I am writing regarding an upcoming event, “A Grizzly Experience," that has performances scheduled at the Highlands County Fair. You may not be aware of it, but exhibits involving wild animals, including bears, are egregiously cruel and very dangerous.

After considering the following information, we hope you'll inform readers about it and the information provided and that we ask The Highlands County Fair Board (who choose to keep their identity a secret) to leave bears and all other wild animals out of the upcoming and future events.

Wild animals used for events are denied any semblance of a natural life. They’re often torn away from their mothers as babies, locked in cages or shackled with chains and shipped from city to city. It’s standard practice to use physical violence and psychological domination to force them to perform tricks on command. As a result of this mistreatment, bears and other wild animals may lash out, biting, mauling, or otherwise attacking members of the public.

In 2017, a grizzly bear clawed a handler's face in front of frightened spectators at "A Grizzly Experience" at the Saratoga County Fair. According to a witness, the bear had seemed agitated for several minutes before the attack, which ended with the handler holding his face with "blood streaming from it." This onlooker explained, "[A]s I watched the show before the injury, I thought of all the things that could go wrong when you take a 500-pound omnivore and treat [him or her] like a circus freak."

That incident is only one example of the exhibitor's disregard for the public's safety and animals' welfare. He was also previously cited for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act when a brown bear named Boo Boo escaped from an enclosure and wasn't found for three days. The exhibitor also received warnings from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for allowing unsafe direct contact between an adult bear and his son's karate teacher, unlawfully importing bears without a permit, failure to meet minimum cage size requirements for bears, and inadequate drainage in the bear enclosure.

Jamey Binneveld