USDA Cracks Down on Abuse of Tiger Cubs

USDA Cracks Down on Abuse of Tiger Cubs

United States Department of Agriculture Cracks Down on Abuse of Tiger Cubs by Roadside Menageries

In response to a 2012 legal petition filed by The Humane Society of the United States, World Wildlife Fund, Detroit Zoological Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Born Free USA, Big Cat Rescue, Fund for Animals and Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued guidance making clear that exhibitors violate the Animal Welfare Act by allowing members of the public to handle or feed infant exotic cats like tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars or leopards.

“We applaud USDA for taking this first step to put roadside zoos and the public on notice that federal law prohibits using infant cubs for photographic opportunities and interactive experiences,” said Anna Frostic, senior attorney for wildlife & animal research at The Humane Society of the United States, “but it is imperative that the agency take additional action to prohibit public contact with big cats, bears and nonhuman primates of any age.”

As documented in the petition, dozens of facilities across the country routinely breed and acquire exotic feline species – all of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act – to produce an ample supply of cubs for profit. “Both animals and people are put in harm’s way when big cats are used for public contact exhibition – young cubs are particularly susceptible to disease, especially when deprived of necessary maternal care, and cubs quickly grow into dangerous predators that can cause serious injury to adults and children,” said Jeff Flocken, North America regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Big Cat Coalition Logos

In contrast to zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, “there are thousands of big cats in private menageries in the U.S., and these facilities do not have the resources or expertise to safely and responsibly care for dangerous wild animals,” said Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society. Conservation professionals agree that endangered and threatened species like tigers, lions, and apes should not be bred for commercial purposes.

“The insatiable demand for cubs and baby primates used at interactive exhibits fuels a vicious cycle of breeding and exploitation. It is standard in this horrific industry to separate babies from their mothers, and then discard them when they grow too big for handling,” explained Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA.

The mass propagation of tigers in the U.S. has resulted in a captive population that is nearly twice the number of tigers that exist in the wild. “Cubs used for petting, if they survive, typically spend many years living in substandard facilities and the few who are lucky enough to eventually end up at good sanctuaries typically arrive with medical issues caused by deficient care,” said Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue.

In addition to these animal welfare, public safety and conservation concerns, “the surplus of exotic animals in roadside zoos and other substandard facilities puts an enormous financial burden on the accredited sanctuaries that provide lifetime care for abandoned and seized animals,” according to Michael Markarian, president of The Fund for Animals.

Investigations have revealed that using tiger cubs for photo ops and play sessions can yield over $20,000 per month for a roadside zoo, fueling demand for more and more cubs – but once the cats mature, their future is uncertain. “There is just not enough space or resources at accredited sanctuaries to support the demand created by this irresponsible breeding,” said Kellie Heckman, executive director of Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Further, “the fate of captive tigers in the U.S. has serious implications for the conservation of tigers in the wild,” said Leigh Henry, senior policy advisor for Wildlife Conservation at World Wildlife Fund, “strengthened regulation of U.S. captive tigers will help ensure that captive-bred tiger parts don’t enter the black market and stimulate the demand that drives the poaching of wild tigers.”

While there is still much more work to be done to fully address the coalition’s petition to completely prohibit public contact with big cats, bears and nonhuman primates of any age, this is a significant step forward for the U.S. to improve its oversight of captive tigers and lead by example to encourage other countries, like China, to reduce the demand for tigers and tiger products.

See the 2016-USDA-Guidance-Cub-Handling

Larry Wallach Exploiting Cubs

Larry Wallach Exploiting Cubs

This is Larry Wallach from New York.


Larry Wallach Exploiting Tiger CubHe has been exploiting tiger cubs and charging the public to hold them for over a decade. In 2012, USDA filed a complaint against Larry Wallach for a litany of animal welfare violations, including failure to provide vet care to the cats and stressing out his tiger cubs with the constant cub handling.

He was set up at the Cacklebery Campground in New Smyrna Beach, FL with 2 young tiger cubs but after hearing from 1,495 of you, they asked him to leave!

They say he’s moved off their property and setting up shop on Main Street.  We are trying to find out the owner of the property, so we can let them know that animal lovers hate this sort of abuse.

He’s preying upon the hundreds of thousands of visitors in the area for Bike Week. Florida Fish & Wildlife sent an investigator but unfortunately said what he’s doing is legal. But we know you agree with us that just because it’s legal does NOT make it right.

