On this same day we handed out enrichment made by our wonderful Enrichment Team, that was made to look like Dragon Fruit and Dragon Fruit Lip Butter, in honor of the year long Body Shop campaign to support Big Cat Rescue through the sales of that item.
The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (S. 1381) was introduced into the U.S. Senate this past month by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The Bill is aimed at prohibiting private ownership and breeding of exotic cats such as lions, tigers and other dangerous wildcats.
The Bill is in large measure a response to repeated tragedies between humans and captive big cats, such as the episode in Zanesville, Ohio two years ago when the owner of a menagerie of exotic animals released his “pets” from their cages, leaving first responders with little choice but to shoot and kill 49 lions, tigers, bears and other exotics to protect public safety.
Fortunately, no people were killed or injured in this incident. However, since 1990, numerous dangerous incidents involving big cats have occurred in the U.S., including 21 human deaths, 246 maulings and 143 wildcat deaths. These tragedies underscore that these apex predators are simply not suitable as pets.
These tragic events are not limited to the harboring big cats as pets by individuals. Traveling zoos, petting farms and other commercial entities that keep wildcats captive also demonstrate that tragedies inevitably occur when unqualified people possess these animals. Last year, the Humane Society of the United States released the results of an investigation into GW Exotic Animal Park, where multiple dangerous incidents, resulting from allowing patrons to interact with wild predators, were recorded.
Apart from the threat to public safety, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act is also a response to the welfare issue of the wildcats that are held captive – the victim of their exotic beauty. It has been estimated that upwards of 10,000 big cats like lions, tigers and cougars are held captive in private hands in the U.S. These animals oftentimes suffer from severe physiological and psychological health defects due to their captivity.
Privately owned lions
These magnificent creatures are trapped in a cycle of misery that begins with captive breeding by dealers, who strip the infant cubs from their mothers. The all too common scenario is that the owners discard these wildcats when they become too big, aggressive, or expensive to keep, or when the novelty wears-off. The cycle often ends with these animals living in pseudo-sanctuaries, such as unaccredited petting farms, since overburdened accredited sanctuaries (Accredited sanctuaries, such as Big Cat Rescue, do not permit commercial trade, propagation or direct contact between the public and the wildlife) seldom have the financial means to provide lifetime care. Many are shipped off to hunting ranches to be shot for trophies, while others are killed for their remains (primarily fur, food or Asian medicine). Such is the fate of many privately owned exotic cats that in some ancient cultures were revered as though they were gods.
Currently, there is a myriad of state and local laws that govern the harboring of exotic cats, which makes it difficult to enforce public safety and to protect the welfare of these animals. Reason suggests that a comprehensive federal ban is needed to address this nationwide problem, which too often spells disaster for humans and almost always results in a lifetime of misery for the innocent victims of the bizarre American subculture that callously disregards the laws of nature for their own self-aggrandizement.
According to Senator Blumenthal, “The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act is a common-sense solution to a situation that has spiraled out of control. Thousands of dangerous big cats are kept in deplorable conditions as backyard pets and in roadside zoos across the nation. This bill would alleviate the threat these animals pose to the general public.”
The Bill would ensure that these endangered creatures do not threaten public safety or end up living in small cages, or chained, in someone’s backyard, basement or garage. Passage of this legislation would also help to prevent the undermining of wildlife conservation, resulting from private ownership of big cats, which contributes to illegal international wildlife trade.
The Bill, if penned into law, would close the sad chapter on the dual threats to public safety and the welfare of captive big cats that are victimized by being held captive as pets or commodities. The time is long past due to ensure public safety and to put an end to the suffering and abuse endured by these majestic animals and to respect their birthright to be wild and free.
The writer is an attorney-at law. He devotes his retirement to the cause of animal welfare through advocacy. The mission of the writer’s website [www.irafischer.com] is: Kindness and Compassion for Animals. The writer is a proud supporter of Big Cat Rescue and is a member of its Legacy Society.
This photo was from circa 2009 when Precious could get up in her tree. She’s had a stroke, at the age of 21, but has been working hard to get back on her feet and managed to do so recently. The photo below is Levi bobcat during a recent vet check up.
