The owner of the Animal Kingdom Zoo in rural Burlington County has vowed to rebuild, despite two deadly fires in the last year, according to The Times of Trenton. Burton Sipp said people have been asking him to rebuild the animal attraction he founded 35 years ago.
But animal activists, apparently, are not among those asking him for the zoo to return.
“We understand all of the animals have been moved from his zoo,” Delcianna Winders, a spokeswoman for the PETA animal rights group, told The Times. “Our main goal is to ensure that they’re not returned to him. Based on his history of very preventable tragic deaths, we’ll do what we can to make sure he doesn’t reopen.”
The zoo first suffered a fire in April, when a log cabin home burned down. Sipp’s wife Bridget, 43, died after running back into the burning home, looking for her mother who had already gotten out.
The next fire happened Oct. 30. It destroyed a giraffe enclosure and killed a mother giraffe and her calf. It also killed two dogs, several cats and some exotic birds.
A State Police spokesman said the April fire was ruled accidental, but the October fire is still under investigation.
Just four days before the October fire, the zoo had been cited for 19 violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and received a formal warning. Among the regulations cited was one requiring structurally sound housing facilities to protect animals from injury.
Animal activists have also cast suspicion against Sipp based on indictments in the 1980s on charges of killing eight horses to collect insurance money and staging a robbery to collect insurance on a pair of exotic birds.
Sipp countered those charges by noting that he was uninsured or under-insured for much of what he lost in these last two fires, and that insurance obviously was not going to bring back his wife.