Lions, tigers, a bear and other wild animals at Animal Adventures in Glades County face an uncertain future.
The wild animal facility off State Road 70 near the Glades/Okeechobee line was cited by FWC in September for unsafe and unsanitary conditions as well as record keeping violations.
As a result of that investigation, Mary Sue Pearce, the owner/operator of Animal Adventures, agreed to surrender her wildlife permits and transfer all of the wild animals in her possession to another licensed individual. Ms. Pearce signed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement following a hearing in Glades County court on Nov. 28.
According to the Florida Wildlife Commission report, on Sept. 2, FWC captive wildlife investigators conducted an inspection in response to a complaint at Animal Adventures, Inc., located on Rucks Dairy Road in Glades County. Numerous violations pertaining to the record keeping, housing and care of captive wildlife were observed during that inspection, and the facility’s permittee, Mary Sue Pearce, was issued numerous citations and warnings for the violations.
The alleged violations included failure to provide animals with clean water daily, failure to keep cages and enclosures free of feces, as well as issues involving the sizes and security of some enclosures.
At the time of the Aug. 31 and Sept. 2 inspections, the FWC Officer Richard Doricchi noted violations involving the care of American alligators, captive exotic birds, two African spurred tortoises, a brown lemur, 13 tigers, a Tigon, three female lions, one male lion, a black bear, two cougars, two baboons, an iguana, a black leopard and a bobcat.
After a follow up inspection on Sept. 14, Officer Doricchi noted that two of the lions and the tigon had been transferred to other facilities. He also noted that one tiger had been euthanized and was buried in a shallow grave on the property.
At a hearing on Nov. 28, Ms. Pearce signed an agreement with the State Attorney’s Office whereby she would transfer all captive wildlife previously in her possession to another properly licensed individual. The agreement also states Ms. Pearce will not seek any new wildlife permits for a period of three years.
Animal Adventures was licensed by the FWC for Class I, II and III wildlife.
“FWC investigators take this matter very seriously and conducted a thorough investigation. We’ll continue to work with all of the facilities we license to ensure that they are taking the proper steps to keep people safe and provide proper care for the captive wildlife in their possession,” said Major Rob Beaton, FWC Law Enforcement Captive Wildlife Section.
The newspaper’s attempts to reach Ms. Pearce for comment were unsuccessful.
Under the terms of the agreement signed Tuesday, Ms. Pearce must seek a new licensee to take over the facility and pass an initial inspection with no violations. In the event that no such licensee can be found, or that an initial inspection cannot be passed, Ms. Pearce must sell or otherwise legally dispose of all animals in her possession or control. Should a new licensee be found to take over the facility, Ms. Pearce shall not be the primary caretaker of the animals, the agreement states.
While the deadline date on the agreement is Dec. 15, 2016, FWC Public Information officer Rob Klepper stated that “if Ms. Pearce does not comply with the deferred prosecution agreement, the State Attorney would make a determination as to the subsequent action taken.
“The FWC has and will continue to work with Ms. Pearce and Animal Adventures to frequently monitor the progress made as to the location, housing and status of the captive wildlife being transferred in compliance with the deferred prosecution agreement. FWC investigators will monitor transfers to ensure that animals are being transferred to properly licensed facilities or individuals, but transfer records for captive wildlife are kept at the facility at which the animal is possessed, and any records of sales or transfers submitted to FWC are exempt from public record,” he added.