USDA Finally takes away license from Lorenza Pearson of L & L Exotics

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USDA Finally takes away license from Lorenza Pearson of L & L Exotics


Lions and tigers and bears denied



Ruling prohibits Copley Township man from selling or displaying exotic animals



By Bob Downing


Beacon Journal staff writer



A federal administrative judge has ruled that a Summit County man cannot exhibit or sell exotic animals.


Lorenza Pearson, who operates L&L Exotic Animal Farm in Copley Township, apparently will be allowed to keep his lions, tigers, bears and other animals under the ruling by Victor W. Palmer, a U.S. Department of Agriculture administrative law judge.


In a 47-page ruling signed on April 6, Palmer revoked Pearson’s federal license to show and sell exotic animals and ruled that Pearson is permanently disqualified from obtaining such a license.


Palmer rejected a request by the Agriculture Department that Pearson be fined $100,000 for failing to care for his animals in compliance with federal rules.


The orders will take effect May 11, barring an appeal by Pearson.


Efforts to reach Pearson and his attorney, William T. Whitaker, on Friday were unsuccessful.


Pearson was cited by Palmer for 26 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act between Jan. 5, 2000, and Feb. 22, 2006.


The violations “were in every sense egregious, obvious violations of the (federal) act and the regulations that substantially endangered the health and well-being of the animals Mr. Pearson kept at his facility for exhibition,” Palmer wrote.


“The fact that many of these violations were often uncorrected and persistent requires, in addition to the issuance of a cease-and-desist order, the revocation of Mr. Pearson’s exhibitor license as the only effective way to prevent their future occurrence.”


The judge called the conditions for the animals “deplorable.”


“Inadequate drainage of pens housing the animals was a chronic problem that was never fully remedied and the animals frequently had to endure the discomfort of staying wet,” he wrote.


“When water receptacles froze in the winter, the animals had no water to drink. In the summer when water was accessible, the water receptacles were dirty.


“If the hibernation of the bears that he denned in forced hibernation was interrupted, there was no food or water available to them. And some of the bears were kept, as were some lions and tigers, in enclosures that were too small for their comfort.”


Palmer rejected Pearson’s defense that his problems with federal inspectors stemmed from his failure to cooperate with veterinarian Norma Harlan in an investigation of another exotic-animal exhibitor. That led federal inspectors to seek revenge against him through repeated inspections, Pearson claimed.


It is not clear whether Pearson will be permitted to keep his license during an appeal.


Termination of the federal license also could mean that the inspections of Pearson’s facility on Columbus Avenue by federal inspectors will end.


On June 14, 2002, the Agriculture Department cited Pearson for 900 violations of its animal-care rules. He was accused of committing numerous, willful violations of federal rules, including inadequate medical care and nutrition, dirty conditions and inadequate facilities.


Pearson faced a fine of up to $3,750 per violation.


Between 1999 and 2005, Pearson had as many as 82 animals at the same time — mostly exotic cats and bears, Palmer said in his report.


The number of animals that Pearson had varied at times, but he had a medium-sized exotic animal operation, Palmer noted.


Testimony in the case was heard in Akron in September 2003 and June 2006.


Conditions at the Copley site were horrible, according to veterinarian Dr. Albert Lewandowski, who works at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and accompanied federal inspectors on a 2005 inspection.


“The facility is squalid,” he wrote in a report. He said he was shocked that a USDA-licensed operation would “have facilities as bad as this.”


He said Pearson’s facilities were “dirty, unkept, uncared for, just general neglect, just a facility that had been neglected not just recently, but for a long period of time. The animals were living under conditions that just weren’t appropriate for any type of animal.”


In 2005, seven of Pearson’s bears were judged to be undernourished and suffering from malnutrition. They were confiscated by federal inspectors and removed from Pearson’s care.


Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or


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