Inadequate water was the primary reason nearly 120 exotic and agricultural animals were seized from Wilson’s Wild Animal Park last week.
An affidavit for a search warrant filed by Spotsylvania County Animal Control Officer Richard Samuels details the reasons the Winchester park was searched by various law enforcement agencies to explore allegations of potential animal cruelty.
Samuels went to Wilson’s Wild Animal Park at 985 West Parkins Mill Road about 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 8 and proceeded down the path where the general public goes. While there, Samuels observed a white Bengal tiger in an enclosure with no water and minimal shade. The affidavit says the tiger was panting and that the current temperature was 83 degrees but felt like 88 degrees.
“I went to where the lions were being kept and observed a lion and lioness in an enclosure with no water present and minimum shade,” Samuels said in the affidavit. “The next enclosure I went to had approximately 16 pigs and piglets that had no water and their mud hole may have covered a 5-feet-by-5-feet area. The last area I stopped at was where there were 40-plus goats ranging in age from 4 months to adults and they are housed with llamas, sheep, lambs and a calf.”
Samuels observed a worker filling an approximately 20-gallon container with water. A larger water container was also empty, but was not filled while Samuels was there.
“There is no pasture for the goats, sheep, llamas and calf to graze on, it was all dirt,” Samuels said. “There was what appeared to be a small amount of straw which is not sufficient to feed the amount of animals which are housed on the property.”
Virginia State Police with assistance by Attorney General Mark Herring’s Animal Law Unit, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, along with animal welfare experts seized nearly 120 animals from the park on Aug. 15 and Aug. 16. The roster of seized animals listed a dead lemur and a dead cat.
The Frederick County Circuit Court order authorizing the search was signed on Wednesday. It authorized law enforcement to search for: any and all medical records, bills of sale, invoices, purchase records, tax records, business registration documents, records of donations made or received, animal care records and animal feed; the contents of any vehicles that may be used to transport or house any animals; all alive, dead and unborn animals; all storage devices of digital media including, but not limited to, cameras, computers and cell phones and examination of their contents.
Michael Kelly, director of communications for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, said on Aug. 16 that the animals are being cared for by animal control agencies and exotic and agricultural animal rescue partners. He gave no further information about the whereabouts of the animals.
Wilson’s Wild Animal Park’s Facebook page disappeared last week, and its website stated that the park was closed until further notice. Park owner Keith Wilson has not returned The Winchester Star’s calls for comment.
A seizure hearing is scheduled for Aug. 29 in Frederick County General District Court.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet issued a statement praising the Virginia Attorney General’s Office for confiscating animals from Wilson’s Wild Animal Park.
“Authorities did the right thing in seizing animals from Wilson’s Wild Animal Park, which, among numerous other abuses, left bears and tigers to bake alive in the hot sun, kept a highly social monkey in isolation, and packed three tigers into a cramped cage,” Peet said. “PETA will monitor the case as it heads to court, and we hope to see all the animals confined at this hideously shoddy roadside zoo enjoying far better lives away from Wilson’s.”