Four kangaroos named Ross, Rachel, Joey and Chandler are among several exotic animals thriving at a Texas sanctuary after they were rescued from a roadside zoo.
The Humane Society rescued more than 200 animals from the Saint-Édouard Zoo in Quebec, Canada, in 2019, according to the organization, which described the unaccredited zoo as "decrepit" and "barren."
The barn where most of the animals were kept was dark, filled with spider webs and thick with the smell of ammonia and dust, said Kelly Donithan, director of animal disaster response for Humane Society International. Rescuers found rows of stalls with isolated animals and a big cat "house" that consisted of a shed over a filthy cement floor and enclosures with weakened, unsafe spots from the cats chewing on them, Donithan said.
"It was like most roadside zoos -- to a visitor it may have seemed OK, as most of the cruelty was hidden from paying customers," she said. "But we saw failing, dangerous fences and cages, chewed stalls holding malnourished and lonely animals, dead animals just below the soil, and animals who need to be in social groups anxious and alone."
The rescue operation took three months, and the legal hoops to find homes for all the animals took even longer.
The Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, waited more than two years to receive the 11 animals they took into its 1,400-acre facility, Noelle Almrud, senior director of the sanctuary, told ABC News.
When Black Beauty Ranch welcomed the kangaroos, named after the rescue team's love of the '90s sitcom "Friends," there were only three: Ross, Rachel and Joey. When the rescuers found out Rachel was pregnant, they named the joey Chandler, Almrud said. The three kangaroos were found in a dark indoor pen huddled together, according to the Humane Society.
Chandler has "never experienced the neglect his parents and sister went through" and now weighs 120 pounds, according to the Humane Society.
Among the other rescued animals brought to the sanctuary are 7-year-old tigers Serenity and Theodora, who are "very affectionate with each other and greet the staff with chuffs and rubs along their fence," according to the Humane Society.
Douala the lioness, about 4 years old, loves sitting on her platform and greeting her caregivers at the fence when they arrive with treats, and Zuko the zebra, who was found trying to chew his way out of his enclosure, is "curious" and "spunky," according to caregivers.
A wildebeest, nilgai and emu were also brought from the Quebec zoo, according to the Humane Society.
The sanctuary, which houses 800 animals and over 40 different species, is also where a Bengal tiger, which was seen wandering the streets of Houston for nearly a week, was moved to after he was captured.
The "nightmare" the animals experienced at the roadside zoo are now over, Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. The animals are "thriving" and roam in multi-acre pastures and an open habitat with shelter to provide them from the elements that they get to lounge around in, Almrud said.
"Our main mission is to take in animals that nobody else wants, that have been abused, neglected, abandoned, and we provide forever homes for them with as much dignity and respect as possible for whatever time they have left," Almrud added.
The former owner of the Saint-Édouard Zoo pleaded guilty to animal welfare violations relating to how and where the animals were kept, including inadequate and unsanitary facilities, and lack of veterinary care, according to the Humane Society.
"Roadside zoos put profit over public safety and the welfare of animals," Block said. "No animal should be forced to languish in deplorable conditions. At Black Beauty Ranch, these animals are finally getting a chance to be themselves and express their natural behaviors."
The hundreds of animals were relocated to accredited facilities, the organization said.
Almrud, who rescues many animals from the exotic pet trade, cautioned people against buying or selling wild animals.
"These animals take a lot of work, a lot of care and a lot of money to properly keep them happy and healthy," she said.