How can someone like Wallach with a long list of USDA violations dating back to 2008 STILL BE OPERATING AND EXPLOITING CUBS? How can USDA and the Florida Wildlife Commission look at the raw, oozing sore on the cub’s nose, from frantically dragging his face back and forth across the cage wire, and not treat it as a violation of the Endangered Species Act?  It’s heartbreaking. But we CAN end this abuse with the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act.


Take action here:


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IL Ban Bobcat Pelt Sales

IL Ban Bobcat Pelt Sales

Ban the Sale of Bobcat Pelts in Illinois

We don’t know many people in IL so every single one of you makes a huge difference.

I usually try to make these things as easy as possible for our cat loving fans to do, but some states make it difficult.  Despite much opposition from people like you IL opened up bobcat hunting and trapping, so animal activists have countered with a bill to ban the sale of the pelts.

If they can’t profit from it, then it will reduce the number of bobcats who are tortured and killed.

Please save bobcats from suffering by taking the steps below:

Illinois supporters ONLY can support the bill by clicking here:


Here are the steps for showing support.



Fill out name and address info

Use “Big Cat Rescue” for Firm/Business etc (or however you’d like supporters to identify themselves)

My Bobcat is in Rehab TEE Black

Big Cat Rescue saves bobcats who have been injured and rehabs them for release back to the wild. Every shirt sold helps fund our bobcat rehab program.

Use “Citizen” or “Individual” for Title

Fill in email and phone info


Use “myself”


Check “Proponent”


Check “Record of Appearance Only”


Thank you for taking the time to help save bobcats in Illinois from hunters and trappers.  To learn why so many bobcats are being trapped in the U.S. read this report on the huge numbers of our native bobcats who are being trapped and killed to be sold in Russia.  Be ware, the images are graphic, but the numbers are even more frightening.

Federal Bill to Ban Big Cats in Backyards

Federal Bill to Ban Big Cats in Backyards




The Big Cat Public Safety Act would put an end to the private breeding and possession of big cats that leads to thousands of tigers, lions and other species living in miserable conditions.  These animals in houses and back yards create danger for the public and for law enforcement and animal control officers.  The bill has been endorsed by the National Association of Animal Control Officers and the Florida Association of Animal Control officers.

In February while attending the National Sheriffs’ Association conference in Washington, DC, Sheriff Lutz from Zanesville, Ohio joined our lobby team to visit legislator offices about the bill.  Zanesville is the home of the tragic “Zanesville massacre” four years ago when Terry Thompson let over 50 dangerous animals out of their cages and then committed suicide. Officers had to shoot most of the animals.  Here Sheriff Lutz poses with BCR’s and Susan Bass and Jennifer Leon at our booth at the conference.

The bill, numbered HR 3546, is steadily gaining momentum in the House of Representatives.  This is largely due to the many phone calls and email from animal lovers like you all over the country.  A “cosponsor” is a legislator who commits in advance to supporting the bill if it comes up for a vote.  The bill was introduced on a bipartisan basis by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). We are now up to 50 cosponsors!  They are listed below.

YOU CAN HELP!  Emails, and particularly phone calls, from constituents do matter!  Please visit to learn how to contact your legislator. Phone calls are easy.  All you need to do is say you live in the district and you would like to ask the Representative to support HR 3546, the Big Cat Public Safety Act. And if your Representative is already a cosponsor, it is very helpful to call or email and thank them so they know that constituents appreciate their support. If you cannot call during the day, you can call and leave a message at night or on the weekend.

It only takes two minutes of your time to call or email and make a difference for these magnificent animals.  Please make the “Call of the Wild” today!

Wisconsin Big Cats

Wisconsin Big Cats

The state of Wisconsin is one of just five US states that currently has no regulations pertaining to the private ownership of exotic animals. Anyone can legally own, breed, buy, and sell big cats without having to register the animals with the state, which means that it is often easier for a Wisconsin resident to obtain a tiger than to adopt a dog from a shelter. In 2012, the owner of one of Wisconsin’s many roadside zoos offered to give two adult tigers to an undercover ABC News reporter posing as a pet buyer, even after the prospective “owner” admitted that he had zero experience handling big cats. Due to Wisconsin’s lack of regulations, backdoor deals like this are completely legal. They’ve also created a situation where nobody knows the location or amount of dangerous predators being kept in private hands, and have turned Wisconsin into a “safe haven” for illegal animal smugglers, backyard breeders, roadside zoos, and “pay-to-play” businesses. The good news is that all of this could change very soon.

