Officials Working on Plan to Remove Animals From Mall

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The owner of the "Academy of Wildlife Education" at Merle Hay Mall has been ordered to remove his animals from the mall or law enforcement will do it for him.

Ron DeArmond, the owner of the Pella Wildlife Company received an eviction notice Tuesday from the Public County District Court. The notice gives the Polk County Sheriff’s office permission to remove the animals, which include a bear and wolves at any time in the next 30 days.

In a brief phone conversation, DeArmond told Channel 13 News he plans to move his animals from the mall to a 100 acre, $20 million dollar “Wildlife Park” he plans to build in unincorporated Polk County. The problem is that the park does not yet exist and likely won’t anytime soon. On DeArmond’s website, he claims to have only raised $11,000 of the total needed to complete the project.

"With a project of this magnitude, you always look at it with a bit of skepticism. especially when you consider the financial ramifications," said Altoona City Councilman Kyle Mertz.

Both the Altoona City Council and Polk County Zoning and Development say they have heard informal proposals from DeArmond about the project. Polk County Zoning and Development requires a formal proposal for a conditional use permit before allowing a project like this to move forward.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is working with the Animal Rescue League, Des Moines Animal Control, and Blank Park Zoo on a plan to safely transport and care for the animals. A zoo official says there is limited quarantine space, but the zoo could potentially be used as a temporary refuge for the animals.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says it will not move the animals before a plan is devised that is safe for the animals and the public.

"We want to make sure there is correct, safe transportation for the animals and a place for them to be cared for," said Sgt. Brandon Bracelin, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

7 comments

  • Krjbolej

    Why all the sudden do they have to go ? They’ve been there for years, and are a lot of fun. I have never smelled a hint of odor. Maybe while they’re removing nature, they should remove the hurricane simulator. Oh, snap ! They make tons of money of that. If they have to move; don’t take the guys animals for good; help him set them up somewhere, that they can be returned to him to a new place. The City’s priorities are so screwed up.

    • Jill

      couldn’t agree more I learned more from this “zoo” than any regular zoo I’ve been to this place was about conservation. good thing the people who signed the petition didn’t look into it at all

  • jasanders85

    There is a wildlife refuge in Omaha that specifically has wolves,I’m sure they would take a bear too.its fairly close and good for the animals to have space,unless they don’t know how to survive on their own.

  • Terry Johnson

    he needs to be made to pay for all costs of this. It is BS that the cost gets dumped on taxpayers and the ARL. The state and city need to take action against this vermin and be relentless in recovering taxpayer funds and prohibit him from ever keeping such animals again

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