When an animal welfare inspector from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) visited Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in the summer of 2019, she identified no violations.
The federal inspection report for the zoo in Virginia, which is home to about 200 exotic and barnyard animals, was pristine.
But that is not what local law-enforcement officers found the very next day.
Sent by the state attorney general, their observations triggered a search one week later by a team of veterinarians, zoologists and law enforcement officers.
They discovered an array of problems, according to later court testimony, including a pony with a swollen face, maggot-covered meat in the tiger cage, and what a prosecutor described as a “monkey dungeon”.
The search team seized 119 animals whose lives they deemed to be in danger.
In November 2019, the zoo's owner, Keith Wilson, and an employee were each charged under Virginia law with 46 counts of animal cruelty.