Claims Bureau violated FOIA re: Cherokee Bear Parks
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The issue of the Cherokee Bear Parks is back in the news. PETA filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday, March 17 against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The organization alleges the BIA is keeping information about the leases of the three bear parks in Cherokee a secret.
“Given how many times these cruel facilities have been cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, it’s inexcusable that they are allowed to operate at all,” PETA General Counsel Jeffrey Kerr said in a statement on Thursday. “These exhibitors are flagrantly abusing the bears trapped in their dank pits, and until the BIA hands over these documents, the public will have no way of knowing if they are also abusing their lease requirements.”
PETA’s suit seeks Declaratory and Injunctive Relief following a Freedom of Information Request made by the organization in August 2010.
“This is an action under the Freedom of Information Act…to obtain access to records pertaining to lease agreements in the possession of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” the suit states. “Although Defendant is legally responsible for administering and enforcing the requested agreements, Defendant claims that – with the exception of three agreements – it has been unable to locate any additional documents responsive to Plaintiff’s FOIA request.”
The BIA produced two lease agreements dealing with Santa’s Land and one dealing with the Chief Saunooke Bear Park but none on the Cherokee Bear Zoo.
PETA filed an administrative appeal in December 2010 and received a letter in January that a determination of that appeal would take one to two weeks. PETA alleges, “As of the date of this complaint, Defendant has failed to make such a determination and has failed to provide the requested documents.”
PETA further alleges in the suit, “Defendant’s search was inadequate as a matter of law because it was not reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.”
A message seeking comment with the BIA went unanswered by press time.