Cherokee considers outlawing bear pits

The Cherokee Bear Zoo on April 14, 2016. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

CHEROKEE, N.C. -- Cherokee leadership is considering legislation that would outlaw concrete bear pits.

This comes just days after a judge ruled, while "not ideal," the Cherokee Bear Zoo is not violating federal regulations having bears in the enclosures.

The judge agrees the conditions are sub-par and outdatedbut don't meet the definition of "harming" or "harassing."

The zoo owners say they're pleased with the ruling. But they also say two and a half years of litigation has interfered with plans they've had to move their bears to a bigger, natural habitat.

"The judge found that we were in compliance with all the USDA requirements and everything. We've always stayed above that, " Barry Coggins said.

"If we hadn't have been derailed by the whole lawsuit and the situation of having to handle and continuously back pedal on this situation, then we would have been able to expand by this point in time," Collette Coggins said.

Tribal members who brought the suit, Amy Walker and Peggy Hill, claimed the bears are kept in inhumane concrete pits with no shade or vegetation. They said they're considering an appeal.

Tribal Chief Patrick Lambert's legislation would make the concrete pits illegal. Council members will address it at an upcoming work session.




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