A TV reality show featuring Mount Vernon animal sanctuary DEW Haven has been canceled after an investigation by a national political magazine that reports it uncovered evidence of animal welfare violations going back decades.

The sanctuary, owned by Bob and Julie Miner, was the subject of “Yankee Jungle,” an Animal Planet television documentary series. A story posted online Friday by Mother Jones magazine, “Welcome to the Jungle: The shocking history behind yet another Animal Planet reality show,” reports that the TV show was canceled recently after the magazine presented Animal Planet “with evidence of animal welfare violations dating back nearly 20 years.”

The show’s creators said the decision to cancel “Yankee Jungle,” which reportedly had been renewed for another season earlier this year, was “connected to ‘new programming directions at the network,'” according to the left-leaning magazine.

“What audiences of the series — whose first season averaged 900,000 viewers — didn’t hear about was the zoo’s long record of animal welfare problems, conditions a state investigator once described as ‘deplorable’ and ‘untenable,'” wrote James West, author of the article.

Bob Miner, a disabled Vietnam veteran, started the refuge in 1980 as therapy and operates it as a nonprofit organization. The 42-acre sanctuary on Pond Road is home to more than 200 animals, including exotic animals such as lemurs, tigers and panthers, along with species native to Maine and barnyard animals. The sanctuary is closed for winter and due to reopen May 7, its website says.

Reached by phone Friday morning, Miner told the Kennebec Journal he had not read the Mother Jones article and denied any problems with animal welfare at DEW Haven.


“I just made the place and I’m a disabled vet, and I’ve been doing this for 36 years and I’ve never had an animal welfare problem. I’ve just never had any problems,” Miner said.

Miner acknowledged he knew the TV show had been canceled, saying Animal Planet officials “would not show the tiger show, and I will not do anything with people who are gutless. They’re gutless and they won’t show it.” Miner wouldn’t comment further, but he apparently was referring to tiger triplets that DEW has said were born at the sanctuary to a white Bengal mother and a part-Siberian father.

DEW’s website still contained a homepage promotion for the “Yankee Jungle” show as of Friday.

In an emailed statement Friday to the Kennebec Journal, Julie Miner said DEW Haven’s mission since its founding has been “to provide a safe haven for animals, and to promote society’s education regarding their wellness, respect, and conservation.”

“We have existed since 1980. We have never been cited for animal abuse or animal welfare issues. The animals in our care always come first and all of their physical, mental and emotional needs are met every day,” Julie Miner said in the statement. “We live in a free country, where people have the right to voice their own opinion. Yet that does not give them the right to lie, twist, and misrepresent any facts. The decision to not do a third season of Yankee Jungle was made weeks ago and had nothing to do with any article, or nay sayers.”

The show drew protests last year after animal welfare advocates released a petition calling on Animal Planet to scrap the program, saying the exotic animals at the Mount Vernon site shouldn’t be held in captivity in allegedly poor conditions and that such practices should “not be glorified and promoted on national television.”


West wrote in the Mother Jones article that his reporting was based on a review of more than 500 pages of government records and interviews with former DEW volunteers that “reveal disturbing evidence” and “illuminate the difficulties that state and federal wildlife officials have with effectively regulating the nation’s private zoos.”

Many of the documents cited by West came from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The magazine reported that Maine wildlife officials “keep a lengthy and disturbing file on the Miners and their roadside attraction, including hundreds of pages of documents released at the start of 2016 to a New Hampshire animal rights activist, Kristina Snyder, under the state’s freedom of information laws.”

For instance, according to wildlife department documents published by Mother Jones, game warden Philip Dugas in 1998 recorded “deplorable” conditions at DEW, with “many more animals than the resources of the facility can handle.” Dugas, who executed a search warrant at the facility, alleged that the Miners weren’t complying in many cases with state laws requiring clean, fresh water and had imported animals into Maine without proper permits.

“The Miners say they didn’t know the law at the time. They applied for permits after the fact and received them,” the magazine reported.

In his article, West wrote that Mother Jones first approached Animal Planet and Lone Wolf Media, the company producing the TV show, in January after obtaining documents that alleged DEW hadn’t complied with animal welfare regulations several times going back two decades. The magazine also reported that information about violations was never disclosed to the show producers.

Federal inspectors also have scrutinized DEW, Mother Jones reported, citing as an example a 1998 report by a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian who reported seeing “injured animals, potentially unwholesome feed, and dangerously broken fencing.” The USDA investigated further and fined the Miners $4,500, which they paid after saying they had solved all the problems the USDA identified, according to the article.


Bob Miner, in his phone interview Friday, without prompting specifically identified Dugas as a problematic person, saying none of the allegations Dugas raised was justified. Miner claimed that Dugas, who still works as a Maine game warden, at the time had called DEW a “third-world zoo” and had disparaged the Miners.

Miner said he filed a complaint against Dugas with the wildlife department. Mark Latti, a department spokesman, confirmed Friday that the complaint was filed and was determined by the department to be unfounded.

Asked Friday about the accuracy of the Mother Jones article, Latti said, “We had several Freedom of Access requests, which we complied with, and the documents in the article are the ones we provided, that were in our possession and required to provide.”

“If you look through, those documents are a summary of what happened 14 and 18 years ago, and I think they portray the conditions at the Miners’ at the time,” Latti said.

In order to display wildlife in captivity, the Miners must have an exhibitor’s license and individual permits for imported animals, Latti said. He said the department also conducts periodic inspections of such sites, and that DEW was last inspected in August 2015 and found to be in compliance with regulations that generally include wellness, sanitation and integrity of animal cages.

The exhibitor’s license is good for two years and DEW last received one June 30, 2014, so its license is up for renewal this coming June 30.

“We’ve never been closed down and never had an animal welfare problem,” Miner said Friday. “He (Dugas) tried to make this place look awful, and it’s the best place.”

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