DejaVu is all I can say. It happens over and over, like a recurring nightmare for the wild animals suffering through it; only the names and places change.
Someone wants to “rescue” wild animals because that seems like glamorous work, so they buy animals (and just prolong the problem) until the really bad guys find out there is a new place to dump last year’s photo cubs, and then the “rescues” become more legitimate, in the eyes of the “rescuer” because at least they aren’t paying for animals any more. Usually the big cats who need rescuing are the cubs who just outgrew the ridiculous 8-12 week window, in which USDA condones the use of cubs for photo and pay to play sessions. All it takes to fix this mess is for USDA to acknowledge that it is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act to take cubs from their mothers for this inhumane, unethical, albeit lucrative exploitation… But I digress.
Five years go by, and citations pile up for not providing sufficient shelter, not having an attending vet, not willing to provide documentation of where the cats came from or went and having a perimeter fence that was only 2 feet above the 6 feet of snow. This article from 2009 detailed the illegal purchase of a leopard that resulted in seizure and a fine, as well as a number of other violations, and yet the media treated it like a puff piece. http://bigcatrescue.org/lions-tigers-and-bears-find-refuge/
So, every few weeks more litters of lions, tigers, primates and bears are bred, used and discarded into these pseudo sanctuaries. But then the animals grow up into 500 pound apex predators who require thousands of dollars in food & vet care each year and before you know it, the “sanctuaries” have collapsed under the collective weight and debt. Then other sanctuaries, of varying financial stability, are called in to clean up the mess; but most of those are not in much better shape than the facilities they are being asked to bail out.
Big cats are bounced around from breeder, to photo booth operator, to the public as pets, who then dump them into the hands of backyard hoarders, who collapse and then the bigger sanctuaries come and move them to their fourth or fifth home, where they may stay until they die, but even then will sometimes end up in yet another rescue situation when the bigger places fail as well.
The second worst part of all of this is that the animals suffer from the time they are only a few hours or days old, when they are ripped from their mothers and thrust into this dismal cycle, and begin the years of suffering as the legal processes wind through the courts.
In 1997 Ken and Jackie Wisniewski started “rescuing” big cats, bears, wolves and a variety of other wild and domestic animals. Before long they were in over their heads. Feeding the animals wasn’t a problem because there is a lot of roadkill in Sinclairville, NY. We counted half a dozen dead deer, a duck and raccoon, in just two days visiting this sleepy little town. Maybe the locals drive too fast, or maybe it is all of the grape vineyards and farms that attract so much native wildlife.
The problem was that the rotting carcasses were just left to fester, along with the piling excrement, in the tiny, barren cages. The lions and tigers, who are the most fastidious creatures on earth, were forced to live in these abysmal, fly infested conditions while USDA went through the tedious process of citing the facility year, after year, after year with no improvements.
Finally after many years of failing to to provide vet care or clean and safe caging, USDA revoked the license, which is a multi year task. The state of NY had previously banned the private possession of big cats, bears and wolves, but in all but 4 states (KY, OH, WA & WV) a person could circumvent the ban if they held a USDA license.
Now JnK had lost their USDA license and the animals could have been seized years ago, but as is often the case, the violator will just have a family member or friend get a USDA license issued in their name and then the whole process starts over. When Ken and Jackie Wisniewski lost their USDA license, they just had their daughter, Kristy Wisniewski, get one in her name. It’s easy: a one page form, name, address and phone and $40 and you can get around any ban, just about anywhere.
So, the long legal battles had to start over again until the daughter had a falling out with her mother and decided not to renew her USDA license. What usually happens is that there would now be no government agency checking in on the animals and conditions. These kinds of places would then enjoy the luxury of doing as they please with no one looking over their shoulder, and that would always lead to worse conditions for the animals.
By this time Terry Thompson in Zanesville, OH had set free 56 lions, tigers and bears in 2011 and state agencies woke up to the fact that it could happen in their states too. The NY state attorney’s office decided to send a message to all of the backyard breeders, dealers and pseudo sanctuaries that they would no longer turn a blind eye to the danger that these facilities pose to the public and launched the biggest seizure of wild animals in New York’s history.
USDA contacted the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and asked if they could place the JnK animals. GFAS made arrangements for all of the animals to be rescued, but then Jackie Wisniewski decided that she didn’t want to give them up and would wait and see if the NY Department of Environmental Conservation really would take action, or if they would, like they do in most places, just ignore the situation until someone was mauled or killed.
