There are two sides to every story. I wish to share my side, since the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and other animal rights activists have shared their views of our zoo for the past several years.

Cricket Hollow Zoo is the largest privately-owned zoo in Iowa. We exhibit over 350 birds and animals at our six-acre zoo, located on our working dairy farm. This is the zoo’s 14th season of being open at this location. We are an Iowa non-profit educational corporation. We house a large number of big cats, monkeys, bears, wolves and many other exotic animals that families in our area don’t get to see every day.

In March of 2013, we received a letter from the ADLF, a radical animal rights group from California, wanting us to take all our endangered animals and put them in their sanctuaries in the next 60 days, as they believed we didn’t care for them well enough. We did not give our animals to them. They threatened to sue us under the Endangered Species Act.

On June 11, 2013, we received calls from media across the state wanting us to comment on why we were being sued. We had not been served with any papers and knew nothing about the lawsuit except for what was on the news. Finally, almost two weeks later, we were served with papers that the ADLF and five Iowa animal rights activists were suing us under the Endangered Species Act.

Having never been sued before, we were naïve as to what the whole process involves. We had to give the ADLF all of our zoo’s records of where each animal came from, zoo tax records, veterinary records, financial records, USDA inspection reports and, in the end, even had to give them our personal information, including all of our bank accounts, what banks they were at, personal income tax forms and the net worth statement for our farm.

We did depositions with the five Iowa plaintiffs, several of whom have no animal or farm background at all. One even works for Iowa State University. My husband and I, along with our zoo veterinarian and our zoo nutritionist, also gave depositions.

The ALDF has filed a motion for summary judgment against the zoo, and we have filed a resistance. My attorney has spent countless hours on this case, and it’s costing us thousands of dollars—just what the ALDF wants—hoping we’ll either back down or go bankrupt fighting them. They believe our animals, the animals that we have hand-raised, loved and shared with this community, would be better off in their “sanctuaries.”

We are doing our best to fight back against a powerful animal rights group with almost unlimited funding. They get millions of dollars in donations annually by making people believe they are out saving cats, dogs, horses and other animals. This is far from the truth. Much of this money doesn’t do anything for the animals. It pays lobbyists and their own salaries and perks as they urge officials to vote against pet breeders, horse owners, livestock farmers, hunters, etc. Every day the country that our sons and daughters fought for—for our freedom—is actually taking that freedom from us. An eye-opening book by Katharine Dokken called The Art of Terror—Inside the Animal Rights Movement is full of documented situations by various groups. Most people don’t know the suffering it causes those in the animal industry. We have personally received hate mail, death threats, private detectives taking illegal photos, aerial photos, trespassing, slanders and lies, much of it by people who have never even been here.

Remember, this is a private, family-owned facility that receives no government funding. Our only funding is through zoo admissions and donations. We hope to have as many visitors as possible this season and appreciate any donations to help us.