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.
Keisha was the second generation of tigers born at that facility and some reports state than five generations were born there over the years.
Keisha is missing a portion of her ear and her entire tail. JnK volunteers reported that she lost both to two lions that shared a common wall with her. It is unknown if she received veterinary care for these injuries or was left that way and luckily survived. All over the compound the bears and big cats shared common walls where they could easily reach through and injure or kill each other.
Despite the first fourteen years of her life being a horrible experience that no animal should have had to endure Keisha’s spirit was never broken. She is full of life and very outgoing. She loves Zeus and once he is neutered we hope to introduce the two.
One of the top experience with Keisha since her arrival was her very first Thanksgiving turkey dinner. Keepers stood by in awe as Keisha pounced around her enclosure as happy as could be with the big bird in her mouth. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to play with it or eat it so she did both for hours. Being witness to such joy from an animal that has seen so much suffering makes the long hours and hard work all worth while.
Keisha the tiger was born in 2000 at a pseudo sanctuary in Sinclairville, NY called JnK’s Call of the Wild. While the website proclaimed to be a sanctuary, in fact, all but one of the 11 tigers had been bred for use as pay to play props. According to volunteers, Zeus was the son of the original female, Kimba, and then was bred back to his mother to create the other 9 tigers, including Keisha. This is commonly done on purpose to create white tigers, which are the result of severe inbreeding.
What we saw during the rescue was unimaginable suffering and conditions that clearly threatened everyone in the area. 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 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. With the help of IFAW and several sanctuaries 11 tigers, 3 lions, 3 bears, and 2 wolves were rescued that day in May of 2014.
Keisha only has half an ear and a little bobbed tail. We think she lost them to the lions who lived in the cage next door to her in NY. All over the compound the bears and big cats shared common walls where they could easily reach through and injure or kill each other.
Big Cat Rescue had gone to NY expecting to bring home four of the tigers, but one had passed away before we got there and no one seemed to know when or how. The other tiger, who was Keisha and Zeus’ mom, was a 20 year old tigress named Kimba. She was in such bad condition that we were not able to save her, but at least she died here in comfort, surrounded by love.
Maybe the worst thing about the entire situation in NY was that it is typical of how big cats are treated in America. You can put an end to that by never paying to see or touch a cub.
The romance didn’t last long. Keisha is just too playful and pounce-y and just scared Zeus half to death so much of the time that we had to separate them. They live close to each other, but have their own space to live in peace.
According to JnK volunteers, Zeus was the son of the original female, Kimba. He was bred back to his mother to create the other nine tigers, including Keisha. This is commonly done on purpose to create white tigers, which are the result of severe inbreeding.
Zeus suffered from an eye injury that would later be diagnosed as a luxated lens. He had been this way for over a year and never received any treatment. Because Zeus was so malnourished upon his arrival we could not perform surgery until he had gained some weight and his overall health stabilized.
After months of specially prepared diets Zeus was finally in a healthy enough state to sedate. An eye specialist examined his eye and discovered that what we thought was his good eye actually had very bad cataracts that limited his vision in that eye tremendously.
The eye with the luxated lens had more vision, but also had an ulcer on the surface. The decision was made to repair the ulcer and see if that was the cause of his pain. If his eye continues to be a source of discomfort it will be removed which will essentially blind him.
While Zeus’ underwent this eye surgery he was also neutered with the hopes that he and Keisha can live with one another. They both seem very interested in the other and pine for each other at the sides of their enclosures.
Zeus and Keisha Tiger Vacation Together
The romance didn’t last long. Keisha is just too playful and pounce-y and just scared Zeus half to death so much of the time that we had to separate them. They live close to each other, but have their own space to live in peace.
Zeus the tiger was born at a pseudo sanctuary in Sinclairville, NY called JnK’s Call of the Wild in 1996.
He was saved by Big Cat Rescue in May 2014 when 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.
Most states ban the private possession of lions and tigers, but exempt anyone with a USDA license. That license is far too easy to get and nearly impossible to have revoked, but conditions were so bad at Zeus’ former home that the license had been cancelled and it took the combined efforts of IFAW and a number of sanctuaries to place all of the big cats, bears and wolves.
