PETA urges South Carolina, IRS to investigate non-profit associated with Myrtle Beach roadside zoo

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 10:58 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The owner of the roadside zoo Myrtle Beach Safari and president of the non-profit Rare Species Fund may soon face investigations from the IRS, South Carolina and Florida.

PETA alleges Bhagavan Antle’s (aka Kevin or “Doc” Antle) non-profit, Rare Species Fund (RSF) is using charitable donations to fund the roadside zoo while claiming to support wildlife conservation.

RELATED | Hearing set Thursday in wildlife trafficking case involving Myrtle Beach Safari owner

According to PETA, the RSF often touts international wildlife conservation when soliciting donations from the public, but as PETA details in letters sent to the IRS, the South Carolina secretary of state, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Antle appears to use most of those charitable funds to subsidize the for-profit Myrtle Beach Safari.

In the letters, PETA states that Antle, “breeds big cats, prematurely separates cubs from their mothers, and forces them and other animals into stressful and dangerous public encounters—activities that do not benefit the animals’ well-being and have no conservation value.”

PETA is asking the IRS to investigate the RSF, revoke its tax-exempt status, and pursue all available civil penalties and criminal charges against Antle. PETA is also asking South Carolina and Florida authorities to investigate the RSF and revoke its registration to solicit charitable contributions.

RELATED | Investigation at Myrtle Beach Safari centers around three lion cubs, owner says

“Using charitable donations to fund a for-profit roadside zoo smacks of tax evasion,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA is calling on federal and state authorities to investigate whether donors are unwittingly propping up ‘Doc’ Antle’s exploitative cub-petting stunts.”

WMBF News reached out to Myrtle Beach Safari, the Rare Species Fund, the South Carolina Secretary of State, and the IRS for comment. We have not yet received responses.

The Florida Department of Agriculture released the following statement to WMBF News:

“I can confirm that FDACS Consumer Services Division is currently investigating whether the entity is operating in violation of Chapter 496, Florida Statutes. With the investigation ongoing, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Antle’s charges—a felony count of wildlife trafficking, another felony count of conspiracy to traffic in wildlife, and 13 misdemeanor charges, including nine counts of cruelty to animals—stem from an investigation by the Virginia attorney general that found that Antle had trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina with the owner of the now-defunct roadside zoo Wilson’s Wild Animal Park.

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