Award-winning music icon Tanya Tucker is joining forces with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to urge families to avoid roadside zoos. After a recent visit to Special Memories Zoo in Greenville, Wisconsin, Tucker was so disturbed by the conditions and health of the animals she felt compelled to stand up and advocate on their behalf.

Tucker published a powerful open letter detailing the serious mistreatment of animals she witnessed at the Special Memories roadside zoo, which has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) multiple times for Animal Welfare Act violations, including animals housed in filthy enclosures, lack of drinking water and food contaminated with rodent droppings.

“The animals at the Special Memories Zoo can’t speak for themselves — we are grateful to Tanya Tucker for speaking for them,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The cruel conditions in which the animals live at Special Memories Zoo is illegal. We urge the USDA to investigate and protect these animals.”

“Tanya,” an endangered Bengal tiger at Special Memories, who Tucker was told was named for her, appeared to have a broken leg, which was untreated. Tucker asked a zookeeper about Tanya’s condition, and says she was unconvincingly told the tiger was “faking it.”

In the letter Tucker also explains seeing “pitiful Siberian bears” who were “sitting in and surrounded by mounds of their own feces,” birds with hurt or broken wings, a terrified jaguar who was “foaming at the mouth,” as well as a lion and a giraffe confined to very small cages — who were exhibiting clear signs of stress. Tucker notes that many animals had no clean water to drink.

“I am a country singer, and I most often use my voice to make music. Today I am using my voice to speak up for these mistreated animals,” Tucker says. “What I saw at the Special Memories Zoo was cruel, and it was wrong, and it must be stopped. Please join me in filing a complaint with the USDA against Special Memories and demand the zoo clean up its act.”

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s leading legal advocacy organization for animals, is providing an easy way for supporters and fans to contact the USDA via

Sadly, the problems at the Special Memories Zoo are not unique. Roadside zoos dot the American landscape, able to operate due to lax enforcement of existing laws on both a state and federal level. The Animal Legal Defense Fund files lawsuits across the United States to protect animals held in captivity at roadside zoos, and advocates for stronger laws and better enforcement of existing laws.

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