On May 27, 2014 at 7:30 am Jackie Wisniewski found out the state of NY wasn’t bluffing.
What she couldn’t know, and we couldn’t tell you, is that the International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, had taken the lead and arranged for the 11 tigers, 3 lions, 3 bears, and 2 wolves to be picked up and transported to Big Cat Rescue in FL via Loving Friends, Safe Haven Wildlife Rescue Zoo in NV, Wild Animal Sanctuary in CO, In-Sync Exotics in TX, the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in IN, and Animal Lifeline would transport the wolves to a facility in PA. On July 3rd IFAW reimbursed the transport costs of $4,409.03 for Big Cat Rescue.
We couldn’t let the cat out of the bag until after the last animal was rescued from the site for fear of starting a media circus that could propel the owner into doing something dangerous to the animals or the rescue crews. We know that most people who will donate to help big cats want to fund a rescue, but once the cats are safe, they are off to the next exciting rescue.
We hope that you are different.
We went out on a limb because these cats were literally starving to death, and one tiger, Sasha, had died before we even arrived. (We had agreed to take four tigers, but when we got there Sasha was no longer alive and no one seemed to know anything about why or when she died. Some said she was alive last summer, others said she was still alive in Feb of this year and others said she had been dead for years) We had to give up the chance to involve everyone in the excitement of a rescue because these cats depended on us keeping quiet so the owner wouldn’t do anything foolish. We were able to load our tigers by 1PM on Tues. May 27, 2014 but had to maintain silent mode until all of the animals were safely on their way to other rescue sites.
What we saw during the rescue was unimaginable suffering and conditions that clearly threatened everyone in the area. No agency had been able to inspect the animals since December 2013 (nearly 6 months ago) and at that time they said the cats were well fed, but that the rotting carcasses, piles of feces and ramshackle cages were reason enough to seize the animals. “Well fed” appears to be a judgement call because the 2009 video of the tigers showed them to to be far too thin 5 years ago, in our opinion. JnK had a pile of citations for not allowing inspectors onto the property, but in many cases those are considered by the bad guys to be far less incriminating than actually answering the gate and letting inspectors see what they are doing.
The cats were starving to death!
Their ragged fur, which was missing in places from laying in their own excrement, was stretched taut over protruding bones. Kimba the tigress, (born 8/94) seemed to have just given up and laid, unresponsive, in her den. Former volunteers there said she had been bred to Zeus for 4-6 litters of cubs in her life) It wasn’t until she saw that there was the promise of food, in exchange for pulling her aching body up into the transport wagon, that she came to life. Big Cat Rescue President, Jamie Boorstein, had locked Kimba in her den so that we could push the wagon up to the rickety door. As soon as she was released and given the scent of beef on a stick, she followed it right into the foreign transport box without much hesitation.
Zeus the tiger, (born 9/96 to Kimba) has limited vision and it looks like his retina may be separated in his eye, which can be extremely painful. Other tigers there had the same strange looking eyes, where the golden part of the iris has almost completely covered over the lens. As soon as Zeus saw food, he RAN down the length of his cage, chasing Big Cat Rescue’s Operations Manager, Gale Ingham, who was racing (outside the cage) toward the beast wagon that had been affixed to a hole that was cut into the side of his cage. Zeus was the largest tiger and the hole wasn’t really big enough, but metal piping made it impossible to make the hole any larger. Zeus didn’t care. He wanted that life giving morsel of food so bad that he squeezed, like liquid tiger, through the opening into the circus wagon. Jamie dropped the door and Zeus was on his way to a life of luxury that he couldn’t possibly imagine.
The cages were rotted to the point of falling apart. Rusty screws held ragged sheets of plywood together for the dens and doors. If the tigers had any strength left in them, they could have burst through. This made for some tense moments, especially when it came to loading Keisha the tigress. (born 5/00 to Kimba and Zeus)
Apparently, the way cats had been fed, back when they were being fed, was they were locked out of their dens, the food tossed into the dens via a back door, and then they were let back into the den.
The part that has to be explained here is that the dens were made of crumbling plywood. Citations went back to 2012 for these unsafe conditions. The doors had deteriorated over time to the point where a makeshift system was rigged to keep the tigers from just pushing the doors out of their rotted frames. It was made of curtain hooks that were shaped in a semicircle and screwed with tiny, and now rusted screws; one on either side of the door opening. Then 2 pipes were passed through the hooks to hold the doors shut. Jamie took a handful of the material and it turned to shards and dust in her hand.