After reports of an escaped big cat frightened Milwaukee residents over the summer, Wisconsin lawmakers proposed a pair of common-sense laws that would keep both people and animals safe. UnderAB333 and its identical companion bill, SB 241, Wisconsin residents would no longer be able to buy, sell, breed, trade, or possess dangerous exotic animals, including all big cat species. All public contact with exotic animals would be banned, effectively ending the cruel and exploitative “cub-petting” industry in Wisconsin. Like similar legislation in other states, the law would grandfather in existing owners and their animals, provided that the animals are registered with their municipality. It would also exempt AZA and municipal zoos, circuses, research facilities, and veterinarians.



It’s been noted that this legislation, while certainly a great step forward, is still fairly weak compared to the exotic animal laws of other states. Most reptiles wouldn’t be regulated, for example, and neither would monkeys. The law also doesn’t mandate stiff penalties for noncompliant owners — scofflaws would only have to pay a mere $1,000 fine per animal (or $2,000 if an animal injures someone or destroys property).

But the proposed legislation still isn’t soft enough for people who wish to own or profit off of exotic animals. Private zoos, breeders, and animal brokers, fearing that any restrictions would be “bad for business”, have been fighting the legislation by trying to convince lawmakers that there’s no such thing as a “big cat crisis” in Wisconsin, and no need for legislation. They claim that their facilities are important for wildlife conservation and education, and that allowing the public to handle big cats is a vital part of “animal care.”

Despite the fact that these claims have been repeatedly debunked by legitimate wildlife experts, the pressure from pro-ownership groups has been working. Last week, in order to “protect businesses”, Wisconsin Senator Van H. Wangaard and Representative Samantha Kirkman gutted their own legislation by introducingindustry-drafted amendments to both bills, which would exempt USDA license holders and ZAA “accredited” facilities from having to comply with the law.

But Wisconsin cannot rely on the USDA alone to ensure that animals are being cared for properly. There are only four USDA inspectors assigned to Wisconsin’s 193 active licensees, meaning that inspections of facilities are few and far between. The agency does little to check the background of license applicants, and is slow to enforce the law when severe violations take place. And since virtually all private zoos and “pay-to-play” businesses already have USDA licenses, these amendments would make the legislation completely useless –which is just what exhibitors want.

The good news is that, since these bills haven’t been signed into law yet, there’s still time for real animal advocates to speak up and ask that Wisconsin lawmakers overturn these harmful amendments in favor of proactive, common-sense legislation that will keep both people and animals safe.

AB333 is currently in Wisconsin’s Committee for Consumer Protection. Contact information for the bill’s writers and sponsors can be found by clicking on the names under the bill’s “history” section. Contact information for all committee members can be found on the committee’s website by clicking on a member’s name.

SB 241, which has already been submitted for a full Senate hearing by the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety as amended, is currently awaiting scheduling. Contact information for committee members can be found here, and Wisconsin state senators may be contacted here. Governor Scott Walker has the final say in state legislation, and may be contacted with this online form, or at



Blood Lions

Blood Lions

Blood Lions

Blood Lions ran on MSNBC last night in our area at 10pm, which is after my bedtime, so I taped and watched it this morning. I cried throughout, for the suffering of these lions, but by the end I was weeping. I couldn’t even speak without crying uncontrollably. Howie had taken Jamie and Justin to the airport at 5:30 am for their trip to be honored at the Snow Leopard Trust’s celebration event, so he came in to the last 10 minutes of the film. He held me, not knowing what to say, and I was crying so hard that I had a hard time letting him know why I was so emotional.


Of course I was crying over the brutal way big cats are bred constantly, only to have their cubs ripped away at a few days of age, to be passed around as playthings to ignorant patrons, and then warehoused in abysmal conditions until it is their turn to be trotted out in front of an evil excuse for a human, to be used as a living target. That would make anyone with a soul cry.

The weeping however was the kind of emotional release that you see in a nation that comes to the end of a long and bloody war. It is the combination of grieving for those who’s lives were lost, for those who’s lives will be forever impaired and the relief that the suffering is winding down.  I wept with pride for all of our staunch supporters who have spoken up for the many city, county, state and federal bills that have passed to protect wild cats in the past 20 years.

March For Lions Tee Shirt

When Howie first came to help the sanctuary in 2003 he began working on ways for Big Cat Rescue to become financially self sustaining so that I, and later he, could work on the issues that will end the abuse. This was the first year the sanctuary broke even, which meant I could divert some of the time I spent growing our real estate business to support the cats, into ending the abuse at its root.