Food Prep Photos
The building was built by friends of Big Cat Rescue in 2003-2004 for $40,000. The lion’s share of the money raised to build it came from Jamie Veronica’s college fund, supplied by Jacqueline Norris, her great grandmother. Jacqueline was known to her grand children as Momma Jacquie, and thus the sign out front that says, Mamma Jacquie’s Cool Cat Cafe – Food Prep Center.
At the far left is the “rat room” and laundromat for the Cat Hospital next door. Live rats are raised there for the rehab bobcats. This area is screened for fresh air and is also where the hot water tank and water purification system is housed.
We later added on a metal roofed carport for golf cars, our beast wagon and our van.
The right end of the building is a carport styled “roof over” for the two walk in freezers. The small freezer is for whole prey and frozen treats for the cats. The larger freezer can hold 17,000 lbs of food and contains the ground diet, beef and chicken. Having these freezers under the roof will extend their lives.
The back of the freezers shows that the compressors are kept under the roof as well to protect them and the whole area around the freezers has hurricane panels cut for quick installation in the event of an emergency.
Behind Food Prep is a propane storage system and generator, donated by the Body Shop, to run Food Prep in the event of a loss of power.
Inside the main section of Food Prep is the computer where volunteers and staff log in and out for the day. It is also where another computer is set up for them to log their observations from feeding and cleaning the cats into the Intranet site for Big Cat Rescue. These entries send emails to the CEO, President, Operations Manager, Maintenance Team and Vet, with the full report of feces found, food left behind and any maintenance or veterinary issue that is observed.
Feeding supplies, such as paper plates, rubber gloves, paper towels etc. are on the top shelves in the back ground and cleaning supplies are on the bottom, so that there is no chance of something spilling and contaminating the food delivery products. At the left you can see stainless steel sinks and cutting boards where the food is chopped.
Behind the shelves is a huge walk in cooler that is the full width of the building. In the photo you can see an Intern carrying a box of frozen meat into the cooler where it will defrost for the following day.
Inside the walk in cooler are racks on the left for thawing whole prey and wrapped items and on the right is a stainless steel morgue table for draining the blood off the meat which is captured in buckets below. The walls are clad in an easy to clean water proof sheeting like you would see in a shower stall. A lot of our cats are on special diets due to old age and health issues, so the buckets on the rack in the back right of the photo are for creating those diets before the feed wagons leave the Food Prep area.
Special lights are needed inside freezers and coolers and are very expensive.
The stainless steel sinks wrap around three sides of the room. There is a lot of natural light in the room from windows and there are overhead lights as well. The floors are all tile and mopped down daily after feeding.
On the left is a cabinet for feed and bedding for the rats and stainless steel rat cages on the right. The washer, dryer, hot water tank and purification system are behind the rat cages. In order to keep vermin from entering this area, the screens are covered with a 1/4 wire mesh on a frame mounted to the outside of the room over the screened windows.
When another sanctuary asked for details about our nutrition center or food prep area, I figured I’d just post it here for anyone who is interested.
From our friends at HSUS:
California Restricts Bobcat Hunting and Bans Lead Shot
Today is an important day for wildlife protection in California. Gov. Jerry Brown signed two pieces of legislation today thanks in no small part to all the hard work The HSUS and our supporters have put in to protecting California’s wildlife and people.
Gov. Brown’s signing of AB 711 means hunters in California will be required to use non-lead ammunition to stop the incidental poisoning of dozens of species, and stop these bullets from killing long after they have left the chamber. His signature on AB 1213 will add a no-trapping buffer zone for bobcats around Joshua Tree National Park and stop commercial trappers from catching and killing bobcats on private property without the consent of the property owner.
Our California State Director Jennifer Fearing says, “California has led the nation in creating humane laws, and today’s pair of actions by Governor Brown is an incredible victory for wildlife and humans alike.” Read more on my blog»
Thank you for all you do for California’s animals.
Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States
Louisiana Supreme Court Allows Victory for Tiger to Stand
Last Friday, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a petition to review the decision of the Court of Appeal in the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) ongoing case to protect Tony, the Siberian-Bengal tiger confined at Grosse Tete, Louisiana’s Tiger Truck Stop by Michael Sandlin. In 2011, ALDF sued the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) for unlawfully issuing a permit to Sandlin to keep and exhibit Tony. With pro bono assistance from Baker Donelson, ALDF was joined in the suit by several Louisiana taxpayers, including Warren Triche, the state representative who authored the Louisiana state law banning private ownership of tigers. In April of this year, the Court of Appeal held that Sandlin and the Tiger Truck Stop are ineligible for a big cat permit and can no longer keep Tony. Sandlin sought review of that decision, but last Friday the state Supreme Court declined to take the case. Although Sandlin could appeal further to the U.S. Supreme Court, the lawsuit raises no issues of federal law, so the Court could not grant review.
Back in 2009 Big Cat Rescue had been asked by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife to come rescue Tony as they were confiscating him and felt that the Tampa based sanctuary would be an excellent home for him. Sandlin obtained an emergency injunction to prevent Tony from being rescued, so Big Cat Rescue became the first organization in the U.S. to hire an attorney to represent a tiger. Sandlin was able to thwart a number of attempts through the good ol boy network in Iberville Parish, but the Animal Legal Defense Fund took over and just wouldn’t give up.
Meanwhile, on October 5, an employee at G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma was attacked by an adult male tiger and almost lost her arm. Michael Sandlin has declared his intention to send Tony to G.W. Exotic if forced to relinquish him. The controversial zoo has been the subject of undercover investigations and houses more than 200 dangerous exotic animals that it breeds and uses for public interaction. ALDF is asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to investigate the horrific attack at G.W. Exotic. Given the animal welfare and public safety failings at G.W. Exotic, ALDF is calling on LDWF to ensure that Tony is transferred to a legitimate and reputable sanctuary. Sending Tony to G.W. Exotic would violate both Louisiana and Oklahoma state laws.
Still ongoing is Sandlin’s own lawsuit, alleging that the Louisiana state ban on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals is unconstitutional.
“We are relieved to see this case reach its end,” said Matthew Liebman, senior attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Nearly three years after we asked the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries not to issue a permit to the Tiger Truck Stop, the highest court in the state has declined to prolong this case further. We call upon the Department to do the right thing and send Tony to a reputable sanctuary, before we face another tiger tragedy.”
Copies of the lawsuit and photographs of Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop are available upon request.
The Humane Society Speaks Out Against Cubs and Props
Wild Animals Are Not Stuffed Toys
Across the country, the public can pet, feed, pose, and play with tiger, bear, and lion cubs, as well as other wild animals for a fee. These baby animals are bred and used for just a few months for photo ops and play time, and then discarded. This vicious cycle fuels the exotic pet trade, puts animals at risk, endangers the public, and creates a burden for both law enforcement and nonprofit sanctuaries when these cast-off cubs become adults and are too large and unpredictable to handle.
In response to a legal petition from The HSUS and other animal protection and conservation organizations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is requesting comments on whether to prohibit public handling of dangerous wild animals.
USDA has changed the Animal Welfare Act regulations by revising its definition of retail pet store in order to keep pace with the modern marketplace and to ensure that animals sold via the Internet or other non-traditional methods receive humane care and treatment.
In an effort to provide all pertinent information in one location, USDA Animal Care has created a special web page. On this page, we will post all related materials and updates. We encourage you to please visit the page and read through the posted materials in order to: 1) gain a better understanding of this regulation change; 2) learn the reasons that prompted the change; and 3) see if you need a USDA license or if you are exempt from licensing.
Hardly a week goes by now that there isn’t a case in the news of a big cat facility that was once considered a haven for the animals rescued has found itself over run with animals that there are no funds to provide for.
People love a good rescue story and they want to be involved. They will volunteer or donate to facilities that are in the public eye doing the heart pounding rescues because it makes them feel good about themselves. They are instantly gratified with the rescue of the animal from some deplorable condition and for a few weeks they thrill in seeing the animal rebound in health and personality until the rescued one appears to be safely set for life…then they are off looking for the next thrilling rescue.
Sometimes sanctuary founders are this short sighted themselves and they continue to take on more animals than they can afford because they believe that recognition is right around the corner and surely some big donor is just about to discover them. Sort of like the starry eyed actress that lives hand to mouth until she has lost her good looks and ability to land a meaningful job, while hoping to be discovered by Hollywood. They usually mean well but just aren’t in touch with reality.
