- Associated Press - Thursday, May 15, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The zoo in Monroe, Louisiana, should permanently lose its license because it kept a black bear for years in a small, windowless enclosure, say officials with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo animal exhibit license was canceled May 6, according to online records for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Inspection reports from February and last June described rusty cages with rotting wood. The Feb. 25 report also said the outer fence was damaged in many places, and broken wires in many exhibits could injure the animals. It also cited other problems.

Zoo Director Joe Clawson said he is working with APHIS to resolve a “paperwork problem” in its renewal application.

He said he tried unsuccessfully almost since the bear’s arrival in 2010 to find it another home, because it was too wild to join the zoo’s other bears and coyotes in their enclosure.

The bear, called Boudreaux by its keepers, came to the zoo after it strayed into human territory once too often.

“The state, instead of killing it, gave it to us,” Clawson said Thursday. “We were hoping to turn it into a zoo bear. He was just too big and too wild. He never tamed down.”

Clawson said he asked other zoos to swap a bear for Boudreaux, offered to give it away and called every sanctuary he knew of. “No one was interested in the animal,” he said.

Acting on a complaint from PETA, which released a copy of the inspection report on its blog, a federal inspector checked the bear in February.

“We agreed it was held in substandard conditions,” Clawson said. He said the inspector subsequently helped him place Boudreaux in a Colorado sanctuary.

PETA urged readers of its blog to write USDA saying that the zoo should not have its license renewed because of “its abysmal treatment of (Boudreaux) and other apparent violations.”

Recent inspections were the first ever to find the zoo in violation of animal welfare regulations, Clawson said.

However, the USDA’s online records show that problems with many cages, noted in June 2013, had not been fixed by Feb. 25 despite a Jan. 1 deadline.

Clawson said paperwork mistakenly omitted from the zoo’s renewal application caused it to miss a deadline. Zoo officials have been talking regularly with USDA about the application and about improvements, he said.

USDA officials have never said the zoo should close, he said.

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