Crime

Judge overseeing zoo trial says she gagged on stench there

MANCHESTER, Iowa (AP) - A judge overseeing a trial to determine whether an eastern Iowa roadside zoo should be closed told her courtroom she gagged on the "horrible stench" while touring the facility.

The Telegraph Herald reported that Judge Monica Wittig shared her reaction with those in attendance on Wednesday, the first day of the trial in Manchester regarding Cricket Hollow Animal Park. Four plaintiffs have sued to have the animals removed and the zoo owned by Pam and Tom Sellner closed. The trial resumed Thursday.

Wednesday's proceedings included testimony and a tour of the zoo, which sits just west of Manchester.

"I walked out (from the zoo) and the first thing I thought was, 'I need to take at least two showers to feel comfortable,'" the judge said. "And it's making me shake right now. It's terrible."

She said a "horrible stench" in an enclosed reptile room made her gag.

"I understand we've got seven days of trial, but what I saw today paints a picture 1,000 words can't describe," Wittig said.

Pam Sellner and defense attorney Larry Thorson declined to answer questions after Wednesday's proceedings.

Wittig's comments were delivered midway through the testimony of Tracey Kuehl, one of the four plaintiffs.

Kuehl described the zoo stench during a 2012 visit and recalled seeing a lion repeatedly ramming itself into the side of the corncrib in which it was contained.

"It was disturbing to me and really very shocking," Kuehl said. "The thing that struck me was that (Cricket Hollow) was not anywhere close to what I had experienced at any other zoo."

In April last year a federal appeals court upheld a district court ruling that the zoo violated the Endangered Species Act with its treatment of some animals.

 

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