What’s Up With Humane Watch Attacking Big Cat Rescue?
By Howard Baskin, JD, MBA, Advisory Board Chairman of Big Cat Rescue
HumaneWatch is a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) and is entirely dedicated to spreading disparaging information about the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) with the goal of drying up the organization’s fundraising. CCF is the brain child of Richard “Rick” Berman, a longtime Washington, D.C. public relations specialist who is funded by special interests and powerful industries. Berman and Co. wages deceptive campaigns against industry foes including labor unions; public-health advocates; and consumer, safety, animal welfare, and environmental groups. In other words, this is a guy who is paid by the large companies who abuse animals, particularly the big “ag” companies who create misery for millions of farm animals used for food, to deceive the public about those who are trying to protect those animals.
Why does Berman have an entire organization, Humane Watch, devoted to doing nothing but trashing HSUS? Because HSUS is EFFECTIVE! If HSUS was not having such amazing success with ballot initiatives, lawsuits and legislation to protect animals from abuse, the abusers would not spend large amounts of money to pay Berman to concoct misleading information campaigns about HSUS.
What is Berman’s “technique?” He is a spin artist. A large part of what he does is take some fact that may be technically true and spin it and twist it into something that gives an impression that is blatantly untrue.
How did small nonprofit Big Cat Rescue (BCR) get on the radar of a man who normally spends his time attacking the big guys? Big Cat Rescue is a leader in urging Congress to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act. This act would end the private ownership and breeding of big cats that results a miserable life for thousands of big cats.
As part of our effort to educate people about the bill and encourage voters to urge their Legislators to vote for the bill, BCR was the major sponsor of the Taking Action for Animals Conference run by HSUS in June, 2014. The more than 1000 attendees all left there knowing about our bill, and had an opportunity to mention it in their visits to legislators the Monday after the conference.
Humane Watch may think that attacking BCR is going to dissuade us from sponsoring the conference in the future, i.e. less funding for a conference held by HSUS. No way! The conference is a huge opportunity to spread the word about our bill.
As for what they have written about BCR on their website, it is utter nonsense, done with the technique mentioned above, i.e. spinning to create false negative inferences.
They appear to have based their attack on a news report done in 2011 by a reporter in Tampa who has a reputation for creating negative stories. The story was promoted to the reporter by Joe Schreibvogel, who we view as one of the most notorious abusers of tiger cubs in the world.
For more on him see www.TigerCubAbuse.com. At the time of the story, we had sued Schreibvogel in Federal Court. We ended up winning a judgment against Schreibvogel and his “park” for more than $1 million in early 2013 and have been pursuing him through bankruptcy court since then. Most recently we received from the bankruptcy court the rights to his future inheritance of a valuable tract of land in Kansas.
The reporter apparently did no checking on who Schreibvogel was, or did not care. He made up his mind how his story would go, and was totally disinterested in anything we had to say. So, we posted the rebuttal at the link below.
I will not take the time to address every sentence of the Humane Watch nonsense, but here are specific comments regarding the statements on the Humane Watch page and how Berman misleadingly spins things to create false impressions:
Berman says BCR “rakes in revenues” and implies that this contradicts our goal of putting ourselves out of business by ending the trade in big cats so no more need to be rescued from horrible conditions. The word “rakes” of course sounds evil. The truth is that as the largest sanctuary for big cats, that meets the high standards of the Global Federation of Sanctuaries, we have become increasingly known for our rescue of cats from horrible conditions, for our outstanding animal care, and importantly for the fact that we are the leaders in the fight to stop the abuse by ending private ownership.
As a result, passionate supporters have caused our donations to steadily rise. This is not in any way inconsistent with our goal of putting ourselves out of business. In fact, the exact opposite is true. It is ONLY because of this financial support that we are able to devote time and financial resources to promote the federal bill that will accomplish this goal. We could not possibly have sued Schreibvogel in Federal Court if it were not for the amazing support of our donors.
