A judge last week ordered the owners of a shuttered Manchester roadside zoo to explain “why they should not be held in contempt” for apparently failing to comply with a court order.
Pam and Tom Sellner, the owners of Cricket Hollow Animal Park, must attend a hearing at 9 a.m. Feb. 7 in Iowa District Court for Delaware County, according to an order from Judge Monica Wittig.
The Sellners’ attorney, Larry Thorson, could not be reached by phone to provide comment for this story. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.
A call to the Sellners Jan. 10 rang unanswered.
A six-day civil trial was held in October after four plaintiffs, with assistance from Animal Legal Defense Fund, sued the Sellners, seeking to remove the animals and shut down the operation. In late November, Wittig ordered that its exotic animals be removed by animal rescue groups — a ruling being appealed by the Sellners.
Wittig clarified her order in December as covering all of the animals connected to the zoo’s exhibits.
Animal rescue groups reported taking 570 animals from the facility, but new court documents include multiple accusations that the Sellners likely hid or removed another about 100 animals kept at the zoo in defiance of Wittig’s order that they be turned over.
Jessica Blome, a California attorney who represented Iowa residents in the lawsuit against the Sellners as part of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed an affidavit requesting a contempt charge.
She alleged that several animals specifically mentioned in Wittig’s removal order — five brown bears, two mountain lions, a fox, a wolf hybrid, a camel, sugar gliders and other small animal sand birds — could not be found.
Blome asked that Wittig fine the Sellners $500 per missing animal and jail the couple “until they identify the location of each missing animal.”
Elizabeth Putsche, also of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed an affidavit stating that she observed several large trucks containing animal traps and cages in the driveway of the zoo on Dec. 8, the day before the animal rescue groups arrived to transport animals to new locations.
The Iowa residents who sued the Sellners also are asking the court to order the couple to potentially pay more than $600,000 in fees to recoup costs of litigating the case and removing the animals.
Attorney fees total $539,000, according to a filing from Animal Legal Defense Fund. Trial costs were $11,454, and the cost of animal retrieval and care is estimated at $100,000.