RICHMOND, Va. — Keith A. Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Winchester, and his nephew Christian Dall’Acqua were indicted on 46 counts of animal cruelty. The Frederick County Grand Jury’s actions came after an August seizure in which 119 animals, including lions, tigers, bears, camels, goats, and water buffalo, were removed from the property.
The animals were taken after a judge found Wilson “cruelly treated, neglected, or deprived the animal[s] of adequate care.”
“During a 12-hour seizure hearing held on August 29 in Frederick County General District Court, animal welfare experts testified as to the inadequate conditions and cruelty at Wilson’s Wild Animal Park and photo and video evidence was entered showing inadequate conditions of animals and facilities,” a spokesperson for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spoke to DCW50 in August 2017 about the park’s condition.
“This is absolutely one of the worst bear enclosures that I have ever seen,” Brittany Peet, PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, said while walking around the park with DCW50. “This bear is overheated, he is baking in the sun.”
Other issues Peet saw on that trip included small enclosures and under stimulated animals.
She also said many of the exhibits had damaged educational signs, or no signs at all — a violation of state permits.
In response to the 2017 story, lawyers for Wilson’s Wild Animal Park provided the following statement:
Wilson’s Wild Animal Park is a legal business which meets regular inspection standards and works closely with licensed veterinarians.
Wilson’s Wild Animal Park faces daily harassment from well-funded radical animal rights groups that know little, if anything, about the care of animals. They use misleading statements, false accusations, and propaganda about our facility, while putting forth photos of our animals taken out of context which serves as nothing more than a fundraiser for their deceptively named organizations which frequently use emotionally based, unscientific hype to destroy legal businesses which do not align with their ‘animal rights’ ideology.
Any false and defamatory statements made about Wilson’s Wild Animal Park that are misleading with intent to damage the reputation of their legal business may prompt pursuit of all available avenues, criminal and civil, to remedy any harm.
The animals seized from the zoo were put in the care of animal control agencies and exotic and agricultural animal rescue partner organizations.