And we certainly are not “raking” it in personally. When I arrived here in 2003 the sanctuary had lost money for 11 years, with Carole funding the shortfall each year. Carole took no salary for twenty-one years, I took no salary for my first seven years while I worked to get the sanctuary financially stable. And today we take salaries of about $50,000 each for working seven days most weeks.
Berman dwells on early 90’s as if the history of the sanctuary is something we hide. Utter nonsense. We openly explain that when Carole started out in those early years she was one of the people we today want to put out of business. A limited number of cats were bred and some, particularly bobcats, were placed as pets. At first she bought into the lie the breeders spread that breeding in captivity somehow helps conservation. It was when those bobcats placed as pets started to be returned that she realized this made no sense and the philosophy changed and evolved into our being a leader in stopping the breeding. We openly discuss the history of those early years and the evolution of thought on our tours, on our website http://bigcatrescue.org/about/our-evolution/ and even on a large sign in our tour waiting area so that visitors who may not have been to our website become aware of it.
Berman says that WildLife on Easy Street, as Big Cat Rescue was called back then, had 26 Animal Welfare Act violations in 1998. Aside from the fact that this was 16 years ago, he conveniently leaves out the fact that the court threw out ALL 26 counts as unfounded! What actually happened is that in 1996 Carole spoke out against USDA taking the position that beating a lion in a circus wagon was, “industry standard training” and thus acceptable. USDA retaliated by having an inspector make those 26 citations. They were absurd.
When Carole & USDA went to court every citation was thrown out. It is a great example of Berman and that reporter lying. Berman actually could have made the technically true statement that there were 26 “citations.” But he did not even make that much of an effort to be truthful. He says there were 26 “violations.” That is a blatant lie, since the court ruled they were NOT violations. But that aside, the real lie here is omitting that the court dismissed every citation and giving you, the reader, the impression that there indeed were violations. Think that is being honest and truthful? And if not, should you believe anything else he says about BCR, or, for that matter, HSUS?
So, what about the last 16 years since then? We have an almost perfect record of totally clean inspections with USDA for the last decade, a remarkable record in fact. Note that Berman points to only TWO citations in that period, in 2010 and 2011. So, what about those? One of the citations they point to about a tree being close to the fence was absurd and the citation was removed when we objected to it.
The other citation was a function of a change in inspectors. There are many subjective rules. The inspectors we had for many years had no problem with some storage units we had near our wall that were 6 inches lower than our 8 foot concrete wall. A new inspector did not like it, cited us, so we moved the containers away from the wall. Big sin eh?
Berman says “former employees” like Deborah Sandlin “speak out.” He neglects to mention that the only former employees who “speak out” are the ones from the early 90s when there was breeding and handling here who did not like the change to advocacy against those activities. Every one of them is an exotic animal owner or breeder and they know we are trying to end ownership and breeding of exotics.
The last thing I will address is Berman citing the same 2011 news report as claiming that we “refused inspection from the Better Business Bureau’s Standards for Charity Accountability, which might uncover its carefully crafted PR image” and implies that this contradicts our “claim” of being “committed to transparency.” We actually do have a strong PR image – the reason is that it is based on truth, something Berman knows nothing about apparently. As for BBB, we do not apply for their seal, and here is why.
It takes years on the waiting list before Charity Navigator will evaluate you. Before we got the evaluation we applied and earned the BBB Wise Giving Seal. BBB was trying to get better known then in a field, totally dominated by Charity Navigator, and still dominated by Charity Navigator, as the entity most donors rely on to learn who are the best nonprofit organizations. BBB had a meeting of seal holders and aggressively encouraged us all to put the seal everywhere we could. We put it on our letterhead.
To make a stupid story short, when a couple of the exotic animal owners wrote letters objecting to us exposing some of them openly, a person at BBB who I do not think treated us well gave us a hard time for doing so, and tried to use one of the standards to back his position even though it was a ridiculous stretch. They are just not used to nonprofits doing advocacy and having to deal with any controversy.
