Upper Peninsula bear ranch responds to criticism from animal rights group

Upper Peninsula bear ranch responds to criticism from animal rights group

LUCE COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- An upper Michigan bear ranch recently received some criticism from the animal rights group, PETA, for the way it handles its bears.

PETA's main issue with the ranch is how they are enclosing the bear cubs and exposing them to the public. The owner of the ranch says he's done nothing but rescue these bears and care for them.

Oswald's Bear Ranch has 240 acres and 40 bears.

“Cub bears are like children," said owner, Dean Oswald. "You get one, then two, three, four and I had so many people stopping to see the bears, I thought I better put a gate up and let them pay for the food.”

Dean Oswald has been in the business of showing people his bears for 20 years.

He says the ranch has thousands of visitors each year, but in recent months it has attracted attention from PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“Cubs are forced to pose for photos with visitors, they should still be in the protective care of their mothers," said Debbie Metzler, a Senior Captive Wildlife Specialist with the PETA Foundation. "These cubs were documented again pacing back and forth, crying out and one was biting the caging which are all signs of severe psychological suffering and indicate that these photo ops are highly stressful to them.”

PETA thinks the bear cubs should be moved into a more natural environment and off of cement floors.

“PETA came in here and started talking about having cement floors here," Oswald said. "If you had a dirt floor, they’d be walking in urine and mess all day long. This way here we have cement floors, which everybody does. All the zoos have. You keep it clean that way.

The pacing back and forth and crying out, Oswald says is because the bears are anticipating food from guests.

“Oswald’s is not rescuing these cubs," Metzler said. "They’re acquiring them actually from breeders out of state to make money off of them and forcing them to live in inadequate conditions.”

“If I know they’re going to a zoo, I’ll purchase them," Oswald said. "That’s the only time we purchase a bear. Other than that, they’re always brought here because the mother has been killed.”

PETA says it has brought its complaint to the USDA for investigation, but Dean Oswald says the USDA has already been to the ranch and cleared them.

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