The first attempt at capturing Keisha was to shut her in the den, then hook up the transport to a hole that was hastily cut into the side of her prison cell. With the other cats, Rescuers had been able to shut them out of their dens and lead them into the wagons, but Keisha still had life enough left in her to be frantic to eat, so as soon as her den door shut her out into the yard, she began clawing frantically to get back into the den where she thought the food would be. When a cat is focused on something, there isn’t much you can do to get their attention. Gale was waving the chicken and beef chunks on a stick and trying to get Keisha to forget about getting back into the den for food. It wasn’t working.
The area where Rescuers were working was so tight that the rope holding the transport door open had to be threaded into a vacant, nearby cage and operated from there by Big Cat Rescue’s CEO and Founder, Carole Baskin. Jamie decided to pull the den door open and hold it open so that Keisha could see for herself that there wasn’t any food in there, but Keisha was afraid to climb into the hay filled beast wagon and sensed it was a trap.
In typical cat style, she would stretch her neck and one paw as far toward the juicy meat as she could, without committing her back legs. Gale let her come in and get a piece or two, to see that nothing would happen, and on the third offering Keisha was emboldened to climb all the way in.
Keisha only has half an ear and a little bobbed tail. We think she lost them to the lions next door.
All over this compound the bears and big cats shared common walls of a material never witnessed by Big Cat Rescuers for housing big cats. The openings in the metal cattle panels were 8 inches wide and 6 inches high. It is incomprehensible that no human ever lost their life or limbs working so close to such dangerous wild animals, with nothing to prevent the animals from reaching the full length of their arms out to grab the passerby.
In the 2009 video above Jackie Wisniewski reaches her arm, all the way up to her armpit, to pet the cats and talks about how her staff and volunteers have to earn the cat’s trust to pet them this way, but then admits that the cats are always looking for a way to pull you into the cage.
In some places a new barricade fence had been erected (where previously there had been none) and it was so tight against the cage that there was NO safe way to walk around the enclosure. All of the animals had shared walls which must have led to some intensive fights and quite possibly the deaths of animals along the way. No one seemed to know exactly when or how Sacha the tigress had died.
The only cage to have a double wall (one with a space of about 3 feet between the walls) was the one between Keisha and 2 lionesses. Keisha and the lionesses both had common walls with Zeus, but it would appear that after Keisha lost her ear and tail, someone finally installed a double wall between the lions and Keisha. That one small measure has probably saved her life, but her tail healed in such a scarred and unusual way that it’s doubtful she had a vet attend to her wounds. In the video you can see that her tail was missing as far back as 2009.
As each of the cats were loaded into their transport wagons they were rolled up into Loving Friend’s transport vehicle where they probably experienced air conditioning for the first time ever. Even though they loaded quite easily, they were all stressed out by the move and the chaos of the day, so the lower temp helped take some of the edge off. Within minutes Kimba was sound asleep in the deep, soft hay.
If anyone wouldn’t survive this trip, it would be Kimba. She just had so little spirit left in her. I checked on her several times to be sure she was still breathing, and seemed blissfully asleep. Update: 17 Days later we had to euthanize Kimba because she could not recover from the ailments brought on by being kept in such filth and starved. More here: http://bigcatrescue.org/euthanize-tiger/
Zeus gulped down water before laying down in his big fluffy hay bed. These cats, like so many others across the country, were kept on rocks. There was no place for them to feel the soft earth, nor roll in the grass, nor enjoy the shade of trees or bushes. The only shade, or escape from the sharp edged rocks, was in their smelly dens and on a small table in each cage, but these cats didn’t look fit to jump up onto them. Zeus had been a big and powerful male tiger at some point in his life, but now you could see the remains of his wasted muscles and protrusion of his ribs and hips.
Big Cat Rescuers loaded tigers for 2 hours and the officer in charge commented that we worked together like a well oiled machine. Despite the rush to load the tigers and move out of the way for the next rescue group, there were some heart breaking moments. The worst for cat lovers was the owner said her cat had died, so she had thrown the cat into the cage that housed the 4 youngest tigers, who appear to have been born at JnK in 2004 and were probably considered favorites.
As hungry as those tigers must have been; something must have registered in their heads that this was just too awful to consider. Time may have finally caused them to overcome their disgust at being fed another cat, had they not been rescued today, so the bloated body of the domestic cat laid there in a haze of flies.
As soon as the tigers were all loaded and their transport cages were strapped down for the 22 hour trip, Big Cat Rescuers and JT and Laura Taylor of Loving Friends were on their way back to Tampa.