Meantime, we earned the Charity Navigator highest rating of four stars which we have gotten ever since.
BBB has what I think is an inappropriate requirement for the percentage of outside directors for a small, founder run nonprofit. They require that only the greater of 1 person or 10% of the board be employees.
That means Carole and I could not both be on our Board once we became employees. So as we expanded our Board adding outside directors, but no longer met that criteria, there was no point in applying. To go to all the effort of applying to be told you meet 19 of the 20 standards and cannot display the seal makes no sense given the long application.
By using the phrase we “refuse to be evaluated” and implying this is a lack of transparency Berman tries to makes it sound like we are hiding something. Do you think Schreibvogel applies to BBB? 🙂 And at least back then BBB themselves used to specifically say that choosing not to be evaluated is NOT a sign of lack of transparency. All of our financial information and every other aspect of transparency is on our website. With the four star rating at the rating entity that dominates the field, it makes no sense for me to spend my time filling out a long application to BBB when I know we cannot display the seal because I view one of their standards as inappropriate. I do not “refuse.” I simply choose not to.
Oh, and by the way, HSUS does meet all 20 of the Standards and is BBB seal holder. If what Berman says about HSUS were true, they would not meet all the Standards. Do you think Berman sends all his allegations to BBB? If he does, clearly BBB sees right through them as misrepresentations.
In addition to the Charity Navigator four star rating, you can see other independent ratings and credentials of Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org/about/credentials/. Being GFAS accredited means we meet the highest standards in our industry. In fact, GFAS has asked us to hold seminars for other sanctuaries.
Being an effective leader in the fight to stop the widespread abuse of exotic animals means you get attacked. The animal abusing big “ag” companies who pay Berman to deceive you about HSUS, and the exotic animal abusers who lie about us, have no way to justify what they do, so their only defense is to lie about HSUS and Big Cat Rescue.
To prevent the introduction of disease to animals already established in the Sanctuary, new animal arrivals are quarantined on arrival in the Sanctuary’s Quarantine Facility. Occasionally new arrivals will be quarantined elsewhere on site. To control certain health problems or outbreaks of disease, quarantine restrictions are sometimes placed on a certain Sanctuary area. The quarantine period is thirty days unless specified by the vet. The quarantine period may be extended indefinitely if the new animal has a health problem to be corrected.
While under quarantine animals are observed and examined for signs of illness, parasites, etc. At this time animals are acclimated and diets are established. These are designed to best settle the animal and may need modification once the animal moves to exhibit areas.Keepers must follow quarantine procedures strictly; use gloves, masks, rubber boots and foot baths wherever these are called for.
Quarantine is for the good of both the animals and the keeping staff.
A sample Quarantine Area posting: “QUARANTINE AREA — AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY”
THE FOLLOWING REGULATIONS MUST BE STRICTLY ADHERED TO:
Coveralls must be worn and regarded as quarantine material. Rubber boots must be worn and regarded as quarantine material. Face masks must be worn. Rubber gloves must be worn when handling animals or materials within the unit. All material leaving the unit must be thoroughly disinfected or in sealed plastic bags destined for disposal. One set of tools should be maintained within the unit to prevent cross infection. A phenol based foot bath must be maintained.
Phenol based disinfectant to be used within the area.
This unit should not be used as a passage between areas and minimal contact between staff and animals should be maintained.
CLEANING AGENTS:A number of different cleaning agents are used at Big Cat Rescue by Keepers in their daily cleaning tasks – disinfectants, bleach, soaps and window cleaners. Do not leave unattended in animal areas or where public can reach them.Disinfectants – there are two kinds in general use.TRL 35 Liquid Germicidal Detergent. This is used as a general disinfectant in cleaning exhibits. It contains a quaternary ammonium compound, so should not be used with soap. It is effective as a detergent and a disinfectant. At 2.5 oz. TRL 35 per gallon of water, it is an efficient fungicide and bactericide. It cleans, deodorizes and destroys bacteria in one operation and does not leave a film.TRL 132 Phenol Disinfectant Cleaner. Do not use cleaners that contain Phenol. It is a coal tar derivative and dangerous when used near cats, primates or bearcats.
