TOWN OF RIVERVIEW - An Oconto County zoo has been shut down indefinitely.
The Lakewood Zoo is known for offering visitors a chance to experience exotic animals.
But problems getting federal permits led local officials to revoke the zoo's county permit.
It was a unanimous vote by the board of adjustments to take away the zoo's conditional use permit.
That permit allows owner Casey Ludwig to operate the facility which opened in 2008.
The Lakewood Zoo is home to bears, lions and tigers.
But this winter, the attraction isn't just closed for the season. It's shut down indefinitely.
"I'll make a motion that we revoke the conditional use permit until we get to see the USDA permit then he can apply for a new hearing," said Oconto County board of adjustments member Darrel Pagel.
Oconto County officials agreed Wednesday to take away owner Casey Ludwig's county permit to operate the zoo. They said that's because Ludwig must also have the appropriate state and federal permits. Reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented at the meeting show he does not.
"Mr. Ludwig has not maintained a DNR permit for captive wild animals or a USDA permit for a federal permit or license for exhibition of these animals at a zoo," said Oconto County Zoning Director Pat Virtues.
Ludwig faces five misdemeanor charges which stem from possession of bears the DNR said Ludwig needed a permit to exhibit. He has since gotten the permit, but has yet to obtain a USDA permit. Ludwig missed the December first renewal date.
"We do not intend to open the zoo until we have a USDA license in play. I'm only asking the board to somehow delay this until we get a USDA license," said Ludwig.
A USDA spokesman says Ludwig's application for a new federal license has been denied. Ludwig has asked for a hearing on the matter, and there is an administrative proceeding pending before a USDA administrative law judge.
Federal officials are also currently investigating several non-compliance issues at the zoo.
"Some of the concerns that are noted in there deal with vet care of the animals where it talks about a male lion has multiple open wounds on his face and a veterinarian has not been contacted regarding the injuries," said Virtues.
Ludwig said that was ridiculous - noting it was a small scratch and the veterinarian was called immediately. Neighbors raised their own concerns about security at the zoo.
"One day we drove up and we had one of his animals standing right in our yard staring right at us, and it looked like it was going to charge us," said Julie Lopez.
Ludwig said the animal was a harmless pot-bellied pig.
As far as the outcome of the vote, Ludwig said he wasn't surprised.
"It was really what I expected. I totally understand what they're wanting to do," Ludwig said.
The permit revocation becomes official next week.
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