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USDA petitioning for Collins Zoo's license to be revoked

COLLINS — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked the federal agriculture secretary to fine and revoke the license of the Collins Zoo.

The USDA complaint alleges at least 47 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, each carrying a fine of up to $10,000, the Hattiesburg American reported.

Owners Gus and Betty White have fought government agencies for nearly 25 years over animal confiscations, hundreds of alleged violations and a civil lawsuit. They plan to keep fighting, Betty White said: “That’s what’s wrong with America now. People don’t stand up for what they believe in.”

The complaint filed in March alleges the Whites do not provide wholesome and adequate food or remove animal feces and other contaminants from their property.

USDA inspectors typically make surprise inspections right after heavy rains and just before cleaning time, according to the Whites’ answer.

The USDA also says the Whites have too few adequately trained workers to legally care for their animals, and that hygiene, veterinary control and records are inadequate.

The Whites’ answer lists nearly a dozen full- and part-time employees. Full-time employees live next to the zoo and a veterinarian is always on call, they said.

“A wolf hybrid called ‘Olive’ was observed with a distended abdomen and in distress but was not seen by a veterinarian,” the USDA complaint alleges. “The wolf hybrid was found dead the next day.”

The Whites’ answer says the animal was pregnant and died of old age. “The attending veterinarian was contacted after (pregnancy) was noticed and she prescribed medication,” it says.

The department has not yet scheduled a hearing before an administrative law judge, Betty White said.

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