Ben and Booger, bears that lived in tiny, almost barren cages at an animal park in Wilmington, left on Tuesday for a new life at a Colorado sanctuary.
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Their rescue from Tregembo Animal Park resulted from a settlement in a lawsuit filed in August by two N.C. residents. Represented by PETA and two local law firms, the residents contended that the roadside zoo’s treatment of the bears violated North Carolina’s anti-cruelty statute.
The settlement agreement also permits the plaintiffs to challenge the roadside zoo in court should Tregembo seek to acquire new bears, PETA said in a news release on Tuesday.
Ben, 14, and Booger, 15, are headed to the Wild Animal Sanctuary , a 720-acre refuge for more than 450 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other rescued carnivores.
“The bears’ days of languish in tiny cages are over,” Brittany Peets, the PETA Foundation’s director of captive animal law enforcement, said in the release. “PETA is thrilled that they are headed to a spacious sanctuary, where they’ll finally be able to roam, swim, dig, and just be bears.”
PETA said Ben and Booger’s enclosures were less than 0.0004 percent of the minimum territory a bear would cover in nature. Booger paced repeatedly – a symptom of mental anguish caused by deprivation and distress, according to PETA. The condition is known as zoochotic behavior.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the park in 2015 for failing to provide Ben, who is obese, with appropriate veterinary care for severe facial lesions that left him with scarring on both corneas, PETA said.
Park owner Sherry Tregembo told the Observer on Wednesday that Ben and Booger were rescue bears that her park cared for over at least 10 years.
“The bears have ample space, proper diet and health care when needed,” Tregembo said in an email reply to the Observer. “An NCSU veterinarian has been to see the bears twice in the past month and said they were in good health!
“Unfortunately with most litigation it doesn’t matter what is right it is who has the finances to drag the case on in court!” she said. “After spending several thousands of dollars we decided with very heavy hearts to settle this case for the greater good of all the animals in my care!”