Sunday, April 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Beleaguered Zoo Owner Lashes Out At Critics

The owner of a Burlco zoo, under attack for a history of violations, blames federal inspectors, the mother of a 2-year-old who was bitten by one of his monkeys, and an animal rights organization for his problems

Beleaguered Zoo Owner Lashes Out At Critics

Megan Goodwin and mother Myrna of Bristol feed a capuchin. The zoo quietly reopened after a fatal blaze.
Megan Goodwin and mother Myrna of Bristol feed a capuchin. The zoo quietly reopened after a fatal blaze. AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer

The mother of a 2-year-old child who recently was bitten by a monkey was really the person at fault, the owner of a troubled Burlington County zoo insisted in a recent interview.  

"The parent didn't watch the child," huffed Burton Sipp when he was asked about the May 17 incident at his Animal Kingdom Zoo in Springfield Township.  "I had to spend thousands to put wire up" around the zoo's fences. 

Never mind that the wooden fence surrounding a cage full of spider monkeys had wide openings between the slats and that inspectors had warned him many times in the past that the public needs to be better protected from potentially dangerous animals.  The child easily slipped underneath the fence and was grabbed and bitten on the hand by a monkey who wanted the popcorn that she clutched in her hand.    

When her mom, Sharon Harker, called Sipp later to ask if the monkey was up to date on its shots, she said he never apologized.  Instead, he told her that he wasn't responsible for what happened and then insisted monkeys don't get rabies and don't need shots.  

Never mind that the Health Department ordered all the monkeys quarantined to check for diseases when the records couldn't be located.  In past years, inspectors had cited him more than 20 times for failing to keep adequate veterinary records. 

Sipp also lashed out recently at PETA and the USDA inspectors who had found numerous violations at his zoo over the years.  He said the violations were minor and that "even restaurants" get cited for a slew of violations.  "Sometimes the inspectors are overzealous," he said.    

Read some of the reports and see what you think.  Here's the link for the latest reports on file with the USDA:  The link should take you directly to the page, but sometimes bounces back to the home inspection page.  In that case, use Burton Sipp as the search word.  http://acissearch.aphis.usda.gov/LPASearch/faces/CustomerSearch.jspx

Sipp had turned his hobby of collecting exotic animals into a zoo business 24 years ago.  He said he obtains the llamas, hyenas, parrots, ostriches, a wide variety of monkeys and other species from other animal collectors or from other zoos that are selling off their surplus animals.  

When he first went into the zoo business, he said he charged a quarter.  "A couple of kids came out after school and they were climbing on the cages... Then I had to spend money to build bigger and better exhibits."   

Now, admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children.  The draw is that the zoo allows people to feed the animals.  It sells buckets of popcorn, marshmallows and Fruit Loops for $1 - $10 and allows the unorthodox treats to be fed to nearly all of 150 animals on display.   

Never mind that sugar isn't recommended for animals and that the amounts aren't controlled.  And never mind that in its latest inspection report, the USDA cited the zoo for a "repeat violation" for failing to monitor people who were observed feeding their own treats to the animals

Jan Hefler
About this blog

Written by Inquirer staff writer Jan Hefler, the Burlco Buzz blog covers breaking news in the the county, as well as its quirky characters, crime cases, politics, outdoor recreation and environment. Contact Jan at jhefler@phillynews.com.

Jan Hefler
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