Ben the bear won't return to roadside zoo in NC

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Ben the bear will stay at his new home, a habitat in California, rather than return to a roadside zoo in North Carolina where he lived in a small cage with a concrete floor, according to an agreement worked out Monday in state court.

Both sides of the legal fight over Ben’s ownership agreed Monday to keep him at the sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif., where he was moved earlier this month, The Fayetteville Observer reported.

Ben is a black-and-brown bear hybrid who had lived the last six years at Jambbas Ranch Tours, a roadside zoo in Cedar Creek, where he lived in a 12-by-22-foot cage with a concrete floor. A lawsuit was filed, and Ben was moved to a Performing Animals Welfare Society sanctuary, where he lives in a 2-acre habitat with grass and a pool. 

Jambbas owner James Bass II didn’t attend the hearing. The Bass family is happy the case is resolved, said his attorney Philip Isley. “Everyone’s happy that the bear is happy,” he said.

Carney Anne Chester, an attorney with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said Ben has thrived in his new home.  “He will get to be a bear for the rest of his life,” Chester said.

The money that Jambbas had raised toward a new enclosure for Ben – about $2,500 – will go to Ben’s new guardians to defray the costs of moving him.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund said the permanent injunction signed Monday also forbids Jambbas from acquiring, owning, or possessing any bears in the future; seeking any state wildlife captivity licenses or endangered species permits relating to owning or possessing any bears; and using Ben’s former concrete cage as the primary enclosure for any wild or exotic animal.

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