The day he was rescued, after months of starving, Zeus RAN down the length of his cage, chasing Big Cat Rescue’s Operations Manager, who was racing (outside the cage) toward the beast wagon with a piece of meat. He would do anything for just a morsel of food, so loading him took no time at all. Zeus was less than half the weight he should have been and his coat was ragged from the poor diet and filthy conditions.
As soon as Zeus arrived at Big Cat Rescue he knew he had found paradise. While the other tigers were being unloaded at the sanctuary, Zeus checked out his pool, all of the space, toys and great napping spots. He has been ever so grateful to his keepers and a joy to be around. It is because of people like you that Zeus will never go hungry again.
When Big Cat Rescue saved Zeus the tiger from starving to death at a backyard zoo a few months ago, we knew that he would need a lot of vet care to bring him back to health, but first we had to fatten him up enough that he would survive the surgeries.Today we neutered him and began the process to try and save whatever vision he has left.We are forever grateful to YOU, our viewers, and our wonderful vet team, including Dr. Tammy Miller, Dr. Liz Wynn, Dr. Justin Boorstein, Dr. Petterson & crew.
Zeus Goes on Vacation!
Thank you everyone who make these kinds of days possible.
Male DOB 1/1/03
Caravel (Caracal / Serval Hybrid)
Meet Jo Jo the Caracal Serval Hybrid
I first met JoJo the Caracal / Serval hybrid at the South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in 2005 after a hurricane had taken down the perimeter fencing and dumped piles of deadfall on the cages.
The owner, Dirk Neugebohm, had ended up in the hospital with a heart attack from trying to clean the mess up by himself.
He wrote from what he thought was his deathbed back then to anyone and everyone he could think of asking for help; and asking for help was not something that came easily to this hard working German.
What we found, when Howard and I visited, was a man who was way in over his head. Donations were almost non existent, the cages were old, dilapidated, small and concrete floored. The freezer had been damaged and he had lost his food supply, so we sent food and volunteers to help him clean up and rebuild.
The tiger back then was Sinbad, who lived in what is commonly used for housing parrots. An oval corn crib cage with a metal roof. Sinbad died recently after a snake bite, leaving Krishna, pictured, as the only remaining tiger.
We had a donor and a sanctuary (Safe Haven in NV) that were willing to take Krishna, but we were told that the Florida Wildlife Commission had found someone less than 6 miles away to take him.
Dirk managed to keep his sanctuary afloat, if just barely, for the next 8 years, but a couple days ago one of his volunteers, Vickie Saez, who we had been helping for the past couple of years with infrastructure and social networking, contacted us to say that Dirk was dying of brain cancer in the hospital and that she had convinced him to let the animals go to other homes. She said the Florida Wildlife Commission had arranged for most of the homes, but that Dirk was very happy that we could take JoJo. Our sweet Caracal, Rose, had died July 31st and her cage was empty.
We were told that all of the other cats had new homes waiting, except for Nola the cougar, but she was very ill. We offered to pay a vet to do blood work on her to make sure that she was not contagious. We were concerned because she had a history of some very contagious diseases, which had left her severely debilitated. What concerned us was that her caretaker said she looked bloated.
A vet had arrived to help with the transfer of two leopards to a place in Jupiter. He sedated Nola to see what was wrong.
We are told that he palpitated three melon sized tumors in her abdomen and that with every touch of her belly she exuded foamy blood from her nose and anus. He was sure that there was no hope for her and humanely euthanized her.
This photo was Nola back in 2011. While we were sad that we would not be able to give Nola a new home here at Big Cat Rescue we are glad that she is not suffering any more.
JoJo at Big Cat Rescue
JoJo has arrived at Big Cat Rescue and settled in nicely. It is quite possibly his first time to walk on the soft earth.
His cage has been a small (maybe 60 square feet) of concrete and chain link for at least 8 years and probably longer. He is thought to be about 10 years old. Sometimes breeders hybridize exotic cats because there are no laws on the books that regulate them, but in Florida, the inspectors say, “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck; it’s a duck.”
