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Group protests at Lagoon

Animal rights group says conditions are ‘deplorable’

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FARMINGTON —The Utah Animal Rights Coalition protested at Lagoon Amusement Park on Saturday, urging patrons to boycott Lagoon until the "Wild Kingdom Train" ride is shut down.

The ride, which has been a part of Lagoon for 40 years, travels through a small zoo, with animals such as bears, emus, llamas, ostriches and eagles living in cages.

According to the UARC, the animals are being kept in "deplorable conditions in cages that in no way resemble their natural habitat," said Sean Diener, executive director of UARC.

About 30 protestors marched with signs that read "Lagoon . . . the animals aren't amused," and distributed leaflets at the Lagoon entrance to educate the potential park patrons about the ride.

Diener said the group was prompted to action after receiving "hundreds of phone calls" from park patrons who were upset about the small cages the animals were living in.

The UARC investigated the ride, and through contact with at least six past Lagoon employees, said it found evidence of animals being beaten to death trying to escape, and that Tippy, a brown bear, had been blasted in the face with scalding steam from the train.

Diener said the UARC has attempted several times to contact Lagoon representatives, but has received no response.

Dick Andrew, vice president of marketing for Lagoon, said he is not aware of any contact attempts from the UARC. The first contact he received was a fax Friday telling him about the protest, but he said he would be willing to meet with the group to discuss their concerns.

Andrew called the allegations of mistreatment of animals "outrageous" and said Lagoon denies all allegations. He said no animals have ever been injured or killed.

There are strict regulations the animal park has met, Andrew said, and Lagoon has the required permits to have an animal park. There are also three veterinarians on staff that check on the animals monthly, and are on-call for treatment as needed, he said.

Andrew acknowledged that Lagoon has received calls from patrons who are upset about the animal park, but said it was not an overwhelming number.

"We can't deny we have animals in a zoo-like setting," Andrew said. "We obviously have a philosophical difference" with the UARC. Andrew said Lagoon does not plan to close the ride.

The UARC was allowed to protest on the shoulder of Lagoon Drive, and Farmington Police officers were at the protest to make sure protestors did not obstruct traffic.

The group will continue it's "anti-pain" campaign with weekly protests until the ride is shut down and animals are released. Diener said the UARC will help to provide transportation to sanctuaries for all imprisoned animals.

Diener said the group is currently working with Wildlife Resources of Utah to further investigate the animal park.

E-mail: jcheney@desnews.com