Following the settlement of a federal lawsuit brought on by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Waccatee Zoo in Horry County, South Carolina, will permanently close. In a press statement on 24th August 2023, PETA said the roadside zoo will be permanently closed and its operators be banned from owning or exhibiting wild or exotic animals, breeding domestic animals, exploiting domestic animals for profit, and working or volunteering at other roadside zoos.
The lawsuit was filed under the federal Endangered Species Act and South Carolina’s public nuisance law in April 2022. PETA has described Waccatee Zoo as “one of the worst roadside zoos in America.” The complaint alleged the zoo’s operators confined and exhibited more than 460 animals and that the facility’s conditions deprived them of “adequate veterinary care, shelter, food, and water.”
In the lawsuit, PETA said it regularly received complaints about Waccatee from zoo visitors. And wrote the following: “Day after day, animals at Waccatee sway and pace back and forth—unnatural behaviours that signify the animals’ needs are not being met. Many animals experience negative stress due to small, insufficiently enriched spaces that provide little to do, offer inadequate opportunities to socialize, and are affirmatively dangerous.”
Brittany Peet, PETA’s general counsel for captive animal law enforcement, said this about the settlement: “This victory blocks Waccatee’s operators from ever again mistreating wild animals as they did for decades. PETA is delighted to see the survivors thriving in their new sanctuary home and will continue to ask everyone to help us advocate for all animals still trapped in roadside zoos by never patronizing such operations.”
In May, PETA and The Wild Animal Sanctuary (TWAS) rescued the nine remaining animals left at the Waccatee Zoo.