The cost of the transport and rescue was approximately $7,000, but that is just the beginning. Getting these tigers back on the road to health will mean vet care, and specialists for the eyes. It means a lot of high quality food, vitamins, joint supplements and probably a good deal of pain management. Just one healthy tiger costs Big Cat Rescue $10,000 per year, just for food and vet care and these neglected tigers will need much more intensive care. Even though they are safe and will never go hungry again, it is only because people like you will open your hearts to these precious creatures. Please let them know that you are there for them, for now and forever, with a monthly gift of whatever you can afford.
In this 2007 video Jackie claimed Zeus was 850 lbs
By 2014 they look to be less than 400 lbs. for Zeus and less than 300 lbs for the females.
IFAW Footage of the Rescue in Five Parts
Big Cat Rescue was not allowed to film during the rescue, so what footage we did manage to get was from cell phones in pockets. Below is footage that looks much better than ours and details the rescue from JnK.
Nikita was found chained to the wall in a crack house during a drug bust in Tennessee. Because she had been confined to a concrete floor, she had huge swellings on her elbows that took months to heal. She was so thin that you could carry her under one arm. She would only eat white rabbits, so she had a plethora of nutritional issues to deal with as well.
The authorities took her to the Nashville Zoo at Grasmere, but she had been declawed and could not live with the zoo’s other lions. They had to find a new home for her, so we received the call. Big Cat Rescue agreed to take Nikita in, as well as three other Bobcats who all arrived on 11/30/01.
Nikita has flourished under our care. She has grown into a tall, lanky, healthy lioness. She’s extremely playful and loves to roll on her back and grab her paws or try to do somersaults whenever she has visitors stopping by to talk with her. Though we wish she had the freedom she deserves, we’re so happy that she survived her earlier ordeals to enjoy the blissful days we try to provide for her here.
LION VS Big Yellow Ball = Lion Wins! Watch our goofy lioness Nikita take on her new yellow boomer ball! Enrichment is an important part of our cats lives at the sanctuary they will never be free and wild, so we have to keep their minds stimulated with new toys and enrichment, ensuring the best quality life in captivity. http://bigcatrescue.org/lion-vs-big-yellow-ball/
We have so much to be thankful for; wonderful people like you who help ensure that our big cats stay fed, our AdvoCats all around the world who work for laws to end the abuse of big cats, our Big Cat Rescuers who donate their time to caring for the cats, running the sanctuary and educating our guests, and to live in paradise. This issue is our gift to you!
Holiday Goody Gifts for YOU!
Big Cat Rescue has teamed up with Explore.org who is hosting LIVE STREAMING video of the cats. See tigers playing, swimming, sleeping, and eating. Watch Nikita lioness as she plays and sleeps. Watch adorable funny kittens playing.
FIRST: Go to http://Explore.org/BigCatRescue to see the live streaming videos and use the “Snapshot” feature there to take your own photos of the lions, tigers, and kittens.
EVERY photo submission gets YOUR NAME placed in a drawing for a free t-shirt.
SECOND: Submit your photos to us before midnight on Christmas Eve. The T-Shirt Winner will be announced on Christmas Day. We will pick 30 photos to include in a special edition screensaver that we will give away Christmas Day. Find out how to submit your photos here, where it says, Win A FREE Big Cat Rescue T-Shirthttp://chatbigcats.com/newsletter-gifts-december-2015/
Video Updates Since the Last Mews Letter
Bobcat Release Site Needed in Highlands County FL
State law requires that bobcats be released back to the same county where they were picked up for rehab. Rain and Dancer came from Highlands County, so we need a release site that is in excess of 40 acres (the more land the better) where the owner will give us written permission to release them. If you have land, or know a land baron, please email Cat@BigCatRescue.org and let us know.
Can’t Get Enough of the Big Cats?
Now you can watch them LIVE on explore.org/bigcatrescue Check out each of the webcams below:
Windsong Memorial Cat Hospital
AdvoCats Come in All Sizes
Our AdvoCats come in all ages, from all over the US and the world. Eleven year-old Alexander P. proves that anyone who cares about big cats can make a difference. For the past two years Alexander has supported Big Cat Rescue through our Buy a Brick program by collecting donations rather than gifts for his birthday. This school year, he and his fellow classmate are organizing a school fundraiser to sponsor one of our very own bobcats in honor of their school mascot.
