McClelland responds to complaints

Published 3:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2016

McClelland Zoo entrance.

McClelland Zoo entrance.

Mike McClelland, owner of McClelland’s Critters in Banks, responded Friday to a PETA press release criticizing his roadside zoo.

“I don’t know if I made somebody mad or what,” said McClelland. “All of a sudden I’m getting phone calls from people asking if we’re closed and groups cancelling their visits.”

McClelland believes the controversy is costing him financially and responded specifically to a portion of the press release that encourages families to “stay away from roadside zoos displaying animals for profit.”

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“I’m not state-funded or city-funded,” McClelland said. “The only way I can make money at all is by visitors coming in. I’m actually in credit card debt right now from making all-new enclosures.

“I do this because it’s my passion. All my animals are healthy. They eat before I do.

“The government is always going to find problems at any zoo. That’s their job.”

The controversy began in February, when PETA filed a complaint with the USDA about conditions at McClelland’s Critters. The USDA released an inspection report in late April.

PETA followed the inspection report with a press release this week citing the USDA report.

“McClelland’s Critters apparently either can’t or won’t provide animals with basic necessities such as clean drinking water, nor does the facility take safety precautions to protect both animals and visitors,” PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet said in the release. “PETA is calling for these animals to be retired to reputable sanctuaries where they can receive the attention and care that they deserve.”



McClelland said the zoo is not closing nor is it under USDA investigation. The report, issued April 20, is labeled as a “routine inspection” report. It cites some sharp wires and other objects being exposed in various enclosures that could injure the animals. The inspection report also said some enclosures contained green and brown water which animals used for bathing and drinking.

“Failure to maintain housing facilities in a structurally sound manner can cause injury to the animals. The affected structures must be repaired or replaced and all housing facilities should be maintained and kept structurally sound to protect and contain the animals.”

The report does not say that any closures were in complete disrepair.

McClelland said he has fixed the issues addressed in the inspection report.

“As far as the standing water, I had been cleaning the pools out once a week, but they’ve told me I need to start doing it twice a week now so I’ve been doing that,” he said.

One thing McClelland wanted to make sure was clear is that his animals have clean drinking water. “See those blue hoses there?” McClelland asked. “There’s one of those in every enclosure. The animals can come to the hose and get fresh water directly.”

McClelland also said he addressed a recurring problem with green film on the zoo’s animal enrichment hoses.

“Those are all gone now,” he said. “They’d come and check and sometimes it would be different hoses, and then even after we cleaned them they’d say they didn’t look clean enough, so we got rid of them.”



McClelland says he’s looking for some more fire hoses from fire departments to bring back enrichment hoses in the future. There is already one set at the ring-tailed lemur exhibit.

Another citation on the list noted that a busload of 60 schoolchildren and chaperones fed and had contact with sheep, pigs, goats, and buffalo without a public attendant present.

USDA spokesperson Tanya Espinosa explained that chaperones are responsible for the safety of the kids and that this citation deals with the safety of the animals from improper handling and feeding.

McClelland said he has fixed the issue.

Espinosa said that the USDA could open an investigation after repeat non-compliances, which McClelland’s had with some of their enclosure violations, but that no penalties are associated with inspection reports.

“The USDA can do three things after a facility has received repeat non-compliances,” Espinosa said. “We can send an official letter of warning, which simply tells the owner that the issue must be resolved and that we will be monitoring them more closely. It carries no monetary penalty.

“The second thing we can do is give a stipulation, which is a monetary penalty that is agreed to between the USDA and the facility.

“Finally, we can complete the investigation and file a complaint with administrative law judges who can then issue a monetary penalty or suspend or revoke the facility’s license.”

Espinosa said the USDA has not opened an investigation in the McClelland case.

The USDA report does not address the first two of PETA’s three complaints filed in February. The first violation in the complaint alleged that one of the black bear enclosures was “cramped” and “did not allow for adequate freedom of movement.”

The report did not have any mention of an enclosure not being of proper size. McClelland also contested the allegation, saying that the black bear enclosures are 8 feet tall, while the bears are roughly 6 feet tall when standing.

The second complaint claimed that a bear, tigers and ligers were pacing, showing “psychological distress.” This was not addressed in the USDA report.

McClelland said Friday his zoo isn’t going anywhere.

“These are my kids,” he said. “I’m not relocating my babies.”