Broken Arrow Exotic Animal Sanctuary May Close This Summer
BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma - Safari's Exotic Animal Sanctuary in could be closing to the public.
A court document says the United States Department of Agriculture will revoke the sanctuary's license August 1, after finding a number of violations concerning animal welfare and care.
But Safari's says it is voluntarily turning in its license, because the founder is retiring.
Safari's, in Broken Arrow, is home to more than 250 animals.
The non-profit is run by volunteers, but founder, Lori Ensign, oversees the care of the animals.
But the USDA said the zoo has too many violations and they must revoke its operating license, meaning the park could close to the public by August.
A court document lists violations from 2003 to 2011. Violations include: shelters and fences in disrepair failure to control pests, food stored improperly, and fecal matter accumulation in some enclosures
However, Safari's says these are not the reasons for the license revocation. The operators of the sanctuary said they are voluntarily giving up the license because Ensign is retiring.
Safari's volunteer, Frank Gaddy, said, "Lori Ensign, who founded the place, has MS. She was diagnosed in ‘95. She was supposed to be in a wheelchair by the end of that decade."
Gaddy said it's come to the point where one person can't do it all.
He said Ensign is trying to put together the proper board of people to continue running the facility.
Gaddy admits the USDA's demands became too much.
"It just built up over the years," Gaddy said. "She realized she didn't have the funding herself to keep it going and do the improvements that they want."
Safari's said they are constantly working on improvements and upgrades. For example, right now they said they are working on replacing older wooden cages with stronger steel beams and heavier-gauge chain link fences.
"Another is the monkey cages. They show up right after they eat and say there is food around. Animals do it, there is food around," Gaddy said.
Gaddy also said what really matters is that, no matter who is in charge, both Ensign and the animals she loves be taken care of.
The USDA placed Safari's on probation for two years.
The sanctuary hopes to have a board in place before the August deadline.