Just this week, Alexander’s family surprised him with an early Christmas gift – a trip from Maryland to our sanctuary in Tampa, FL! During his visit Alexander learned more about the issues of private ownership and about our federal bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Wanting to voice his support for big cats, Alexander plans on visiting the Capital next year to meet with legislators and tell them just how important this bill is to him. Thank you for all that you do for the cats, Alexander!
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.
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.
A 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 BigCatAct.com
Here is a great way to spread the word, in a fun way, about how abusive cub handling is. Check out TigerSelfieApp.com
If you are looking for a way to help protect big cats like Cecil, please take the Tiger Selfie Challenge below. While Cecil was not a cub that was used for pay to play and then turned out into a canned hunt, most of his kind do start out that way.
Take the Tiger Selfie Challenge!
You remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, don’t you? It was a crazy, popular way to raise awareness about Lou Gherig’s Disease, that started in 2014 and has already raised more than 100,000 million dollars for ALS research. Just yesterday Boston Mayor Marty Walsh took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge—and challenged Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to do the same. A full year later this form of public activism is still grabbing headlines.
What if the cats had such a successful campaign to raise awareness about the suffering they endure for tiger selfies, lion selfies and liger selfies?
You KNOW we could end the pay to play schemes, once and for all, if everyone knew that posing with tiger cubs was Cruel NOT Cool! Find out how here: http://bigcatrescue.org/selfie/
New Big Cat Videos
Never miss a video starring your big cat friends! Subscribe to both channels:
In honor of Cecil the lion we have created free screen savers and wallpapers for Macs and PCs at our newly launched ChatBigCats.com site! LaWanna and Ysabel have been working for months to convert our old BigCatFun.com site to a kid safe, mobile responsive, interactive site where you can play games, puzzles and find all kinds of fun things to do. This site is still in Beta, so some links may be broken, but this link will take you to an area that is ready, where you can download the screen savers and wallpapers. http://chatbigcats.com/newsletter-gifts-august-2015/
Your voice is saving big cats!
Last month we asked you to speak out against the cruel use of cubs, in a pay to play Swim-With-Tigers scheme at Dade City Wild Things and USDA has finally sued them for severe violations of the Animal Welfare Act saying, “The gravity of the violations alleged in this complaint is great, involving multiple failures to handle animals carefully and to provide access for inspection.” Find out more at TigerCubAbuse2.com
Because you take action, whenever we point out big cat abuse, the USDA has also sued Doug Terranova who runs a circus and shows up at fairs with Joe Schreibvogel and his pay to play cubs, and Gregg & Karen Woody who also drag cubs out to parking lots and fairs. We can end the abuse of lions, tigers, ligers and other wild animal cubs if we all speak out together. Thank you for taking action on our alerts, and please be sure to do so on the following:
Top Shocking Incidents
of Big Cat Exploitation – August 2015
We hope by sharing a new list with you each month that you will join us in speaking out for the big cats and cubs that are exploited across this country every day. We encourage you to take one small action today and contact one or more of the offenders below to politely express your concern. Together we can be the voice for the voiceless…together we can make a difference. If you learn of exotic cats or cubs being exploited in your area, please contact Susan Bass at Susan.Bass@BigCatRescue.org.
No. 1 The Benton County Fair in Oregon recently hosted A Walk on the Wild Side’s exotic animal exhibit. An article in the local Corvallis Gazette-Times quoted one fairgoer saying the cages were small and the animals were pacing and showed signs of stress. A Walk on the Wild Side, also located in Oregon, has been closed to the public since March 2015 due to code violations but still subjects exotic cats to fairs and shows.
Benton County Fair Manager Lonny Wunder said he receives two or three complaints a year about the wild animal exhibit, but he will reconsider having them back if he receives more than that. SO we are asking you to please urge Wunder to do the humane thing and not allow exotic animals to be displayed at the fair next year.
Contact Fair Manager Lonny Wunder at 541-766-6090 and email him at this link http://www.bentoncountyfair.net/contact-us/email-inquiry/ No. 2 The Midland County Fair in Michigan just hosted a circus act called Wambold’s Amazing Animals. The act featured several tigers and even included a liger – the result of the unnatural mating of a tiger and a lion. Local paper Midland Daily News covered the tiger show in at least two articles but never mentioned the true issues involved with big cats in traveling acts in their reporting. Fair manager Trish Steele is quoted gushing over the circus act, “They provide a lot of educational information to people who are in the free entertainment area. It’s not just a show.” Hmmm.