Often a person with the chutzpah to start a sanctuary may be cognizant of how unlikely this is, but they may depend on volunteers and donations to keep their dream alive and they know that if they aren’t rescuing the “animal in distress of the week” then they will lose their volunteers and donors to someone who is acting so irresponsibly.
One thing you can always count on is that the unexpected will happen. A founder will become sick or die or just change their mind about how they want to spend their life. A day like 9/11 will send the world as we know it into a three year tail spin. A year in which there is not a month that goes by without a tsunami, earthquake, major health epidemic, war or a hurricane will happen and the giving public will be so greatly pressed upon for human needs that there will be little left over for the animals. With global warming now finally being recognized as a planet changing reality we are only just beginning to see times of trouble…expensive trouble.
The following list of links go to stories about facilities that once housed big cats and failed. In some cases they never were really sanctuaries, but they claimed to be and many people were fooled into supporting them. In other cases they actually were sanctuaries and some of them even great ones but something happened and they either shut down or had to consider doing so. When a big cat sanctuary closes there is no where for the great cats to go. All of the decent sanctuaries are full and most of the rest continue to breed, sell and further exacerbate the exploitation. These are just a few sad examples of what happens when a big cat facility goes under.
Closed exotic cat facilities of considerable size:
Archangel Underwood, MN
Ashville Game Farm, Jeff Ash, NY
Bearcat Hollow, Ken Kraft, MN
Catherine Gordon Twiss, MS (had 86 lions and tigers when she was shut down)
Corpus Christi Zoo
Cougar Haven David Mallory had 38 big cats at one time, but only 14 at the time that he abandoned them. 9 tigers died while waiting for help to arrive.
Dennis Hill Exotics Shelbyville, IN (20 tigers confiscated in 2005 and he got rid of the last 4 in 2011)
Great Cats of Indiana
Greenville Wildlife Center in Greenville, NJ
Horseshoe Creek in Davenport, FL owned by Darryl Atkinson
Karl Mitchell, Pahrump, NV
L & L Exotics owned by Lorenza Pearson in Copeley Township, OH
Savage Kingdom owned by Robert Baudy in Centerville, FL (had 11 tigers at time of closure)
Buy Big Cat Auto Accessories
Siberian Tiger Foundation owned by Diana Cziraky aka Diana McCourt (6 tigers at time of closure)
Tiger Creek/Wild World Morepark, CA (4 tigers in 2004)
Tiger Rescue Colton, CA (2002 10 tigers were seized and in 2003 13 young tigers were confiscated and 58 cubs found in the freezer)
Tigers Only owned by Joan Byron-Marasek in Ocean County, NJ (24 tigers were seized and sent to Wild Animal Orphanage in 2003)
Tiger Truck Stop AKA Tiger Travel Plaza ordered to remove Tony the tiger by Dec. 2011
Wesa-A-Geh-Ya in Warrenton, MO Sandra and Kenneth Smith, owners of Wesa-A-Geh-Ya animal facility, settle with USDA after being charged with violations of Animal Welfare Act. Smiths agree to civil penalty of $13,000 and revoking of their AWA license. Although Smiths no longer have USDA exhibitor’s license or AWA license, no law prevents them from keeping their animals under little supervision from any state or federal agency. (Warrenton Journal)
Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio, TX shuttered her doors in May of 2010 after a state attorney investigation into misappropriation of funds and a take over by the board of directors. At the time of closure the board members in charge said they had 400 wild animals and that 200 were tigers. Later, once groups like GFAS, IFAW and Born Free were called in there were only 75 tigers to be found. Where did 125 tigers go in those first couple of months? A year after closure there are still 30 tigers left languishing and countless primates, bears and other animals.
Zoo Cats AKA Zoo Dynamics owned by Marcus Cook FL and TX addresses (17 tigers in 2008, 7 in 2010)
This video shows facilities that are currently licensed and approved by the USDA and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission that have been operating at this level or worse for more than 10 years and yet are still open to the public. This shows precisely why we need better laws. Play 6 minute video HERE.
Cited by officials animal welfare violations but still in operation: