Most of our bobcats were rescued from fur farms where they were being raised to slaughter for their fur. Some were being sold at auction where taxidermists would buy them and club them to death in the parking lot, but a few were born here in the early days when we were ignorant of the truth and were being told by the breeders and dealers that these cats should be bred for “conservation.” Once we learned that there are NO captive breeding programs that actually contribute to conservation in the wild we began neutering and spaying our cats in the mid 1990’s. Knowing what we do about the intelligence and magnificence of these creatures we do not believe that exotic cats should be bred for lives in cages. Read more about our Evolution of Thought HERE
The exotic animal exploiters who attack Big Cat Rescue online due to our efforts to end the mistreatment of exotic animals in private hands have posted an inspection by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) conducted on November 7, 2014. This was a very unusual inspection in which three officials went in different directions and spent 6 hours each examining the sanctuary in extraordinary detail.
The version of the report the attackers have reported was the initial report which erroneously characterized their observations as violations. The final report, which the attackers also have, but of course chose not to publish, clearly stated that none of the findings were violations.
They were recommendations for maintenance which, if they were not attended to, at some point might have become violations.
“Recommendations and not a violation”
See the final language below or you can FOIA the FWC at myfwc.com to see the entire thread that resulted in the following:
The recommendations were primarily items that are dealt with in our normal ongoing maintenance of the sanctuary. All were addressed in a timely fashion. A USDA inspection on 8/6/2015 found, as usual, no violations, and the next FWC inspection, on 8/20/2015, as usual, found no violations. Big Cat Rescue has a near perfect inspection record over the years and never had any comment by any official that related to care of the animals.
The report noted some areas that showed signs of rust. We live in humid Florida, and some rust is a fact of life. We deter rust using brown Rustoleum paint and we repaint cages on an ongoing regular maintenance program.
The attackers, who have no regard at all for the truth, falsely post repeatedly that the brown color of the Rustoleum on the cage wire is all rust. One refers to BCR as a “jungle of rust.” If all the cages were totally rust like the lies of the attackers claim, don’t you think FWC would have noted that?
Rust is, in fact, not a violation of any rule. The relevant rule is that the cages must meet certain strength requirements. This makes perfect sense – the cages have to be strong enough to contain powerful animals. The concern with rust is that if you use the minimum gauge wire and it rusts, the strength could diminish below the minimum requirement. That is why Big Cat Rescue uses cage wire that is FAR in excess of the minimum. Even with minimal amount of rust that may appear before the next painting cycle, our cages far exceed the required strength.
One of the inspectors commented that he was not an engineer and had no way to know if some rust brought the wire down below the strength standard. So we assisted FWC to remove any uncertainty by having an engineer test one of our older cages that is right by the lake so it is most exposed to moisture and had been through repeated cycles of having any rust scraped off and being repainted. The engineer pulled on the cage with a bobcat machine with a tension gauge connected to the chain that the bobcat pulled. As you can see in the video below, the cage far exceeded the required strength.
Scroll to minute 1:21 for the section about strength testing.
The individual who posted the erroneous initial report had in his possession the final report stating there were no violations. But, of course, he knowingly posted the incorrect initial report and falsely claimed there were dozens of violations. Then others in the small band of animal exploiters who constantly attack Big Cat Rescue picked up the same false information.
at the Sept. 2, 2015 Commissioner meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Jennifer Leon Speaks Out for the Florida Panther
Back in June, the majority of public comments heard by this commission did not support the original draft position statement. The commission said they heard our concerns. Yet the revised position statement reads none the wiser. The language has been polished with semantics and spruced up with welcomed recommendations, but the core content remains the same.
Despite comments to the contrary, the FWC is still seeking weaker protections for the Florida panther – putting into question the Panther’s protective status and the objectives needed for de-listing. The statement continues to reject that current population goals are achievable, without scientific merit, and focuses the FWC’s resources on managing the sole population of 180 panthers in SWFL. A population that the FWC suggest has fully occupied all available Panther habitat. That’s a nicer way of saying they have reached carrying capacity and implies that the FWC is heading down the same road it took with the Florida black bear, towards the lethal management of panthers deemed a nuisance.
Rather than following the science and allowing for due process by giving the Fish & Wildlife Services’s Panther Recovery Implementation Team the time to review the status and management goals of the Florida panther, this commission is pushing forward an ill advised agenda.
I respectfully request that the revised statement not be approved.
Carole Baskin Speaks Out for the Florida Panther
My name is Carole Baskin and I am the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue.
I urge you to discard your plan to undermine the Florida Panther recovery program and instead to fully support your partners who are working to protect our state’s most treasured icon.
