Missoula County officials told proprietors of an exotic animal display at the Western Montana Fair to pack up and go home Friday morning, after numerous complaints about the size of the animals’ cages were filed with local and state agencies.

The exhibit, Animal Alley, housed 18 wild animals, including foxes, lizards, a tarantula, a chinchilla and a peacock, among others. The animals were inside individual cages or aquariums – some of which were so small the animals couldn’t turn around in them.

An American alligator and a snapping turtle, for example, both sat in aquariums spanning the length of their body. Neither animal could move extensively or turn around to face another direction, explained Missoula Animal Control supervisor Jeffrey Darrah.

But he said the exhibit, run by David Stewart of New York, didn’t violate any ordinances in Missoula and the man had all the proper paperwork required by the state. Darrah and his team examined Stewart’s operation on Thursday.

“Upon inspecting the conditions, they met those requirements,” he explained. “There was nothing there that was really out of line as far as the animals being uncared for.”

“All the animals appeared to be healthy,” he said.

But many Missoulians disagreed.

Animal Control, the county fair office and Montana state veterinarian all received numerous complaints about the size of the animals’ cages.

After a meeting with Darrah and Missoula Police Sgt. Bob Bouchee, fairgrounds director Todd Garrett decided to ask Stewart to leave. However, they didn’t seize the animals because Stewart didn’t break any laws.

“If we can satisfy community members’ requests, then we will,” Garrett said. “That’s what we did today.”

Stewart will be paid through Sunday, according to his contract.

Stewart has shown the exhibit at several fairs in Montana, including Flathead County and the State Fair in Great Falls, and there were no complaints, Garrett said.

“A lot of times, it’s the community and the values and how they feel about it,” Darrah said. “You could go to another town in another state and generate no complaints.”

Stewart declined to comment about his eviction Friday morning, while he was loading the animals into his pickup truck. However, Stewart told the Missoulian on Tuesday that the animals stayed in their smaller traveling cases in the truck the entire night. Some of the smaller animals traveled in Tupperware containers with holes punctured in the plastic top.

According to county officials, Stewart hasn’t showed his display before in Missoula and he will not be invited back to the fair next year.

“We learned that animal acts are not something that the community wants and we won’t pursue those in the future,” Garrett said.

Reporter Kathryn Haake can be reached at 523-5268 or at kate.haake@missoulian.com.

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(19) comments


All you save the world types must want to have pet stores,petting zoos,zoos or local feed stores with baby chick etc. banned or shut down. Come on quit being such hypocrites!!!!!


Kudos to the fair-goers who had the compassion and the guts to register complaints about the captive animal sideshow. The only thing these kinds of shows teach people is that it's OK to exploit animals for money. Imagine the severe confinement and mental anguish these sentient beings endure while this guy drags them around the country in his pick-up! But I wonder how many of those who complained also ate a tater pig while at the fair. Pigs in factory farms spend their entire lives packed into pens or in crates where they can't turn around, either. Suffering is suffering, whether it's in a fair sideshow or a factory farm.


If the sight of the human body offends you more than an animal(s) experiencing mental anguish and suffering, you may belong to a subset of humans who are born lacking the ability to feel empathy. They're known as psychopaths and it's really no surprise to see them proudly displaying their defects... it's part of the condition. Know this: you and your ilk make up a small minority of the population and your opinions carry the same amount of weight as those of racists, bigots, and sexists. In short, nobody cares. So, enjoy you rants.


I love animals, just adore them. I saw the exhibit at the Fair on Wednesday. I thought it was great. My son got a chance to see some animals he'd never seen before. We got to see the owner feed a banana to a kinkajou. Spoke with him a bit. He's a decent person, loves his animals - you could tell by how he talked to them.

Yes, they were on display in rather small, i.e. portable, cages. But he has a football-sized animal sanctuary back in New York where the animals live. He takes them to schools to educate kids about them. He's not a villain, he's an animal lover too.

I can't believe the Fair listened to the whiners. The guy broke no laws and the animals were healthy. None of them acted stressed out. What a joke!