CAUTION: “Tamed” iodine is sometimes used directly on the animal to clean wounds, cuts and scratches. It can also be used in foot baths, but is quickly degraded by dirt and organic matter when it turns from brown to clear (at which point it has lost its effectiveness). It is effective against tuberculosis and may be used in TB quarantines where phenol would not be suitable. Remember that iodine stains. Chlorine is commonly used for water purification, general sanitation and as a deodorizer; it can be used to loosen tenacious fecal matter after initial cleaning. Chlorine is effective against many bacteria, fungi, viruses and algae; it is unaffected by the hardness of water and is inexpensive. Chlorine is very corrosive and must be thoroughly flushed from all surfaces. Dilute as per instructions. Should only be used in well-ventilated areas; do not breathe the fumes. Add bleach to water as it may splash up to the eyes when water is added. Chlorine reacts with ammonia. Do not mix with ammonia compounds; use discretion when using near bird faces, as ammonia fumes can build up in poorly ventilated areas. Soaps and window cleaners: Use these as directed and for the purpose for which they were designed. (Hand soaps for personal hygiene; washing up soap for cleaning dishes, etc.)
NOTE: As some cleaning agents are transferred to smaller containers for storage near animal areas, it is very important that these containers are labeled with name of cleaning agent dilution ratio.Remember that just as water can be used incorrectly so can formulated products be a hazard to both Keeper and animal health , and to property, if they aren’t used in the correct dilutions – twice the recommended amount won’t do twice as good a job; it is a waste of cleaner. Use these products safely – read the labels and follow instructions. Take care of your eyes – you only have one pair; wear protective masks, glasses and gloves when necessary.We do not use a general cleaner with a deodorizer in the Sanctuary as this can cause some stress to certain animals when their own smell is replaced by a chemical one. Many animals will mark their cage furniture after a cleaning to reestablish their territory or familiar smells.
HYGIENE – OVER CLEANING
Sanctuary hygiene is rather unnatural when considered in the environment outside the Sanctuary. Wind, rain, sunlight, snow, dilution etc. all act as hygienic agents in the natural world, as do the air, bacteria and other plants and animals. However animals contained in confined conditions, in close contact with their wastes, and without the benefits of natural cleaning forces require some form of hygiene to survive.
Cleaning can be carried too far. Some animals which aren’t maintained in meticulously clean cages may do better than those in unnaturally clean, sterile environments. This depends on the animal species, and whether marking and urinating places are important to the animal. The Keeper should remember that much exists outside the rather limited range of human sensory experience that may be necessary for the health and or psychological well being of the animal he/she cares for.
Hygiene is relative and the Keeper must learn when to clean and when it is too clean. Primate care requires the highest standards of hygiene. The season affects the technique, as does the type of animal, and visitor enjoyment (smell, appearance).
At the same time the Keeper must always clean certain areas, notably water and food dishes (these must be scrupulously clean), and the areas around them. Try to minimize the chances of spreading disease or infection from one area to another; clean off your boots before you leave your area, use a foot bath if necessary. Keep a set of tools in each area and try to avoid using them in other parts of the Sanctuary. Always wash tools after use and disinfect if necessary.
SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS OF HYGIENE
Special consideration must be given to zoological specimens in order to maintain them in good health in a captive environment.
This order of animals is highly susceptible to parasite infection and therefore requires a high standard of hygiene; exhibits should be frequently washed and disinfected. Walls will require additional attention as cats will often spray urine well above their body height. Provide good ventilation for quick drying. Animals should have dry sleeping platforms, preferably of wood. Logs should be provided for cats and bearcats for the care of their claws and for other carnivores as rubbing and marking posts. Natural logs are difficult to disinfect and should be replaced periodically.
