in captivity. Photo courtesy PETA.
PHOTO: A bear at a roadside zoo in a barren cage. The group PETA is asking the USDA to enforce humane standards for bears in captivity. Photo courtesy PETA.
December 27, 2013

PHOENIX – Hundreds of bears in captivity around the country are held in small, concrete pits and cages without anything that is natural to them – and since they can't speak for themselves, one of the world's largest animal welfare groups wants humans to speak up for them.

Delcianna Winders, director of Captive Law for the PETA Foundation, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking public comment on stronger rules for humane treatment of bears, prompted by a lawsuit from her organization.

Under the Animal Welfare Act, she says, bears used for exhibition are supposed to be treated humanely.

"But the regulations that are applied are exceedingly general, and the USDA has failed to protect bears under these standards," she maintains.

PETA'S lawsuit asks for more space, proper nutrition, and a place for bears to forage, climb and bathe, among other things.

The USDA is accepting public comments until Jan. 27 at regulations.gov.

Winders says scientific research has surfaced over the years showing what bears need – and that bears are intelligent and as complex as primates, and can suffer from stress and physiological dysfunction in captivity.

"So, 30 years ago, there may have been an excuse for keeping a bear in a concrete pit – arguably,” she says. “At this point, there's absolutely no excuse."

Winders says PETA has been working for more than a year to get the federal government's attention about this issue, and is counting on the public to weigh in.


Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