The owner of the tiger is also quoted in the article saying white tigers are “very, very rare in the wild because they have no camouflage.” It’s true they don’t have camouflage, but white tigers are not found in the wild because they are not a species!
There is nothing educational about seeing majestic big cats forced to perform in front of crowds and travel in small transport wagons. Please help us educate Steele and the Midland Daily News that exotic cats and other animals at fairs and in circus acts should be a thing of the past. Urge the fair to NOT have the cats back next year.
No. 3 The Kutztown Fair in Pennsylvania recently hosted a circus act with tigers called Tiger Encounter, run by the notorious Frisco circus family.
We’re told children were allowed to feed the cats with a long stick. That sends the wrong message that big cats are ours to use how we want. Please kindly let the Kutztown Fair that animal lovers do not want to see big cats used as entertainment.
No.4 The West End Fair in Pennsylvania is going on right now until August 29. The fair features Bruno Blaszak’s Royal Bengal Tiger circus show. However, there is no such thing as a “royal” Bengal tiger. The fair’s website says Bruno is “devoted to preserving these magnificent tigers for many generations to come.”
Breeding them to live lives of misery in circus acts and traveling the country in tiny transport cages? That is no life at all for big cats.
No. 5 The Showhegen State Fair in Maine recently included the Vicenta White Tigers circus act. In a local newspaper article, owner Vicenta Pages actually told a reporter – presumably with a straight face – that “there are no longer any white Bengal tigers left in the wild of their homeland in India, having been hunted and poached to extinction.” HUH?
White tigers do not exist in the wild and could not survive even if they did because they would not be able to sneak up on prey or hide from predators. Big Cat Rescue believes it is tragic that fair managers and even journalists fall for these lies over and over again. Would you speak out for these tigers?
Many of you responded to our action alert, contacting the FWC and asking them to not give up on the FL panther. Big Cat Rescue attended the meeting in Sarasota to speak up for panthers (and bears). We also participated in a news conference with the Sierra Club, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Humane Society of the United States. Our combined actions resulted in the FWC taking note of the public’s comments and sending the proposal back to their staff for
Earlier this month (August 2015) the FWC posted their revised policy proposal. As the Tampa Bay Times put it in their editorial on August 17th, the revised proposal is a “win for open government over secrecy” but the policy still has “some weasel language” and that overall, this is a reminder of the “need for public oversight of this critical agency.”
Big Cat Rescue opposes the revised policy proposal Although we were pleased to read that the overall tone of the proposal had softened with the removal of some of the most contentious terms and language, Big Cat Rescue found the “weasel language” to be far more extensive and subtle than the TBT let on.
First, the good.
The revision includes welcomed recommendations to restore panther habitat in the Everglades, coordinate with the Florida Department of Transportation on the installation wildlife crossings, and support for strategic conservation easements. But much like the FWC’s response to request for more habitat be protected for wildlife – the FWC has little to no say in these matters. These recommendations are just that, recommendations.
Second, the bad.
The original proposal repeated brash assertions that the FWC would no longer support panther recovery outside of southwest Florida and insisted that one population of an estimated 100 to 180 panthers in southwest Florida after 34 years “should be ample scientific evidence to warrant reconsideration of the status of panthers under the Endangered Species Act.”
The federal government has maintained that for panthers to be taken off of the endangered species list their needs to be three separate populations, each with 240 panthers. Conservation groups, wildlife organizations, and a wide array of Floridians were quick to call out what was an attempt to force the federal government to reconsider the criteria for taking panthers off the endangered species list. (Big Cat Rescue believes that lowering the panther’s federal protective status, and ultimately delisting the big cat from the Endangered Species Act, are steps towards allowing a panther hunt.)
This revision, in addition to the softer tone and recommendations, includes language stating that the FWC does not intend to change the panther’s protected status. But the core statements brashly asserted in the original proposal are still there – polished and smoothed over, but none the wiser.
Third, the ugly.
The FWC is still abandoning their obligation to federal recovery efforts outside of the small population of 100 to 180 panthers in southwest Florida. The policy proposal still calls for federal officials to lessen their criteria for taking panthers off the endangered species list. It also leaves the door wide open for the FWC to take lethal action against panthers.
Be a voice for the Florida panther!
Tell the FWC Commissioners to oppose the policy proposal. Attend the upcoming FWC meeting in Ft. Lauderdale on September 2nd, 2015 at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina. The FWC will be voting on the revised policy proposal as well as finalizing rules for the impending bear hunt.