Documents: Infamous Myrtle Beach area roadside zoo closed, ‘secretly’ transferred animals

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 2:56 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2022 at 11:12 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – A roadside zoo that is at the center of a lawsuit surrounding its treatment of animals is permanently closed, according to federal court documents.

The closure comes after tips came into WMBF News last week, stating that it was closed and animals were being transferred. WMBF News reached out to the business located along Enterprise Road in the Socastee area but was told that it was closed for the season.

But federal documents filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on Monday, Sept. 12 tell a different story.

PETA filed a lawsuit in April against Waccatee Zoo, claiming that the zoo violates the federal Endangered Species Act and South Carolina’s public nuisance law, by confining and exhibiting over 460 animals in poor conditions. The lawsuit also alleges that it has received over 150 complaints from the public about the roadside zoo.


Left: PETA claims the picture was taken of Lila the Tiger at Waccatee Zoo on December 17, 2020...
Left: PETA claims the picture was taken of Lila the Tiger at Waccatee Zoo on December 17, 2020 with hair loss and curved spine. Right: PETA claims the picture was taken on June 29, 2021 showing Sha-Sha the pig-tailed macaque with an eye issue.(Source: PETA)

In a newly-filed emergency motion, PETA states that it had been in “good faith” talks with Waccatee Zoo to settle the litigation until the zoo went radio silent over the summer.

PETA stated that it started receiving tips similar to the ones that WMBF News received about the zoo being closed and animals being seen transferred out. The documents show that Lexie Jordan and Matthew Howard, who are plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, went by Waccatee Zoo and confirmed that animals were missing.

A private investigator hired by PETA also took pictures of what PETA claims to be animal transfers.

PETA states that a private investigator hired by the organization took this picture taken on...
PETA states that a private investigator hired by the organization took this picture taken on Sept. 10, 2022 shows animals being transferred out of the Waccatee Zoo in the Socastee area(Source: PETA)

When PETA reached out to the Waccatee Zoo, the attorney for the roadside zoo confirmed on Saturday, Sept. 10 that the zoo had closed. The letter states that the ongoing expense of the litigation and other factors led to the decision.

The email also stated that animals were moved to Zootastic Park of Lake Norman which is located in Troutman, N.C.

PETA stated in the documents that “this is particularly concerning because of Zootastic’s atrocious record of animal care.” The animal rights organization stated that the USDA has found animal deaths and injuries, animal escapes, animal attacks on both humans and other animals, inadequate veterinary care and unsafe and unsanitary environments at Zootastic Park.

“Shipping animals from one shabby outfit to the next prolongs their pain, and in this case, it blocks PETA from gathering evidence about these animals’ suffering,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “This is a shady stunt designed to keep abused animals from receiving the care they desperately need.”

The emergency motion that was filed by PETA is seeking a court order that prohibits further transfers, requires Waccatee Zoo to account for the whereabouts of the animals and imposes sanctions against the roadside zoo.