Roadside Zoo: ARL Assists in Rescue & Removal of Hundreds of Animals in Eastern Iowa

posted on Monday, December 9, 2019 in News

UPDATE (09/30/21): The owners of Cricket Hollow Zoo have been ordered to pay $70,000 or serve 5 months in jail for violating court orders regarding the relocation of animals at their roadside attraction. The ruling this week in the contempt-of-court case against Pamela and Thomas Seller comes just 3 days after the Iowa Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision in the case that led to the zoo’s closure in 2019. The ARL assisted with the removal of hundreds of animals from the zoo in December 2019. (Source: Iowa Capital Dispatch)

UPDATE (08/06/21): Court of Appeals upholds decision closing Cricket Hollow Zoo (Source: Iowa Capital Dispatch)

UPDATE (11:45AM, 12/13/19): After yesterday’s rescue, the total number of animals rescued from Cricket Hollow Zoo this week now exceeds 400…and counting. Rescuers had cleared every building allowed in the court order after Monday’s rescue, but upon returning on Thursday, new animals had been placed in those buildings, so those animals were rescued and removed on Thursday.

Many more animals are still missing and anyone with information regarding the missing animals is encouraged to contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at

Animals rescued from Cricket Hollow Zoo

Animals rescued from Cricket Hollow Zoo

UPDATE (4:30PM, 12/12/19): A total of 40 additional animals were rescued today, including 13 llamas, 10 parakeets, 8 sugar gliders, 3 cockatiels, 2 military macaws, 2 opossums, 1 crested gecko, and 1 coatimundi. Blank Park Zoo also joined the Animal Rescue League of Iowa teams at the Cricket Hollow Zoo property today to assist with this rescue.

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ARL Cricket Hollow Zoo, Llamas

UPDATE (4:15PM, 12/12/19): Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) officials were back at the Cricket Hollow Zoo in Manchester, Iowa today on a continued court order. ARL Mobile Rescue Teams discovered dozens more animals on the property that were previously missing from the first rescue, but many more animals are still missing, so the investigation continues.

Anyone with information regarding the missing animals is encouraged to contact the Animal Legal Defense Fund at

We will provide another update on numbers and species of animal rescued as soon as it’s available.

Updated 12/12/19 - Media Coverage

Cricket Hollow Zoo, WHO-13

Cricket Hollow Zoo, KCCI-8

Des Moines Register
Animals removed from roadside Manchester zoo after living in deplorable conditions

Cricket Hollow Zoo - KWWL


DES MOINES, Iowa – Today, many animals ranging from black bears to hamsters are being rescued from Cricket Hollow Zoo, a roadside zoo in Manchester, Iowa.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL), The Wild Animal Sanctuary (TWAS), and additional partnering organizations are working together to remove the animals in blustery conditions Monday and transport the animals to quarantine and triage facilities. Veterinarians are on scene, and each animal is receiving a medical evaluation. The animals will now receive the medical care that they urgently require.

Cricket Hollow

ARL Cricket Hollow

This rescue represents a massive undertaking. The animals being rescued from deplorable conditions include two black bears, three cavies, four skunks, three coyotes, multiple raccoons, a wallaby, and three baboons, as well as numerous rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, rats, fish, and birds. Among the birds are finches, parakeets, and pigeons. The ARL will be bringing 3 cats, 33 rats, 27 mice, 11 raccoons, 5 miniature horses, 3 donkeys, fish, pigs, and possibly additional animals back to their location in Des Moines for treatment, rehabilitation, and eventual adoption or sanctuary placement.

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Cricket Hollow

ARL Cricket Hollow

On November 25, 2019, Iowa District Court Judge Monica Wittig ruled in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, finding Cricket Hollow Zoo had chronically neglected the animals — but defendants Tom and Pamela Sellner swiftly filed a motion to stay the ruling pending appeal in an attempt to derail the animals’ rescue. Acting Chief Justice David S. Wiggins of the Iowa Supreme Court denied the motion to stay on December 4, 2019 — clearing the way for today’s rescue.

Cricket Hollow

ARL Cricket Hollow

This lawsuit is the third filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund against Cricket Hollow Zoo and has effectively shut the zoo down. In a previous lawsuit against Cricket Hollow Zoo, the Animal Legal Defense Fund set a critical legal precedent: that the Endangered Species Act applies to listed species in captivity, as well as those in the wild. That lawsuit, decided in 2016 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa and affirmed by the Eighth Circuit in 2018, concerned the treatment of four tigers and three lemurs. An additional Animal Legal Defense Fund lawsuit filed in 2016 against Cricket Hollow Zoo resulted in the rescue of two African lionesses — Jonwah and Njjarra.

Cricket Hollow Zoo had its exhibitor’s license revoked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in December 2017 after the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the USDA for reissuing the license despite the numerous violations the government agency had issued against the roadside zoo. The Sellners appealed the decision and the revocation appeal is pending.

Special thanks to the following rescue partners:
Snakes Alive
Gabriel Foundation
Blank Park Zoo
Iowa Farm Sanctuary
Corner Creek Acres
Cedar Valley Humane Society
Cedar Bend Humane Society
A Home for Every Bunny
KC Pet Project
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Lusco Farms Rescue
Wildlife Rehabilitation Network of Central Iowa


About the Animal Rescue League of Iowa
The Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) is the state’s largest animal shelter and animal welfare organization, providing a safe-haven for more than 11,000 animals each year. Since 1926, the ARL has saved over 1,000,000 abused, neglected, and homeless animals. In addition to animal sheltering, the ARL works to end animal suffering through law enforcement trainings, advocating for improved legislation, community outreach programs, and much more. For more information, please visit

About the Animal Legal Defense Fund
Forty years of fighting for animals: The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit