☀️Summer Vacation Checklist: Choose Kindness!🐪🐻‍❄️🐬🐊🐘

By Jennifer O’Connor

Monkey reaching out from her cage. photos: PETA

School is out, and the open road beckons. Summer vacations are what memories are made of, and with so many choices, it’s hard to narrow down the right destination. But whether you decide to stay close to home or travel to far-flung destinations, please don’t spend any time or money in places where animals are forced to entertain the public.

You’ll spot the billboards on every highway — appeals to pull over to see every novelty from live alligators to dancing bears. It may be tempting to take a break and check things out, but tourists who buy tickets are unwittingly keeping animals in servitude until the day they die.

Just about anybody — whether or not they have any qualifications — can apply for and receive a U.S. Department of Agriculture animal exhibitor’s license.

Roadside zoos are typically privately owned and on precarious financial footing. At these facilities, naturally far-ranging animals like lions, bears, tigers and primates are usually housed in cramped cages consisting of chain-link fencing and concrete floors. Their comfort is an afterthought.

Since most of these places operate with little staff or money, cages are often poorly maintained and filled with urine and feces. The grounds are typically littered with garbage and never-ending “improvement projects.” The animals might not be provided with any kind of enrichment beyond an old tire or a dead tree branch to help them pass the seemingly interminable days.

Many calculating operators have taken to adding the word “sanctuary” or “rescue” to their names, knowing that kind people are drawn in by such claims. But far too many of these outfits are nothing more than breeders, dealers and exhibitors exploiting the public’s goodwill and generosity.

These kinds of scam operations aren’t only here in the U.S.; they’re everywhere:

Throughout Asia, tourists find appeals to visit elephant “sanctuaries” for up-close encounters. But no legitimate elephant sanctuary allows hands-on interactions with the public, and that includes letting tourists ride the elephants or give them baths. When not being forced to labor, the elephants at these sham sanctuaries are chained, and they always live in fear of being beaten with a bullhook — a heavy baton with a sharp steel hook on the end. TRAFFIC, a leading international wildlife-trade monitoring network, released an exposé showing how tourism actually drives the suffering of elephants, including when they’re captured in their natural forest homes.

Bear in China with permanent nose ring.

“Swim With Dolphins” programs are another common tourist draw. In nature, dolphins swim vast distances every day in extended family pods. They are keenly intelligent, have complex social ties and use echolocation to navigate and judge distances. In captivity, even the largest tank feels like a prison to them. Captive dolphins often die far short of their expected lifespan.

Animals are suffering even at well-known, popular tourist destinations, including the Grand Canyon; Santorini, Greece; the pyramids of Giza in Egypt; and Petra in Jordan, where horses, donkeys and camels are forced to haul sightseers around on their backs or in carriages. They are worked to exhaustion, often in the scorching heat, with no access to water.

A dolphin in his natural habitat: THE OCEAN!

Return home from your vacation with photos and happy anecdotes – not memories of despairing dolphins, stressed bears or battered horses! Their mistreatment should be condemned by all compassionate people!

Every traveler must pledge not to spend a dime on businesses that exploit animals.