Des Moines, Iowa Mall: Scene of Animal Welfare Showdown!

Des Moines, Iowa, isn’t exactly known for its great strides in animal welfare. But there is a fight brewing there, thanks to a brave woman by the name of Rita Mason.

merle hay mall des moines iowa
The Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines, Iowa (photo from wikipedia)

Mason started the online petition to end the practice of allowing Pella Wildlife Company, a so-called wildlife education program, to set up a portable “zoo” in the local Merle Hay Mall. Pella’s owner, Ron DeArmond, charges admission to “view” the “animal ambassadors”, and you can pay to pet wildlife, even to have birthday parties with the animals.

While housed in the mall, the animals have no natural light, no grass beneath their feet, no ability to exercise other than to pace around a cage.

Here's' where bears, coyotes, and other wildlife will spend several weeks as "animal ambassadors" (Photo: Charlie Litchfield/The Des Moines Register)
Here’s’ where bears, coyotes, and other wildlife will spend several weeks as “animal ambassadors” (Photo: Charlie Litchfield/The Des Moines Register)

DeArmond says that the people that are opposed to his “zoo” are, “animal rights activists who don’t understand wildlife education and management.” He told Mike Kilen of the Des Moines Register, “Animal rights people have got this idea that it’s ‘Kumbaya’ out there in the wild. It’s violent. It’s survival of the fittest, it’s like Obamacare in here. They get care and feeding and don’t have to do anything for it.”

So we see what kind of respect this man has for his own species.

And folks, if he’s letting people pay to pet, then we know he’s engaged in captive breeding.

Sadly, what this man and others like him do is not illegal. Many people are duped into believing that what people like this do is conservation. But he’s not releasing any of those animals, because captive bred animals have no concept of surviving in the wild. And, based on his own comments, we know he’s doing nothing to teach them how to survive out there.

But there’s one other thing that pisses me off about this guy- he’s making it sound like us “animal rights activists,” who are mostly women, are dumb and stupid, compared to him, the man who’s the business owner and educator.

Here's a photo from a previous year, as posted on the Care2 petition website.
Here’s a photo from a previous year, as posted on the Care2 petition website.

Tell DeArmond that what he’s doing amounts to animal cruelty. Sign Rita Mason’s petition, and ask your friends to as well.

Share this blog post, and let’s swell that petition from 30,000 signatures to 100,000.

And please, NEVER financially support these types of programs. They aren’t helping animals. They’re exploiting them for profit. Period. 


45 thoughts on “Des Moines, Iowa Mall: Scene of Animal Welfare Showdown!

  1. That is horrible! Maybe he should be placed in a cage and then released into society and see how he can cope. I don’t understand why people think it is okay to do things like this.. it is so cruel 😦
    I have signed the petition.. x

  2. I’ve signed the petition, too! I’d like to put this guy into his “zoo” for a couple of weeks to teach him what “animal ambassador” means.

  3. I only take exception to one line. Do you have any statistics that would indicate that animal rights activists are mostly women? Not to be argumentative, but I’m a man. And most of the men I know, believe as I do. I do agree that his statement is pejorative in regards to us – and that shouldn’t be surprising, as he’s trying to establish a business based on the exact opposite of what we stand for. But I think it would be sociologically enlightening to know the breakdown of our community, not just in terms of gender, but race, socioeconomic status, religion, urbanity, etc. In fact, I think I’ll research that further. It might yield some interesting clues about us as a social group.

  4. That’s so horrible to see, I signed the petition and I hope, hope, hope zoo’s like that are history soon. I will share your post Rumpy, maybe more people will give this poor animals a voice and will sign the petition.

  5. OMD! I can’t believe this is happening right down the street from me! I just moved to Des Moines and so am not familiar with everything here yet. I’ve signed the petition and would love to meet this Rita Mason.

  6. His description of “Kumbaya” says it all for me. Nature simply is for all beings live and die. What humans seem to lack is respect for life itself. Thank you for another thoughtful post.

  7. This is disgusting. I live in Iowa and visit Des Moines often, but I haven’t visited the Merle Hay Mall in quite some time. This infuriates me – how could anyone think this is okay?! These cages seriously look like those barbaric traveling circus monstrosities from the olden days. Petition: Signed. Thank goodness for Rita Mason!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this news and thanks to Rita Mason. I’ve signed the petition and will get the word out. This so-called ‘educator’ is merely disguising his money making operation off people who don’t realize these animals are systematically being abused. They should be sent to a place like The Wild Animal Sanctuary ( where they can actually live out their lives in open spaces and not by being petted at the mall by shoppers! From under what rock did this guy crawl out? Sheesh.

  9. Signed petition, ‘pressed’ it on our blog, emailed it to all my animal loving friends, tweeted and Facebooked it as well. Let’s shut this clown down!

    Thanks again for bringing this to our attention. Have a safe and happy 4th of July and give that poor Rumpy dog a cookie. 🙂

    Monika & Sam

  10. “And please, NEVER financially support these types of programs. They aren’t helping animals. They’re exploiting them for profit. Period.”

    Just to point out, they are a non-profit organization.
    Not disagreeing with your points, just don’t want misinformation.

      1. I agree, but your statement is still so matter-of-fact and makes me question its validity more when you’ve insinuated that they are only doing this for a profit. I just see it as a possible misleading statement in an otherwise decent post.

      2. What us your point exactly? My point is that a mall is no place for these animals to be kept. Can you not agree that is true?

  11. Let’s do a story and show where his funds really go. He is trying to raise a million dollars for a expansion on his animal prison. How much of that really goes to the animals. Also I hear a baby bear died there last year from not caring for it properly. Please more articles to follow. Our community of des moines cannot be ignored.

  12. You really make it appear so easy together with your presentation however
    I find this matter to be really one thing which I feel I’d
    by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely huge for me.
    I’m having a look ahead in your subsequent post,
    I will try to get the hold of it!

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