Animal Trainer Fights to Save Career in USDA Court (Update)

June 2 marked the end of the courtroom portion of Doug Terranova’s legal battle against the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.  Now, the Dallas-based animal trainer must wait — perhaps as long as a year or more — for briefs to be filed by both parties to the case and for Administrative Law Judge Janice Bullard to issue her ruling.  Though remaining “cautiously optimistic,” Terranova has, for good reason, been unable to shake the feeling that he’s been targeted for enforcement by animal rights agenda-driven agents.

On "Circus of the Stars" TV show.

Though Terranova has already spent more than $100,000 on legal fees, he said he stands to lose a lot more if APHIS defeats him in court. Included in that “lot” is up to $10,000 per violation with the possibility of being found guilty on 28 or more citations and the loss of the exhibitor license he has held for 24 years.  But what about that feeling of being targeted?

Copies of USDA Settlement Agreements from four other cases involving people who train and/or keep animals (a.k.a., “exhibitors) help answer that question. All four cases — none of which went to trial — involved charges at least as serious as Terranova’s but were prosecuted much differently.  Details of each appear below:

The Oregon Zoo in Portland, Ore., did not lose its license after it was assessed a $4,000 fine following the death of a rhinoceros in October 2008 after it was kept in a transport crate for 43 hours while being transported by trucks from Kansas City to Portland.

Black Pine Animal Park, in Albion, Ind., did not lose its license after it was assessed a $250 fine for three violations (all dated Dec. 9, 2008), one of which involved the escape of a tiger from the park;

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in Eatonville, Wash., did not lose its license after it was assessed a $6,000 fine for four incidents that took place between June 4 and June 10 and culminated in the death of a lynx after it had been stuck in a tree for 18 days without rescue; and

Hands On Wildlife Safari in Kissimmee, Fla., did not lose its license after it was assessed a $4,000 fine for three alleged violations, including one June 9, 2009, that involved the escape of a pregnant cougar into a residential area.

Note: Not included in the above list are countless other incidents involving escapes of animals from zoos and deadly attacks on people by animals at zoos. Those zoos, however, remain open with their licenses not revoked. Dallas and San Francisco stand as recent examples.

The courtroom testimony of two USDA employees also supports Terranova’s feeling of being targeted. Those employees — Dr. Kathryn Ziegerer, an inspector, and Dr. Denise Sofranko, an elephant specialist — testified about allegations Terranova committed violations so grievous they actually endangered the safety of the public:

Both doctors testified that they observed Terranova giving elephant rides at the Iowa State Fair Aug. 13, 2008;

Further, the doctors said they observed him walking an elephant with children on its back around a pen containing a resting elephant; and

Finally, the doctors alleged that the resting elephant was close enough to the working elephant that it “could have” grabbed and injured a child off its back.

On cross-examination, however, both doctors admitted that, even though they believed the public was in danger, neither took steps to stop the rides or even mention this to Terranova until Aug. 18 — five days later — when, at the conclusion of the fair, they cited him for this “violation” and ordered him to immediately correct the situation in their report.

More to come.  It gets better.

UPDATE 6/9/11 at 4:56 p.m. Central: Cross-posted today at Andrew Breitbart’s

UPDATE 12/03/11 at 8:19 a.m. Central:  Sarah Conant, the USDA official who signed the “charge sheet” against Terranova, is being called an HSUS mole.  Of course, I exposed her months ago in this post.

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About BobMcCarty

A native of Enid, Oklahoma, Bob McCarty graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in journalism in 1984. During the next two decades, he served stints as an Air Force public affairs officer, a political campaign manager, a technology sales consultant and a public relations professional. Today, Bob spends most of his time researching topics, writing about them and publishing those writings. When he’s not writing online, he’s working as an author. Bob’s first published book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice (October 2011), chronicles the life story and wrongful conviction of Sgt. 1st Class Kelly A. Stewart, a highly-decorated Green Beret combat veteran. In his second book, THE CLAPPER MEMO (May 2013), Bob connects the dots between a memo signed by James R. Clapper Jr. — the man now serving as our nation’s top intelligence official — and the deaths of dozens of Americans in Afghanistan at the hands of our so-called Afghan “allies” wearing the uniforms of their nation’s military, police and security forces. Bob is married, has three sons and lives in the St. Louis area. Bob is available for media and blogger interviews. Simply drop a comment here, leaving your name, organization, phone number, e-mail address and area of interest. He’ll try to respond as soon as possible.

4 thoughts on “Animal Trainer Fights to Save Career in USDA Court (Update)

  1. you know, you really would think the USDA would be busy finding more peanut factories and E Coli infested spinach

    Perhaps checking for melamine in products imported from China. Mercury in South Sea fish imports.

    You know, food safety…

  2. Really the pasrt about the Imminent Danger…not taken action on until the report was filed a week later is par for the course with OSHA as well.

    Stay on them.

  3. There is target enforcement and even breaches of confidentiality in the ranks of the USDA/APHIS West Coast. My report is being written and further supports that inspectors are either given a free hand for their opinion or told NOT to make an official inspection. This is not only improper of the agency but indicates that they lack credibility.
    I hope that Doug not only beats the wrap…but wins the case and if he can; takes action against the agency. It’s wrong and inappropriate of a federal agency!!!
    TY for continuing the story!!!

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