A USDA inspection has revealed numerous Animal Welfare violations at The Special Memories Zoo in Greenville.

The zoo made national headlines earlier this month after a 5-month-old kangaroo and 4 goats were stolen from a winter facility.

Inspectors visited that facility just 2 days before those animals were stolen.

The report from the USDA says the violations include:

  •      Primates housed indoors were observed to have empty water bottles during inspection. After the water bottles were filled, we observed that each affected animal immediately went to the water bottles and were drinking non-stop for more than a minute each.
  •      The feed storage area for non-human primates had rodent droppings on and around the feed sacks. During the inspection we saw two mice run out of the area where the feed is stored. 
  •      The enclosure housing for two snow macaques had about six inches of soiled material underneath it. There was a strong ammonia odor in the back room around this enclosure.
  •      In the barn there is a white deer being housed in a stall. The bedding was observed to be completely soiled with no dry spot available for the deer to lie down. 
  •      In another area of the barn there is a capybara being housed in a stall. The stall was observed to have two large piles of excreta with what appeared to be mold growing on it. The zookeeper reported that the stall was last cleaned about two weeks ago
Zoo owner Dona Wheeler spoke with Local 5 about the violations Thursday, saying the USDA Inspector came while they were in the process of moving from their winter to summer location. She says a death in the family also left them short-staffed on that day.

        “There really aren’t any major issues,” said Wheeler. “If there were major issues, the USDA would be at our door and every animal you see at my zoo, a couple hundred of them, would all be gone.”

The Humane Society of the United States responded to the violations, saying additional regulations need to be placed on zoos that are not accredited. Wisconsin is one of only 5 states in the country with no laws on the books pertaining to the private possession of exotic animals.
        “Who knows how long these animals had been in this condition by the time the USDA arrived on the scene,” says Captive Wildlife Specialist Lisa Wathne. “Any captive wild animal is completely at the mercy of the people caring for them, and in this case, Special Memories Zoo failed these animals miserably.”

The violations included a Direct Non-Compliance violation for lack of water. USDA officials say this is a serious violation, pertaining to the direct health of an animal. A sanitation violation was also a ‘repeat’ violation, stemming from a previous inspection.

The zoo says the majority of the violations have been addressed.

        “We take everything that they tell us to do very seriously,” says Wheeler. “I’d say 90 percent has already been done and is already addressed.”

If the USDA returns to find the violations not addressed, the zoo would likely receive a final “Letter of Warning” before citations or further action were taken by the USDA. 

        “There’s no guarantee that the USDA is going to return at any time to ensure these non-compliances were corrected,” says Wathne. “and that’s certainly a major flaw in the system.”

You can read the full USDA Inspection Report: