MANCHESTER, Iowa — A legal battle between an animal rights group and a private Manchester animal exhibitor will make its way to the courtroom later this month.
Haley Anderson, Pamela Jones, Tracey Kuehl and Lisa Kuehl, with assistance from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, are suing Pamela and Tom Sellner, owners of Cricket Hollow Animal Park.
A non-jury trial is set to begin Oct. 16 in Iowa District Court for Delaware County. The suit seeks to remove the Sellners’ animals to sanctuaries and shut down the animal park, formerly known as Cricket Hollow Zoo.
“They already sued me under the Endangered Species Act and took my endangered species with their lies,” Pamela Sellner said. “And now they’re back for everything else that’s (Animal Welfare Act)-regulated.”
In this case, Sellner said, the consequences of the ruling could be devastating.
“I will basically be shut down. That’s what they want,” she said. “They want everything I exhibit that USDA regulates, including the farm animals.”
ALDF lawyers submitted a 181-page petition in September 2018. The group argued that animals were kept in cramped, unsanitary conditions; received inadequate veterinary care; and that the zoo is a “public nuisance.”
The lawsuit seeks to re-home the animals at Cricket Hollow to sanctuaries and “permanently enjoin Cricket Hollow Zoo’s owners from confining animals in inhumane and unsafe conditions, and requests the owners be permanently barred from obtaining any animals in the future.”
The Sellners denied almost every accusation line-by-line.
Cricket Hollow Zoo has repeatedly been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for repeated violations of animal welfare laws. Earlier judgments against the Sellners have resulted in them turning lions, tigers and lemurs over to sanctuaries, per order of the court.
Sellner said the group plans to inspect the park thanks to a court order.
“They’re bringing lawyers, photographers, an expert witness and I don’t know who else,” she said. “And they’ve got a three-hour block of time to have a free-for-all at my house, and I’m not really happy about it.”
Sellner said the litigation against Cricket Hollow is part of a broader effort to shut down similar operations.
“I don’t even know what to say anymore because it’s not just me that this is happening to,” she said. “But I would like some support from the public.”
Sellner said these same groups will eventually come after farmers.
“I just need some support from the community, especially if they care at all about having animals for their kids to see in the future,” she said. “It’s getting to the point where (children are) only going to be able to see them on TV in a documentary.”