Home to about a dozen miserable bears, the Cherokee Bear Zoo is a small remote tourist trap located off a highway in North Carolina—blink, and you'll miss it. The dilapidated roadside attraction keeps these intelligent animals in grossly inhumane conditions. They are confined to virtually barren concrete pits, where they have no other option but to pace back and forth, walk in endless circles, and beg tourists to toss them a morsel of food.
Highly intelligent animals capable of empathy and a wide range of feelings, bears are active for up to 18 hours per day in their natural habitat and spend their time exploring diverse terrain. In the wild, bears forage for a wide variety of foods and dig in soft earth, brush, and leaves—but the concrete pits that the Cherokee bears are forced to call home deprive them of everything that is natural and important to them. Surrounded by four solid walls, the bears cannot scan the horizon, gain a perspective on their surroundings, or make much use of their acute sense of smell.
Cherokee's roadside zoos have made no effort to simulate the animals' natural habitat or provide them with stimulation. They have also been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to meet minimal federal standards established in the Animal Welfare Act
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