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Texas school accused of mistreating bears

Copyright 2002 U.P.I.
United Press International
August 23, 2002, Friday

Texas school accused of mistreating bears

WACO, Texas, Aug. 23

An animal rights group alleges bear mascots at Baylor University are facing
mistreatment, based on video evidence they collected.

The activists have videos showing the bears pacing ceaselessly and
repetitively for hours, sometimes in their own excrement, behavior the group
said is abnormal. The new, 6-month-old baby bear mascot named Lady is also
videotaped limping and crying for days. The university denies the charges of
abuse.

"Baylor University's bears receive superb care in a facility approved under
strict state and federal regulations," Baylor President Robert Sloan told
United Press International via e-mail. Baylor spokesperson Larry Brumley
added the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted Lady was limping because she
had a paw made sore because she was sucking on it, as babies do.

Austin Zoo director Cindy Carroccio wrote an angry two-page letter to Sloan
pointing out problems she and her staff had to deal with when they took in
Baylor mascot Bobby in 1996.

"We found out that the bears would often wear their teeth on the chain link
fence out of frustration and boredom," Carroccio wrote. She also noted the
bears often were fed the soft drink, "Dr. Pepper," and "Oreo" cookies.
"These two activities -- neurotic behavior and diet -- cause dental wear and
cavities. Austin Zoo had to demand repayment of dental care because we were
told the bear was in good health. Obviously, it was not. You lied," she
wrote.

Brumley said the university does not feed the bears "Dr. Pepper" and
"Oreos," adding, "We stopped doing that years ago."

The first video was taken in July by 16-year-old Jeremy Beckham from Salt
Lake City, who was attending a summer debate camp at Baylor and was upset by
what he saw. Beckham and his mother, Colleen Gardner, are both volunteers
with the Illinois-based group Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, or SHARK.

SHARK's founder Steve Hindi visited Baylor in August to videotape the bears
for 3 days and 3 nights.

"We're not trying to bully anybody, we're trying to make things better for
the bears," Hindi said. "We're not saying, 'Baylor, get rid of these bears,'
we're saying, 'Baylor, provide these bears a good life for the rest of their
lives or send them somewhere they will be provided for.'"

The bears' concrete homes comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture
requirements and Texas Park and Wildlife regulations, Brumley stressed.
Hindi is dissatisfied with the absence of any trees for the bears to climb,
although Brumley noted the bears do have ball toys and a pool to soak and
play in.

"We feel the bears are well-cared for. They're certainly entitled to their
opinion," Brumley said. Baylor's tradition of keeping live bear mascots
dates back to the 1930s.


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