Skip to Content

UPDATE: More than 400 animals rescued from Cricket Hollow Zoo, still more missing

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

UPDATE 12/13: More than 400 animals have been rescued this week from Cricket Hollow Zoo, according to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

Rescuers cleared every building allowed in the court order on Monday, but when crews arrived on Thursday, new animals were placed in those buildings.

The new animals were rescued and removed.

Many more animals are still missing.

Anyone with information regarding the missing animals is encouraged to contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at aldf@aldf.org


UPDATE 12/12: 40 additional animals were rescued today from the Cricket Hollow Zoo according to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

Among the animals rescued were 13 llamas, 10 parakeets, 8 sugar gliders, 3 cockatiels, 2 military macaws, 2 opossums, 1 crested gecko, and 1 coatimundi. 

In addition to the ARL, Blank Park Zoo, Hercules Haven, and Iowa Farm Sanctuary assisted this rescue.

The investigation is still ongoing as more animals are still missing.

Anyone with information regarding the missing animals is encouraged to contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at aldf@aldf.org


DELEWARE COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- Hundreds of animals were removed from a roadside zoo yesterday following a court order, however, rescuers say a number are still missing.

The Cricket Hollow Zoo in Manchester, owned by Tom and Pamela Sellner has been at the center of legal battles since 2014 regarding the condition of its animals.

An Iowa Supreme Court Judge sided with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to remove the animals, in November.

It took 70 volunteers from multiple agencies including the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and The Wild Animal Sanctuary and 18 hours to clear the property of the animals listed in the court order.

The rescuers described the property as horrific and squalid.

"I mean it was just.... all of the pens were squalid, dirty and filled with feces and urine and all of the animals that were still there because a number of missing, of course, had just no water", said Executive Director of The Wild Animal Sanctuary, Pat Craig, "They were in cages that were just small enough to barely walk around in and that's what they would do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Years ago the Sanctuary took two lions from Cricket Hollow Zoo following a separate court order. Yesterday the Colorado-based Sanctuary was to take a number of large exotic animals.

"We were scheduled to take all of the large carnivores that were there," said Craig.

The poor living conditions at Cricket Hollow described by Craig were echoed by the Animal Rescue of Iowa and Animal Legal Defense during a news conference.

"It's very clear that the cages are not cleaned regularly, there were piles of feces sometimes halfway filling cages, there was no apparent water at all at all or food in every cage that I saw yesterday," said ARL Director of Development, Stephanie Diler, "The fact that there were so many dead animals amongst the living was devastating.

The most troubling part? A number of animals the Judge ordered to be removed, simply weren't there.

"We did a walk through with the Sellners and as we went by pretty much all of the cages were empty", said Craig.

"We do not know. We believe they were either given away, sold, or that they are now deceased," said Filer, "There is a field adjacent to the Sellners property that they describe as a compost pile where there are a number of dead animals, bones of all different species of animals.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary only left with a third of the animals on their list. Among the missing are four grizzly bears, two mountain lions, and a wolf.

Meanwhile, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) is now caring for 159 of the animals.

"The sad thing is that there were a number of animals that would've gone to a really good home and now we don't know where those animals are and even if they're alive at this point," said Craig, "It's really important that the ball doesn't get dropped and that the court either tries to find those animals or at least punish the Sellners for doing that because these animals were about to have the first best life that they've ever had."

The fate of the missing animals is unknow but rescuers say the Sellners haven't heard the last from them."

"We're fighting for stronger laws because this case is exactly the type of case the demonstrates the need for stronger laws," said ARL Director of Legal, Collin Grace, "What we saw at the Cricket Hollow Zoo was black bears, mountain lions, wolves, being kept in rusted-out corn cribs."

KWWL News 7 did reach out to the Sellners for comment, we have not yet heard back.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is asking the public to be on the lookout for the sale of exotic animals.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

Skip to content