Richard Farinato, former captive wildlife specialist at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and a decades-long advocate who has traveled to zoos around the globe, says the Lupa Zoo is "as bad as anything I've ever seen in all the years that I've been doing this work."
But, he maintains, the federal laws and regulations in this country, including the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), are too weak to effectively protect zoo animals. "The real problem is that we don't have federal regulation that has any teeth in it. It is too general - and rarely enforced," he says.
So, the Lupa Zoo remains open to the public.
This doesn't come as a surprise to Lisa Wathne, who is the current captive wildlife specialist at HSUS. "Lupa Zoo looks like hundreds of other roadside zoos across the country - basically a collection of animals in small, often dirty cages, in completely unnatural environments," she says. "I wish I could say this is unusual, but it just isn't."
Wathne points out that under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the living conditions for animals at USDA-regulated zoos are set at a bare minimum: "The laws that exist to protect animals or to regulate zoos like this are so weak that they basically rubber-stamp animal cruelty. The AWA is incredibly weak. It basically only requires that animals have enough food and water to stay alive and enough space, basically, to turn around, stand up and lay down."