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It’s taken years of inspections, complaints, and citations as well as a lawsuit—but today, all that matters is that two bears are saying goodbye to their virtually barren concrete enclosures at a decrepit roadside zoo and are headed to their new home in a spacious, sprawling Colorado sanctuary.

Tregembo animal park bears

One look at the “before” photos of Ben and Booger at the Tregembo Animal Park in Wilmington, North Carolina, will tell you everything that you need to know.

Tregembo animal park bears

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited the roadside zoo after PETA reported that Ben was suffering from severe lesions on his eyes, nose, and mouth. The damage was so significant that his corneas were permanently scarred and his vision is likely impaired.

Tregembo Animal Park bears

Booger paced incessantly in her tiny concrete-floored cell and bit the bars of her cage. Both types of behavior are well-known signs of zoochosis, a psychological disorder caused by extreme distress from intensive confinement. Both bears’ minuscule enclosures were about 0.0004 percent of the minimum range that they would occupy in nature.

Roadside Zoo | Donald Lee Pardue | CC BY 2.0 

They did not hibernate in the winter and had nothing to occupy the long days behind bars except begging tourists for peanuts.

But today, everything changes.

Under North Carolina law, citizens can sue private animal owners on grounds of cruelty to animals. So animal advocates Caroline Byrd and Lorraine Moe stepped up and sued Tregembo Animal Park. They were represented by lawyers from PETA and two North Carolina–based law firms. The suit sought to have the bears transferred to a reputable sanctuary where they could roam, swim, and receive the care that they desperately need.

Tregembo agreed to settle by releasing the bears if the plaintiffs agreed to drop the suit and arrange care for the animals, and the two women wasted no time in settling the case and securing the bears’ transfer.

Tregembo Animal Park bears

Now, 14-year-old Ben and 15-year-old Booger are safe in a temporary enclosure at the serene Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. After the bears acclimate to the sanctuary, they’ll be released into a vast habitat, where they’ll be able to climb, dig, and run. They’ll also have the opportunity to hibernate this year—possibly for the first time in their lives. Check out video footage of the bears’ journey:

If Tregembo Animal Park attempts to acquire more bears to imprison as roadside amusements, under the terms of the settlement agreement, the plaintiffs can challenge in court any future acquisitions of bears as well.

Ben and Booger will bring the total number of bears PETA has rescued in the past five years to 65. We’ll have updates to share with everyone who helped us win this victory for the bears as they settle into their new home.

Together, we can help more animals like Ben and Booger!

Meanwhile, please continue to help wild animals by NEVER going to any tourist trap or show that uses animals for profit or human amusement, and urge your friends and family to stay away, too!