JoJo now has 1,200 square feet of earth, bushes, trees and grass.
He really likes the grass. Are you hearing the Beetles lyric, “JoJo left his home in Homestead-Miami looking for some Florida grass?”
Did you know that big cats and cubs are exploited and even abused at tourist attractions here in the U.S. and in dozens of countries around the world?
What can you do to make sure you don’t unwittingly participate in tourist activities that exploit big cats and other wild animals?
Easy ways YOU and your family can be responsible tourists:
• Never pay to touch or have your photo taken with a tiger or lion cub
• Don’t attend circuses, fairs, or attractions that feature wild animal shows
• Don’t purchase items made from wild animals, such as furs and rugs
• Don’t partake in local “delicacies” made from wild animals, such as tiger bone wine
• Only visit sanctuaries that are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (www.sanctuaryfederation.org).
Sign up here to be kept in the loop when your voice is needed to protect big cats and their cubs: Sign up for big cat alerts and as an added benefit you will be entered for a chance to win our Animal Lover’s Dream Vacation.
As an animal lover, if someone were to make you this offer, would you accept?
You can pet, play with and bottle feed this cub and we’ll take a picture of you so you can share it with your friends – BUT, it means one of the following will happen to this cub once he/she is too big for this anymore:
This cub will suffer the rest of his/her life in a cage without proper food or care.
This cub will be shipped off to a hunting ranch to be shot for a price.
This cub will be slaughtered for the exotic meat market.
This cub will be sold off at auction to the highest bidder, fate unknown.
This cub will be killed for parts and bones for the medicinal market.
We know you’d never say “yes” to any of these. You love animals. That’s why you want this experience. But,that’s exactly what you agree to when you say “yes” to this thrill-of-a-lifetime offer.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about tourist attractions in South Africa, Mexico, or the United States. Sadly, this is the fate for so many cubs bred for money-making ventures like these. An exhibitor in Oklahoma, that Big Cat Rescue sued, said he could make $27,000 each week offering animal interactions like this. It’s obvious, money is what drives the industry – and the breeding.
But someone is surely regulating this, right?
In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) feels there should be no contact with cubs under the age of eight weeks since that’s when they receive their first disease-preventing injections. They also feel there should be no contact with cubs over 12 weeks old since they can be dangerous even at that young age. But these are just guidelines, not regulations. If breeders/exhibitors were to follow these guidelines, it means a cub used for public contact would have a “shelf life” of only four weeks! What does this encourage? Rampant breeding and not following these guidelines. Where do they all go when they’re too old and can no longer be used for public contact? Refer to the list above.
Don’t inspectors make sure everything’s ok for these cubs?
In 2011 in the United States, there were only 105 USDA inspectors to monitor almost 8,000 facilities, ranging from slaughterhouses, pet stores, pet breeders and dealers, farm, laboratories and other animal-related businesses. That’s nearly one inspector for every 80 facilities! When traveling exhibitors often move these cubs all over the country to fairs, festivals, and malls, relying on inspectors to ensure quality of care for them is unrealistic. And even when cubs are being exhibited when they’re too young or too old, violators aren’t cited unless an inspector is there to personally see serious harm to the cub – screaming and squirming isn’t enough.
Doesn’t touching a tiger or lion help promote conservation since we’re losing them in the wild?
As more and more of these cub petting attractions spring up everywhere, guess what? Tigers and lions in the wild are endangered and becoming nearly extinct. In fact, touching a cub does nothing to conserve their cousins in the wild.
Tragically, it may be doing the opposite. If you can visit a facility to pet a tiger cub, then why protect them half a world away where you may never see them? Studies have shown that public interaction with captive wild animals has done very little to cause the public to donate to conservation in the wild. And there’s been no successful release of a captive-born tiger or lion to date. When a cub needs to be with its mother for at least two years to learn survival skills, this simply isn’t something humans can duplicate. So, the answer is “no,” touching a lion or tiger cub in no way helps save them in the wild.
