After spending years cooped up in cramped enclosures at a privately owned zoo inside a suburban Iowa shopping mall, more than two dozen exotic animals are now beginning a new life.
And it was only made possible thanks to people speaking up on behalf of animals.
Despite its rather noble-sounding name, the Academy of Wildlife Education was really little more than a live-animal peepshow. Set between shops and department stores within the Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines, 31 animals - including bears, wolves, mountain lions and coyotes - were kept indoors, behind glass for paying guests to gawk at.
For more than three years, the animals there were denied the most fundamental elements of the outside world, like sunshine, fresh air and room to roam. That, critics said, amounted to animal cruelty.