Roadside zoos are collections of animals in
cages used to lure passing motorists to stop and see,
feed or play with the
animals. They became popular in the 1950s as the automobile
became the preferred mode of transportation. Originally
stocked with farm animals and native wildlife, they offered
anything from donkey rides to snake pits. When the zoo animal
breeding binge began in the 1960s, exotic animals, as they
were called, became available from animal dealers and auction
houses. Tigers, the largest and most recognizable of the big
cats, became a prize attraction. Today there are more than
3,000 roadside zoos in 44 states and while not all have
tigers, those that do usually have more than one.
Although they call themselves zoos, they are not accredited by the Association of Zoos
and Aquariums (AZA) and therefore have no standards. What these facilities have in common are barren cages, inadequate food, water, shelter, and
veterinary care. A full grown 500 lb tiger can be confined to
a 4' by 8' space 24 hours a day 7 days a week for its entire
The animals are often
crowded into conflict-prone groupings. A de-clawed tiger in a cage with tigers with claws cannot
fight for food or defend itself. Because there are no food or
nutrition standards they are generally fed road kill and
garbage. The lack of veterinary requirements cause many tigers
to die prematurely.
As these roadside attractions grew in number and
sophistication, many began to advertise themselves as
sanctuaries. With no restriction or obligation in the use of
sanctuary in their business names, they promote themselves as
sanctuaries and their tigers as rescues when in fact they are
breeders or animal dealers.
True sanctuaries do not breed, buy or sell animals. They
provide lifetime care, with large enclosures, proper
nutrition, enrichment and medical attention for their animals.
A variation on roadside zoos are businesses that use tigers to
draw attention to their principal activities. Any business
from a winery or bed and breakfast to a truck stop or a flea
market can get a tiger. These "sideshow" tigers are treated as
disposable commodities. If their tiger gets sick or dies, they
just dump it and get another one.
Tony the Truck Stop Tiger has become the
standard-bearer for protests against roadside zoos.
have been many tigers born at the Tiger Truck Stop over 20
years. Tony the Truck Stop Tiger on Interstate 10 in Louisiana is shown below.
He has spent his
entire life in this cell breathing diesel fumes 24 hours a day
for the amusement of customers that stop for fuel.
Tony waits for the law to free him from his
life at the truck stop.
Please do not patronize roadside zoos or phony sanctuaries.