What can we do?
Ask your member of Congress to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act! This would put an end to the private possession and backyard breeding of big cats. Get the factsheet.
Contact the USDAby emailing them at: email@example.com . Let them know you want to see an end to physical contact with big cats, to prohibit public handling of young or immature big cats, and to stop the separation of cubs from their mothers before the species-typical age of weaning.
Never, ever give in to the temptation of public contact with a wild cat. It’s dangerous for you and sentences these big cats to life in a cage – or far worse.
Educate friends, family, and media about the reality of this cruel practice. So few know this is an insidious form of animal abuse, but now you do. Share it through social media channels too.
The next time you see a cub in your town or at some of the tourist attractions you visit while on vacation, we hope you’ll remember the truth and you’ll help raise awareness. When the demand ends, so will those who profit by supplying these experiences.
Together, let’s be their voice and assure no more cubs suffer an awful fate. (Article by Julie Hanan for One Green Planet)
Why Petting Cubs Leads to Abuse
Here our radio ad to educate parents about swimming with cubs:
Hear the highlights from this page:
The Truth About Tiger Cub Petting Displays in Malls
By Howard Baskin, JD, MBA, Advisory Board Chairman of Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL
Breeders who charge the public to pet and take photos with young tiger cubs tell venues and customers some or all of the following lies:
1) That the exhibitors are “rescuers” and operate “sanctuaries”
2) That the cubs have a good life while being used to make money:
a) they enjoy being carted around the country in a semi and repeatedly awakened and handled by dozens of people all day
b) that blowing in the cubs face “calms” them down
c) that dangling them by holding under their front arms and bouncing them up and down “resets” them
Cubs at the mall always = cub abuse
d) that close up photos with flash does not harm the cubs
3) that it is safe for the cubs and for humans, and legal, to allow contact with cubs from when they are only a few weeks old to when they are six months or more old.
4) that the exhibitor must keep constantly breeding and using the cubs to make money because that is the only way he can support the adult animals he keeps.
5) that the exhibitor is doing this to promote conservation in the wild.
6) that the exhibitor is teaching people not to have exotic animals as pets
And the biggest lie of all:
7) that the cubs will have good homes after they get too big to be used to make money from petting
THE FACTS ARE
1) Breeders/Exhibitors are not sanctuaries.
Most sanctuaries are not accredited
True rescuers and sanctuaries do not breed. Breeding more tigers simply adds to the number of big cats that end up living in deplorable conditions or being destroyed to supply the illegal trade in tiger parts. The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) is the most highly respected body that defines what a true sanctuary is and sets standards of animal care and practices that sanctuaries must meet in order to be accredited. Facilities that breed or subject the animals to the stress of being carted around to exhibit definition are not sanctuaries. For more about the difference between real and “pseudo” sanctuaries, visit the GFAS website at http://www.sanctuaryfederation.org/gfas/for-public/truth-about-sanctuaries/
In addition to not being a sanctuary because they breed and do offsite exhibits, these people who claim to love animals so much typically operate facilities where the animal care, while it may comply with USDA’s minimal standards, is far below the standards set by GFAS as humane, and in many cases is deplorable.
2) Life on the road means being torn from mother, denied natural behaviors, and mistreated.
The cubs used for petting exhibits are torn from their mothers shortly after birth, causing emotional pain to both the cubs and the mothers. Imagine what that mother tiger experiences after enduring the long pregnancy and finally giving birth, filled with the instincts to nurture her cubs, and then having them snatched away. The breeders take them away and have people handle them so the cubs will “imprint” on the people instead of doing what is natural and imprinting on their mothers.
And what is life like during the months they are used to make money for their owners? Cubs this age want roam, explore, test their young muscles to develop coordination, and sleep for extended periods of time without interruption. Watch what happens during these exhibits. The cubs are repeatedly awakened so a customer can pet them instead of being allowed the sleep their young bodies need. When they try to wander they are repeatedly yanked back. And where are they when not on exhibit? They spend endless hours in small cages in trucks, hardly a suitable environment for inquisitive, active young cubs.
