Bridget Sipp, wife & business partner of controversial horse trainer & zoo owner Burton Sipp, killed in fire
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2011:
Bridget Sipp, 43, was killed on April 11, 2011 when she
rushed back into her blazing log house in Springfield, New Jersey,
to try to rescue her mother, Lenore Edwards, 68, who had already
escaped. Bridget Sipp operated the Animal Kingdom Zoo in
Springfield, in partnership with her husband Burton K. Sipp, 64,
who was away in connection with his race horse training business.
Bridget Sipp, also a race horse owner, was often mentioned
for bottle-feeding baby animals at the Animal Kingdom Zoo, which
reopened three days after the fire. But the zoo itself, and Burton
Sipp, have been controversial for more than 25 years.
Burton Sipp founded the Animal Kingdom Zoo with his first
wife Carol in 1985, under a zoning variance allowing them to operate
a pet store, while Burton Sipp was under indictment for allegedly
submitting inflated insurance claims on nine horses who died in his
care between 1980 and 1984. Burton Sipp in 1986 settled the charges
by plea-bargaining a five-year suspended sentence for witness
tampering. “Initiated by the FBI, the investigation centered around
the allegation that [Burton] Sipp had killed 41 horses in an
insurance fraud scheme,” according to an affidavit filed by then-New
Jersey attorney general Edward Rudley. Burton Sipp denied any part
in killing horses. Rudley prepared the affidavit for jockey John
D’Agusto, who sued Burton Sipp in connection with Operation Glue.
This was an attempted sting, according to Bill Finley of the New
York Daily News, which “called for [Burton] Sipp to introduce New
Jersey state police posing as crooked owners to jockeys, who would
then be offered bribes to hold back horses,” in order to fix the
outcome of races. Four jockeys were indicted, but the indictments
were thrown out of court as alleged entrapment.
The attempted sting originated after Burton Sipp allegedly
forged a scratch card at a race in Atlantic City in 1980, causing
another trainer’s horse to be withdrawn from the race. Sipp was
suspended from racing for 60 days, but was not criminally charged
after he chose to cooperate with law enforcement.
“His record is believed to include more violations than any
trainer in the history of racing,” wrote Finley in 1993. Burton
Sipp surrendered his licenses to race horses in 1994, but returned
to racing in 2005.
Burton Sipp’s other animal businesses appear to have first
run into trouble when a Highland bull he owned fatally gored
passer-by Stanley Parker, 21, in 1986. In 1990 Burton Sipp was
indicted for allegedly staging a 1988 burglary at his pet store to
collect insurance on two purportedly stolen birds. Burton Sipp
repaid the insurance money.
Burton Sipp in 1988 won a zoning variance allowing him to
expand his pet store into the Animal Kingdom Zoo, on condition that
the zoo not keep large predators. But pumas, lynx, lions, and
bears were added to the collection between 1995 and 2001, leading to
years of litigation brought by Springfield Township. Burton Sipp
eventually divested of the lynx and lions. The zoo still has a wolf
and a hyena.