Reading Time: 2 minutes Musician Joan Jett and Bosco the bear
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Iconic musician Joan Jett is urging the owner of a deer park to release an elderly bear and rehome him in a reputable sanctuary.

According to Jett, 23-year-old Bosco is currently confined to a barren concrete pit – and showing signs of arthritis. Following the death of the facility’s only other bear last year, Bosco doesn’t have a companion.

The musician teamed up with vegan charity PETA to write to Rachelle Sankey – the owner of Pymatuning Deer Park. The charity has offered to facilitate Bosco’s transfer and pay any associated costs.

PETA says Bosco suffers from arthritis

‘Denied all that is natural’

In the letter, Jett wrote: “Bears are sophisticated, playful animals who thrive when given space and freedom to run, dig, and swim far from human activity.

“But at this roadside zoo, Bosco is denied everything that’s natural and important to him and condemned to a life surrounded by stone walls and gawking tourists.

“At over 20 years old, he’s especially prone to injury in these dangerous conditions and likely experiencing physical and psychological distress already. Please, allow him to live his remaining years with dignity at a reputable sanctuary, where he could enjoy extensive space, independence, and the veterinary care that he so obviously deserves.”


This is not the first time PETA has urged the facility to release animals: in 2015, the charity contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) after witnessing a bear with serious arthritis.

“The USDA inspected Pymatuning following PETA’s complaint and, among a litany of other federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations, confirmed that the bear was ‘showing signs of debility’ from arthritis and that the facility had allowed her to suffer in pain without ever notifying a veterinarian,” said PETA.

“The USDA also cited Pymatuning for confining the bears to a concrete pit, noting that it didn’t allow them to move freely and that the concrete likely caused and was exacerbating the female bear’s arthritis. Last September, the female bear was again observed struggling to walk almost two and a half years after PETA first alerted the USDA to her suffering. Now, only Bosco remains, and he’s also showing signs of arthritis while being forced to live primarily in a concrete pit.”

The facility says it has built a new outdoor area for Bosco – picture annotated by Pymatuning Deer Park
The facility says it has built a new outdoor area for Bosco – picture annotated by Pymatuning Deer Park

‘Misleading people’

Pymatuning Deer Park responded to the allegations by PETA earlier this month on social media, writing: “If you notice on the picture PETA has recently posted, the door in the back right corner (circled), is a door that leads to Bosco’s outside part of his enclosure.

“We worked with both the USDA and the PA Game Commission to build an addition that provides natural ground. Bosco is 23-years-old and most likely would not survive the tranquilizing, sedation, caged confinement during hours of transportation, and the stress inflicted upon him for the sake of taking him from the only home and people he’s ever known to transport him to an unknown place.

“We appreciate the concerns that have been expressed. However, we will not let PETA mislead people and continue to harass our park with false information.”

Maria Chiorando

Maria is a news and features writer for Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. She was previously the editor of Plant Based News for over 3 years.