While used for petting by the public or held for photos with the public, the cubs squirm and try to get away. What do the exhibitors do to control them?
One technique used by exhibitors to get the cubs to stop squirming is blowing in the cub’s face. Contrary to what the exhibitors say, this does not “calm” the cub. The cub does not like this any more than you would. This blowing in the face is a way mother tigers discipline their cubs. It is a punishment. The cub becomes inactive temporarily not because the cub is calm. The cub becomes inactive hoping that not moving will cause the exhibitor to stop blowing in its face.
The other technique is to dangle the cub from under their front armpits and toss them up and down in the air. One notorious exhibitor tells customers this is to “reset” the cubs. Another tells customers that this is how the mother tiger holds the cubs, which is equally ridiculous. Being held under the arms and tossed up in the air is just another unnatural and unpleasant experience that causes the cub stress, making them temporarily stop doing the behavior that is natural, i.e. trying to squirm away from being held.
What happens when the cubs are sick? The video at www.TigerCubAbuse.com shows cubs with severe diarrhea kept on display. The keepers simply follow them around wiping diarrhea off the floor, and then use the same towel to wipe the cubs’ irritated rear ends as the poor cubs scream in pain.
How would you feel if you were their mother and knew this was the life they had been torn from you to endure?
3) Cubs are routinely used to make money both below and above the legal age.
Most big cats endure squalid conditions
While cub displays are inherently cruel for the reasons given in this fact sheet, USDA regulations do allow them, but only for a few weeks. USDA has ruled that there should be no public contact with the cubs until they are at least 8 weeks old because that is when they receive their first injections to prevent disease. USDA has ruled that there should be no public contact after the cubs are 12 weeks old because they are large enough to be dangerous. So, the only time it is “legal” to have the public pet cubs is when they are between the ages of 8 weeks and 12 weeks.
However, because enforcement resources are limited, exhibitors flagrantly violate these rules, putting the cubs and the public at risk. Videos at www.TigerCubAbuse.com and www.TigerCubAbuse2.com show exhibitors freely admitting on camera that the cubs are under 8 weeks old. The video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE8CXQLKfq0 shows people playing with 5 and 7 month old cubs at G.W. Exotic Animal Park, home base for Joe Schreibvogel and Beth Corley, who operate the most notorious mall exhibit road show. Twenty-three of this exhibitor’s cubs died in 2010.
4) Abusing cubs is not a necessary or justifiable way to make money to support adult cats.
The exhibitors often claim they have no choice, that they must breed and exploit cubs to make money to support their other animals. Joe Schreibvogel posts on Facebook “I don’t think none of us like to be forced to be in the entertainment of animals (sic).” But the truth is that true sanctuaries all over the country support their animals without abusing some in order to make money to feed the others. They do this by providing a great home for the animals that far exceeds the minimal legal requirements and then learning how to attract donors who appreciate the excellent home they are providing. Lacking the ability to do this is not an excuse for abusing tiger cubs to make money. People who are not capable of operating a real sanctuary simply should not own animals. No true animal lover could justify abusing some animals to provide financial support for others.
5) Paying to pet tigers does not support conservation in the wild.
Captive breeding causes more poaching
No money the public spends to pet or take photos with tiger cubs ever goes to support conservation in the wild. In fact, the opposite is true. There is a huge and growing market for tiger parts like the skins pictured here, and tiger “derivatives”, i.e. products made out of tiger parts like tiger bone wine. A dead tiger is worth up to $50,000 for its parts. Breeding what US Fish and Wildlife Service calls “generic” tigers like the ones used in the mall exhibits is not tracked. So there is no way to know how many U.S. born tigers are killed to have their parts illegally sold into this trade. And, the more that trade expands, the more incentive the poachers have to kill tigers in the wild.
6) Petting cubs sends the wrong message about exotic animals as pets.