I’ve been coming to these meetings for 20 years urging you to ban the private possession of wild animals. I participate, at considerable peril to my family and self by those who seek to use wild animals, because I love this state. Florida is the top travel destination in the world, generating in excess of 67 billion dollars annually. Tourists come here to enjoy our sunshine, beaches and natural resources so it is in the best interest of the state to protect our wildlife.
It is as simple as supply and demand.
For the Florida Panther to thrive they have to eat. The amount of land necessary to support a viable population is dependant directly upon the availability of food. No person in Florida HAS to hunt to survive, but the Florida Panther does. The very first thing the Florida Wildlife Commission should do is prohibit hunting in existing and potential panther habitat.
The very next thing that needs to be done is to ban the private possession of wild animals in Florida. Failure to do so has wreaked havoc on our state. Escaped and released pythons have sucked virtually every other living species out of the Everglades. Opening a hunt on them, while exotic animals are still openly traded in Florida is ridiculous, at best.
If you just took those two steps, the Florida Panther would begin to recover, as would all other wildlife that would benefit from the protection given the panther.
If hikers didn’t have to worry about being shot by hunters you could charge for access to natural areas that would far exceed what you can make by selling permits to maim and kill our state’s wildlife. Only 3% of our population are hunters, and yet they seem to be the only stakeholders that matter to this commission. In all the meetings I’ve attended, it has been loathsome to have to listen to this commission, spend the vast majority of their time, trying to devise more ways, to sell more permits, to maim and kill more animals.
If you went home today to find that your child tortured and killed the family pet, you would probably worry that they are on their way to becoming a criminal. And yet, when adults do it under the banner of “hunting” or worse “sportsmanship” it has some perverse sanctity…at least in the minds of other hunters.
Cecil the lion’s death raised awareness about the entire hunting industry and the public outcry makes it clear that it is time to set aside the brutality and work together to protect our wildlife.
I am frequently asked that question and the answer is that no one really knows. Here’s why:
1. There are two kinds of tiger owners in the U.S. Pet owners and commercial owners. To be a commercial owner you have to obtain a USDA license. It is a one page form that asks for name, address and phone. The cost is $30 (up to $750 depending on the number of animals you hold). The Big Cat Q & A sheet that USDA compiled in 2004 suggests that you have to have some experience, but doesn’t require any documentation other than just saying you do.
2. USDA did a census, once in 2004, where they asked USDA licensees how many tigers they held. It was a voluntary survey, but based on what licensees admitted, there were roughly 5,000 tigers and about 200 of those were in AZA accredited zoos. USDA doesn’t regulate pet owners so they were not surveyed. Here is a list of the places we know have tigers, but no census has ever been done for lions, ligers, leopards, etc., and no private owners are listed here; just USDA facilities for the most part. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-rQZK2lBPese4Lyq4mcS_g75Zjc_l0YxYo5wD6f_IOo/edit?usp=sharing
Tiger Cub Found Wandering in California
And then there are stories like this one, that aired on Sept. 4, 2015 when a 3 month old tiger was found wandering the streets of Hemet, CA before being turned in to the Ramona Humane Society for care.
The cub was sent to Forever Wild Exotic Animal Sanctuary which is not accredited. It is a mystery as to why the cub was not originally sent to one of the accredited facilities in California, but within a few days authorities did send the cub to Lions, Tigers and Bears in Alpine, CA which is accredited.
The cub is doing well despite obvious signs of being inbred, not well nourished and having been illegally declawed by his former owners.
Tigers in the U.S.
This video was posted in Oct 2010 and still the USFWS has not rescinded the generic tiger loophole, the USDA has still not banned contact with cubs, which we believe is a clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act, and Congress has still not banned the private possession of big cats. The Big Cat Coalition estimates there are 200 cubs a year bred for pay to play schemes, so five years of government inaction means more than 1000 big cats have been added to the crisis. This year has to be the year that we just don’t let up until all three take action to end the abuse.
Jennifer manages the Education and Legislation Departments, which seek to raise awareness about the plight of captive big cats through community outreach, advocacy, and research. She has two undergraduate degrees and her MPA from the University of South Florida with a focus in public policy.
Over the past decade Jennifer has volunteered for local and national animal welfare organizations including various Tampa Bay area rescue groups, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, Best Friends, and Friends of Hillsborough County Animal Services.
Jennifer has served on the board of two local non-profits and has successfully advocated for animal welfare at all levels of government.
Jennifer Leon Speaks Out for the Florida Panther
Presented Sept. 2, 2015 to the FWC in Ft. Lauderdale, FL