Owner of Dade City's Wild Things zoo accused of fraud

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office arrested the owner of Dade City's Wild Things zoo attraction over the weekend.

An affidavit provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture alleges Kathryn Stearns pocketed tens of thousands of dollars meant for the care of animals.

Dade City's Wild Things is a private zoo that's dealt with controversy over the years, including fines from the USDA and lawsuits from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

After looking into her transaction history, investigators say they found questionable transfers from the zoo's non-profit account to Stearn's personal bank account.

More than $74,000 was transferred to make bankruptcy payments, according to the report. Investigators said they believe she transferred nearly $300,000 over the course of two years.

Image 1 of 2

“These are donors who believed their hard-earned dollars were going to support the care of these animals that desperately needed their help,” said Brittany Peet, a PETA spokeswoman.

The report also states that Stearns solicited donations even though her zoo had not been a registered charitable organization since March 2017.

Investigators say they discovered a video Stearns posted on Facebook shortly after Hurricane Irma, asking the community for financial assistance.

Dade City's Wild Things is facing another lawsuit filed by PETA that claims the zoo abuses tiger cubs.

The lawsuit is currently going through the court system. Stearns bonded out of jail this weekend.