Exhibitors often claim that they are teaching people that exotic animals should not be pets. But what example do they set as they handle the animals and let others do so? Saying that exotic animals do not make good pets while charging people to pet them is a little bit like someone telling people not to use heroin while having a needle sticking in their arm. “Do as I say, not as I do” is not a message that works. The websites of these exhibitors frequently show photos or videos of the exhibitor handling, hugging or kissing adult tigers. This encourages other people to want to be “special” like the exhibitor.
The way to encourage people not to want exotic animals as pets is to set an example by never having physical contact with them. This is what true sanctuaries, people who truly care about the animals, do. Meantime, exhibitors like Joe Schreibvogel actively support of private ownership of exotic animals as pets. He has conducted a fundraiser for an organization devoted to, “fighting for the rights of everyday people….to keep, house and maintain exotic animals”. Schreibvogel’s 2010 fund raising event was attended by people who brought their pet primates. He created an “association” whose website has a page offering baby white tigers for sale. Many of the followers on the “Joe Exotic” Facebook page are obviously exotic pet owners. The G.W. Exotic website actively rails against the steady trend of laws banning private ownership to protect the public and stop abuse of the animals.
Private ownership of exotic animals results in widespread abuse as cute young animals mature and end up being kept in deplorable conditions. While some exhibitors claim they are teaching people not to get exotic animals as pets, others actively promote the trade. But all of them, by their behavior, encourage people to own exotic animals in order to be one of the “special” people who can have contact with these animals.
7) The cubs are destined for a horrible existence after they are too big to use to make money.
Big cats are often kept in concrete & steel jail cells
This is the single biggest reason not to permit cub displays. If asked, exhibitors tell venues and patrons that the cubs will end up in some wonderful home, either at their facilities or elsewhere. Current USDA rules allow an owner to keep a tiger in a concrete floored, chain link jail cell not much bigger than a parking space, often with nothing to do but walk in circles or stare out. Enforcement of the rules that do exist is limited because it would be economically unfeasible to have enough inspectors to adequately monitor the thousands of tigers owned by people licensed by USDA to exhibit animals. These are animals built to live in the wild, roaming and hunting. They are very intelligent and they experience a broad range of emotions.
We treat criminals in prison far better than the way most owners end up treating captive tigers, whose only crime was being bred by a breeder/exhibitor to make money. Attached are photos that are not exceptions. They are typical of the conditions in which the cubs that are bred by private owners will end up.
8) There is potential for disease and liability.
A May 2011 statement from the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) recommends that the public be prohibited from direct contact with tigers due to the risk of illness to humans stating” …ringworm in 23 persons and multiple animal species was traced to a Microsporum canis infection in a hand-reared zoo tiger cub.” Zoonotic diseases — those that jump to humans — account for three quarters of all emerging infectious threats, the Center for Disease Control says. Five of the six diseases the agency regards as top threats to national security are zoonotic. The Journal of Internal Medicine this month estimated that 50 million people worldwide have been infected with zoonotic diseases since 2000 and as many as 78,000 have died.
Cub petting has been an evil practice for far too long
PUBLIC IMAGE ISSUE FOR VENUES
Changes in values in our society do not happen suddenly. It took decades of educating and changing people’s minds before women finally got the right to vote, something we take for granted today. A similar progression occurred in the area of civil rights. The same shift is taking place at an accelerating rate with respect to our society’s view of private ownership of big cats.
Compelling evidence of this is found in the trend in state laws. Just since 2005, nine more states have banned private ownership of big cats, generally recognizing that such ownership is dangerous to people and results in the animals being kept in deplorable conditions.
The public doesn’t see how most big cats are kept
Many people innocently support the abuse by patronizing the cub displays. The cubs are adorable, and the exhibitors are skilled at telling their lies. But, increasingly numbers of people are aware of the issues presented in this fact sheet, or on their own simply see the displays and find them repellant. As the number of people of people who find such displays objectionable grows, venues like malls increasingly make a negative impression on patrons in a way they cannot necessarily measure. Venues like Petsmart stores, Alton Square Mall in Alton, IL, and Metro North Mall in Kansas City, MO have led by banning exotic animal displays.