HOSPITALIZED ANIMAL CARE
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Alison Eastwood, daughter of Clint Eastwood, and sidekick, Donald, head to Branson, MO to meet with Kirby Van Burch, a magician who uses exotic animals in an act he performs over 350 times a year. Kirby has been criticized for his small enclosures, and rigorous production schedule for the animals.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Warden Nick Buckler recovered pelts from 60 poached bobcats and gray foxes. (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) Tracy Lee Shultz of Courtland, south of Sacramento, was fined $5,000 and ordered to forfeit the pelts worth nearly $15,000 according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
If you will be attending the 2014 Taking Action for Animals, you could win! As the Diamond Sponsor, Big Cat Rescue would like to reward you for taking action to protect exotic cats by offering the chance to win a new IPAD MINI OR ANDROID TABLET.
Here is how to play:
CALL your federal Representative or Senator, ask them to “Co Sponsor the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act HR 1998 and S1381” and then write down who you called, the number you called, if you spoke with a real person or left voicemail (both count) and what, if anything they said. Usually they just say, “Thank you, I’ll let my boss know.”
Then come by Big Cat Rescue’s booth and give us your written notes, along with a way to contact you if you win.
On Tuesday, after we get back to Tampa we will draw a winner for the new IPAD MINI OR ANDROID TABLETfrom the notes for the grand prize and some other prizes too and notify those who won. We will post the winners on Facebook too, so you can check there on Tuesday.
Not many people are bold enough to pick up the phone and ask their representative in Washington to take action, even though it’s their job to represent you, so your odds of winning are pretty good, if you make the call and report on it to us.
All of the info you need to make the call; even your lawmaker’s phone numbers, are in your bright green bag that you get when you sign in at the registration desk.
If you don’t get a bag, here is online access to the stuff you will need:
Here are some tips to make it easy for you to find your lawmaker’s phone number and what to say.
The first group will be your Federal Officials. You will have 2 Senators and 1 Representative. You need to call at least one, but you can enter 3 times if you call all 3. You can call the home office or the capitol office, but the capitol office is better.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists provided an update at the agency’s June Commission meeting in Fort Myers regarding Florida panther research and conservation programs.
Due to the success of panther-conservation efforts over the past 40 years, the panther population has grown significantly since the 1970s, when the panther was federally listed as Endangered.
Biologists have updated their “population range estimate” to reflect an increase to 100-180 adult panthers in Florida. Based on this estimate and habitat availability, panthers likely have reached their carrying capacity south of the Caloosahatchee River.
Historically, panthers ranged throughout Florida and into seven other southeastern states. Today, most panthers are found south of the Caloosahatchee River in Florida. The FWC and partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are preparing for the natural expansion of the increasing population.
Because large tracts of land are needed to sustain a healthy panther population, private landowners will be crucial to range expansion.
“Due to the expansive habitat needs of the Florida panther, the continued growth of their population presents a unique challenge to the FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy. “As panther range expands, impacts on private landowners will continue to increase.”
With the increasing number of panthers, there also are increasing interactions and conflicts with people. The FWC and partner agencies currently are working with landowners to address the challenges they may face in having panthers on their lands.
“We know panthers can prey upon pets and livestock, and we strive to find solutions that work for people who experience these very real losses,” said Thomas Eason, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.
People can help with panther research by reporting sightings at FloridaPantherNet.org. Reporting observations can help FWC biologists address panther conservation needs by identifying the areas used by these large cats.
Florida residents can support panther conservation efforts by purchasing a Protect the Panther license plate, available at BuyAPlate.com. Fees from license plate sales are the primary funding source for the FWC’s research and management of Florida panthers.
To report dead or injured panthers, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.