NEWBERRY, Mich. (WLUC) - A national organization is looking to have state agencies investigate a popular attraction and ranch in Luce County.
PETA, short for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sent a letter to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday morning, asking them to investigate Oswald's Bear Ranch in Newberry, for "numerous apparent violations of Michigan law, including for discrepancies in the facility's bear-acquisition records and for intentionally misleading lawmakers."
In the letter, PETA asks them to investigate based on the regulations listed in the Michigan Large Carnivore Act of 2000, which among many other things, does not allow for the breeding of large carnivores.
When speaking to Dean Oswald, the ranch owner, he said though they work under DNR laws and regulations, all of their inspections are done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and they have passed all inspections.
When asked about the facility, Dean said “It’s good education for children and adults, to learn about the bears in a safe environment.”
Dean’s son, Monte Oswald, said, “This is their safe haven.”
For the USDA inspections, Monte told TV6 that the “care of the bears” is the top priority. They look to make sure the bears have plenty food, water, shelter, and room to roam. The USDA also makes sure an emergency plan is in place for the bears as well as the general public who may be visiting. They want to make sure all preparations are in place to account for natural disasters or other emergency situations.
PETA doesn't believe the organization is following set laws and guidelines of the Large Carnivore Act.
"Dean Oswald's lip service to animal welfare can't hide the fact that he's stockpiling bear cubs, who should be with their mothers, to use as moneymaking machines in cruel photo ops," said PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet in a release. "PETA is calling on authorities to investigate our findings and, if warranted, throw the book at this sham operation."
PETA also said the cubs used for photo opportunities were seen "pacing and crying out, and one was observed repeatedly chewing on the caging—all signs of severe psychological distress" last year. Oswald's disputes this, saying they passed all inspections two days after last year's accusations were made.
Monte also spoke to TV6 about other legislation as well as amendments that may be made to the Large Carnivore Act to allow breeding of large carnivores, “as long as it’s for the benefit of the species.” Though Monte said this won't have an impact on Oswald's, other legislation in the works would, as it "would allow breeding when favorable characteristics are available." Monte said this could be something like breeding a bear that is the largest in the world, or potentially breeding color-phase bears, which show different coloring than the typical black bear.
TV6 has reached out to the Michigan DNR for comment on this situation, but has not heard back at the time of posting.
To learn more about the organizations or legislation mentioned, please visit the Related Links and Related Documents sections of this article.
This is a developing story. TV6, FOX UP, UpperMichigansSource.com, and the TV6 & FOX UP mobile app will have the latest details as they are made available.