As more and more people become aware of what happens “behind the scenes” and actively object to the cub displays, more and more venues will ban the displays. In the meantime, venues who allow the displays make a negative impression on many customers who care about animals while many tiny cubs are condemned to lifelong misery.
As a venue, you can make a wonderful contribution to society by helping stop this abuse, while at the same time sending a very positive branding image to the many customers who love animals and do not want to see them being abused when they come to shop.
We hope the information in this fact sheet is useful. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Susan Bass, Director of Public Relations at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida at 813-431-2720 or Susan.Bass@BigCatRescue.org. Venues that these exhibitors lie to in making their pitch to be allowed to display have a critical choice. They can be part of the problem, encouraging this abuse by permitting it, or part of the solution. We hope you will send a positive public relations image to your many animal loving patrons and help save these innocent tigers from abuse by banning such exhibits in your venue.
See more video of the horrible conditions where big cats are kept
This video talks to Big Cat Experts Around the Globe About How Petting Cubs Kills Tigers in the Wild
See a cub man handled for paying guests to get their picture at the mall
Note that the handler stands on the cub to subdue him
How Can You Tell if a Tiger Cub is Too Young or Too Old?
It’s almost impossible for regulatory agents to determine if a cub being used on display is truly within the legal age range of 8 weeks to 12 weeks. This photo composite shows tiger cubs at different ages and in relation to people to give you an idea of what is likely to be a legal size petting / photo op cub and what is not. Note that we do not believe cubs should be used for petting or photo props at any age. Cubs belong with their mothers and in the wild.
Click on the image to see it larger.
Tiger Cubs Ages 2 Weeks to 12 Weeks
The American Zoological Association is the accrediting body for zoos, like the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries is the accrediting body for sanctuaries. Only 10 % of the facilities in the U.S. that are housing wild animals are accredited. GFAS does not condone unescorted public visitation or contact with the captive wild animals and the AZA also states the following (emphasis added): http://www.aza.org/Education/detail.aspx?id=2451
V. Conservation Education Message
As noted in the AZA Accreditation Standards, if animal demonstrations are part of an institution’s programs, an educational and conservation message must be an integral component. The Program Animal Policy should address the specific messages related to the use of program animals, as well as the need to be cautious about hidden or conflicting messages (e.g., “petting” an animal while stating verbally that it makes a poor pet). This section may include or reference the AZA Conservation Messages. Although education value and messages should be part of the general collection planning process, this aspect is so critical to the use of program animals that it deserves additional attention. In addition, it is highly recommended to encourage the use of biofacts in addition to or in place of the live animals. Whenever possible, evaluation of the effectiveness of presenting program animals should be built into education programs. http://www.aza.org/animal-contact-policy/
At a 2002 meeting of the Tiger Species Survival Plan members it was decided that, “A second concern is the relationship between the Tiger SSP and the private sector, where many tigers (mostly of unknown origin) are kept. During the 2002 Tiger SSP master plan meeting in Portland there was a discussion of the appropriateness of handling tigers in public places by AZA zoos. There was complete consensus of all members in attendance that such actions place the viewing public at risk of injury or death, that there is no education message of value being delivered, that such actions promote private ownership and a false sense of safe handling of exotic big cats, and that the animal itself loses its dignity as an ambassador from the wild. As a result, the committee resolved such actions were inappropriate for AZA-accredited zoos, and that the AZA accreditation committee should make compliance of this restriction part of its accreditation process. This opinion statement was conveyed to the executive committee of the Felid TAG for comments and action.”
Mammals: Small Carnivores
In general, due to the potential for bites, small carnivores should be used in contact areas only with extreme caution. Due to the risk of bites, small felids are generally not used in direct contact. If they are, care must be taken that such animals are negative for infection with Toxoplasma gondii. All carnivores should be tested for and be free of zoonotic species of roundworms such asBaylascaris sp. Small carnivores (e.g., raccoons and skunks) obtained from the wild may present a greater risk of rabies and their use should be avoided in contact areas.
Click the image to get the 8 x 10 poster image to post at your school, civic center, on your car, or anywhere else you can reach people who want to save tigers.
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!