In 2003 the root cause of so much abuse appeared to be breeding cubs to be used in canned hunts. I’d seen such a situation in Texas 6 or 7 years prior, where a legal hunting ranch for discarded zoo hoof stock, also had rows of cages of big cats. The cages were tiny jail cells where the cats paced and frothed at the mouth. I asked the owner why he had them and he gave me a sinister smile and said, “They are my pets.” Back in the 90’s I’d never heard the term “canned hunt” and was only just learning that people all over the country kept big cats in back yard cages. I didn’t like what was being done to the zoo hoof stock, but had my own worries in making sure we had eliminated the use of wild cats on fur farms in the United States.

Feeling pretty sure that no bobcats or lynx were being bred on U.S. fur farms any more by 2003, I directed my attention to ending the use of exotic cats in the canned hunting industry. Over the years I’d had people tell me similar stories to mine; where they or their husbands had been to a legal game farm, but had seen big cats in tiny cages too. Some even were reported to have tags in their ears for easy identification by the proprietors and the “hunters” who would pick the cat they wanted to shoot in a fenced area or a cage. Not knowing quite where to start, business people tend to do what they know. In our case, Howie and I turned to the Chamber of Commerce.

They directed us to the National Chamber, who directed us to state agencies and state legislators, who directed us to congressional leaders. Not only did NO ONE want to talk about this, but worse they insisted it wasn’t their problem, but rather was that of the people higher up the food chain. We’ve spent 12 years going up and down that chain, and bringing in everyone we could think of who might have influence. It’s been a grueling and frustrating experience and has been made nearly unbearable due to the apathy of most people who could do something about it, if they cared. They have time to fret and fuss over each other’s party issues, but can’t spend 10 minutes to hear about something they could fix that would end so much misery and help protect our natural resources.

Empire State Building CecilA turning point came when Cecil the lion was killed by a dentist from the U.S. on a hunting safari in South Africa. When people learned that this easy going lion, who everyone knew by name, had been baited out of a protected area to be shot on private land, THEY CARED.

Within weeks, a documentary called Blood Lions, aired. (It had been in the works since 1998)

When I saw it today I was sure that anyone, with any sense of justice, who sees it will care. I can see the light at the end of the dark and dreary tunnel. I believe people will be outraged that our political representatives have allowed this to continue to this day, not only in foreign countries, but on our own soil. The most pertinent question the film makers kept asking is, “Where are all of these cubs going?”

Here in the U.S., most notably in Florida and Texas, canned hunting ranches abound. There is no excuse for that sort of cruelty, but the mere presence of big cats on those properties should be clear evidence that illegal hunting is happening there too. The more easily exposed abuse is that of cubs being bred for pay to play schemes. There is no legitimate place for those cubs to go as soon as they are 12 weeks old, and have teeth and jaw strength capable of biting to the bone. The people who use them for photo ops, swimming with the tigers and pay to play booths, always insist that the older cubs go to wonderful sanctuaries in the end, but there are only a handful of wonderful sanctuaries, and they don’t accept cast offs where the owners continue to breed and discard, so WHERE ARE ALL THOSE CUBS GOING?

In Blood Lions they discovered that all of the places in Africa, that say they send their cubs back to the wild, or to sanctuaries or non kill parks, were lying. Is it any stretch of the imagination to think that people who are heartless enough to breed lions, tigers and ligers, only to pimp them out, would discard them to any place that would take them; regardless of how horrific that end use might be? The breeders and dealers are the only ones proclaiming, even more loudly than our government, that where these big cats end up, isn’t their problem. I think our politicians and our federal and state agencies are about to find out that people DO care and they will be expected to turn their backs on the donations and kickbacks offered by those who kill and exploit wild animals for fun and profit.

Perhaps, one of the biggest forms of relief came from the exposure of the fact that NONE of the places that allow a person to have contact with an exotic cat, or their cubs, are part of the solution and rather that they are ALL part of the problem. So many young men and women have been duped into supporting these canned hunts, by bottle feeding baby lions, tigers and ligers or by keeping them accustomed to people, so that they are later easy targets. No one who really loves animals would ever be a part of these schemes. I believe Blood Lions will drastically reduce the income generated by the public paying to have such experiences and will eliminate the free labor. Would I be asking too much to hope that all of those people, who are now educated by Blood Lions, will become outspoken advocates to end the entire canned hunting industry?

We can end it in our country. We can’t be taken seriously by other countries until we clean up our own mess. We can start by ending the private possession of wild cats. There is a bill before Congress right now that will do that. Ask your member of Congress to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act (the bill is HR 3546 if you want to sound cool) We make it easy at


Here is a great way to spread the word, in a fun way, about how abusive cub handling is.  Check out