Dozens of animals taken from Virginia roadside zoo as part of investigation

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NATURAL BRIDGE, Va. (AP) — Over 100 animals –- both living and dead -– have been taken from a roadside zoo in western Virginia, according to court documents, as part of what state authorities are calling a criminal investigation.

One search warrant executed Wednesday at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge County shows that 89 living animals were seized, while another 28 deceased animals were removed, The Roanoke Times reported.

The office of Attorney General Jason Miyares is conducting the investigation, with help from the Virginia State Police. The warrant said that it had been issued in relation to the care of and cruelty to animals.

The attorney general’s “Animal Law Unit offers support and prosecution of animal cruelty cases upon request of a local Commonwealth’s Attorney or law enforcement agency,” Miyares spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said in an email Friday. “Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, we cannot comment further.”

LaCivita did confirm that one of the dead animals taken was a tiger that had to be euthanized with consent of the owners to humanely end its suffering. Other live animals that were taken away included lemurs, macaws, pythons and llamas, according to the warrant, filed Friday in the county’s circuit court. Many crates and animal carriers were taken into the zoo.

A phone call to Natural Zoo Bridge went unanswered Saturday, and there was no immediate response to an email seeking comment. The zoo has already been closed for the winter.

Mario Williams, an attorney for the zoo’s owner, questioned the probe, telling WDBJ-TV earlier in the week that the zoo would seek to halt any permanent seizure of the animals, which he said would be unconstitutional.