You people are sick joking and comparing suffering animals trapped into a tiny enclosure for a life-time of torture to people who will ride their bikes then go home and enjoy the good life and whoever sees this bike display will not suffer at all compared to these animals. Don't get me wrong I do not wholly support the bike thing either but to compare and joke come on have some feeling for other beings that it has been proved over and over again suffer the same as we do.


How many “numerous” complaints? 2? 3?

Longhorn Fan

I'd rather see some exotic animals-- regardless of their living conditions-- than a bunch of naked guys riding through town on bicycles showing off their "teeny weenys". At least they won't have to go far to empty their bladders-- just hop off their bikes and do their thing in the middle of the street in front of God and all those people. I thought there was such a thing as "indecent exposure" that was frowned on. Guess not in the Wild West!


Good one, LF ! They might even be able to empty their bladders "on the go". Wouldn't that be something worth seeing. If anything this truly demonstrates that it is OK to change your mind. Now if we can get the city to change it's little mind about the naked hippies on bikes day coming up next Sunday. Missoula should be oh so proud. By the way, according to notMTminded, who apparently speaks for all of us, you are no better than the other racists, bigots and sexists. Bet that's really gonna keep you awake tonight, huh? Thanks for your comment. I agree 100%.


These same people who are bawling their eyes out for the exotic animals are the same ones that think aborting an unborn child is okay. Our morals, or lack of them, are really skewed. This is just one more nail in the Fair's coffin. Steve Earle, Todd Garrett, and the Commissioners should be congratulated for paving the way for the Central Park concept. Oh, and Michael Burks should be happy, too, when the Fair is gone and he gets another sheet of ice.


I had similar sentiments as Elkguy. This is unacceptable but naked people on bicycles is a good thing and doesn't violate community values? I think Mayor Big John (and apparently other Missoula officials) may be suffering from the same indignation as the animals of being so large for their offices that they can't turn around so should be sent out of town as well.


Hippy Hypocrites : a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs? Come on Missoula grow up and get real.


Congrats, citizens of Missoula for running these guys out of town. So, when the Shriner's Circus comes back around next April with its animal cruelty on display for the sake of profits, tell them also to get out of Missoula.

Avalanche Creek

So the animals conditions are not going to change, they are just moving to the next show.
Couldn't he just get bigger cages?


It is hard to believe that the supposed "greatest nation" in the world still allows such horrible treatment of such magnificent living beings. I was also shocked recently to hear, and call me naive, that we still raise other living beings (bobcats) in cages for the duration of their lives just to slaughter and skin them in order to wear their skin around us for a decoration. I thought we as a race, we as a species, had moved beyond such primitive thinking and practices than to do this to other living beings that have just as much right to live in peace and harmony on this planet as we do. How is it possible that we are still so crude, so unsophisticated, and still so cruel? Sick human beings and their sick activities! I am glad the authorities kicked these people out of town for so cruelly keeping and display these animals. I only wish they confiscated these poor, helpless creatures and then sent them to their home environment and let them free no matter what their fate would be from that point on. I could not even imagine death being worse than living in the confines of a very large box never mind a box where I could not even turn around.


Interesting statement, 'we learned that animal acts are not something the community wants and we won't pursue those in the future.' Better shut the entire fair down Mr Whitefish outsider . Should have done your homework before instead of after you spent the tax payers money so recklessly. You are a perfect fit for what the commissioners wanted, a puppet on a string. This is by far the worst fair I have ever seen. I won't waste my time or money coming back.


Well said Touchdown, our county commissioners have turned our county fair into a poorly planned side show.
Our family and numerous friends used to take a week vacation every year, and spend every day at the fair, watching the horse racing, eating great fair food from non profits, wandering through the 4-H barns, looking at exhibits, and taking in the evening events. Now, we have not set foot at the Missoula Fair for several years, and not sure we will ever again. The county commissioners have have massacred our traditional county fair.
We still have great memories of the fair from yesteryear though.


Only in Missoula does a display of live animals that kids would like to see get run off while a bunch of scuzzy hippies can ride their bicycles naked through town for the same kids to see. What a bunch of pathetic losers.


That's an excellent point.


Thank you !!!

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