Mickey Cougar’s story is so long and heartbreaking that it will be hard to tell in just a few minutes. (Watch his rescue video to find out the whole story.)
Animal House, in Moulton, AL, was a backyard zoo that operated with a USDA license up until 2006 when it was revoked. At the time Alabama had no laws to regulate the private possession of wild animals, so once USDA washed their hands of the mess, there was virtually no government oversight of the facility. Former volunteers say the owner had no other source of income than her social security check and that she had contracted with the county to become their dog pound.
In 2013 conditions there were reported to be so grim that the county revoked her contract and rescue groups went in to save the dogs and cats housed at Animal House. One of the rescuers video taped a leopard who had been injured by a Doberman, two years prior, and sent the photos and video to Big Cat Rescue asking for help.
We were told that the owner had been feeding the dogs and cats there to her wild animals and that the Doberman had fought back. Her family said the dog had just been in an adjacent cage and the leopard reached through. Regardless of whether it was malice or neglect, the leopard’s leg had bones sticking out and festering tissue exposed. Big Cat Rescue tried, unsuccessfully, for months, to get USDA, the USFWS, the State of Alabama and the local Sheriff to either confiscate the leopard or get her medical attention. When they failed to help the cat we appealed to the media, who said there wasn’t a story if they couldn’t get permission to go film the cat themselves, which the owner was NOT going to allow.
The leopard died and had probably suffered unimaginable agony for two years or more until her wounds killed her.
We never gave up and 2014 began negotiations with the owner, her family members and the state department of natural resources to rescue the cats who still were being kept there. When we saw the condition Mickey Cougar was in, we didn’t know if he would make it at all.
Both of his back knees suffered from torn ligaments so that when he walked the bones on top would just roll and slip off the bottom bones. It was painful to even look at him. Despite the fact that he was grossly underweight and had almost no muscle mass we had to make the difficult decision to sedate him to evaluate the damage and then again to try and repair it.
Dr. Hay, an orthopedic specialist, did the surgery, using something like a synthetic ligament mesh, to mend back his first leg. Dr. Wynn used a new technique of spinning the patient’s own blood and harvesting platelet rich plasma, to quicken healing, which was injected into the other knee. We had to reduce the size of Mickey’s cage, so he takes it easy while he is healing. We will probably have to go back and do surgery on the injected knee once the first one has healed.
Meanwhile Mickey seems to have a strong will to live and we are going to give him every chance possible at a happy life.
Update Feb 22, 2016
Mickey Update Oct. 15, 2014
I can’t even look at Mickey without tearing up because he is at once, both so pitiful and yet so determined to overcome. We knew it would cost a lot to try and fix him.
For the past week or so, Mickey has been getting rehab treatments, to encourage him to use the leg and build up some muscle. It is Mickey’s nature to have two speeds: Laying around and full out running for the dinner plate. The twice a day rehab work gives him food treat rewards for walking slowing and deliberately.
We can see a pronounced improvement in the leg that was repaired, as he can keep the knee in place much better, but because of his lack of strength, from nearly starving to death in Alabama, and having no muscle, he trips over his back feet.
We film some of these sessions so the vet can see his progress and have shared some of them online, but it hurts to watch.
Dr. Hay visited the sanctuary recently, to see the rehab session himself. He said at Mickey’s current pace he thinks the surgically repaired knee should be strong enough that he can operate on the other side in 3 to 6 months.
Every day it is touch and go with Mickey because he needs to let the repair heal fully, and thus distribute his weight to the repaired leg and the one that still slides all over the place. Too much reliance on the repaired leg and it could damage the work done and never heal right and too much reliance on the broken knee, and his muscles on the other side will continue to atrophy.
Everything has its side effects, so even the pain meds have to be very carefully monitored, as too much can make him nauseous or cause him to sleep all the time and too little can make him not want to move at all.
Whenever there are cats in need of rescue, we always offer to take the oldest, sickest or most impaired because our sanctuary is unique in its ability to provide the best veterinary and supportive care. We have 2 vets that have been with us for about a decade each. They visit twice a week and provide all of the house calls for free.
We have specialists in orthopedics, eyes, cancer and teeth who dramatically discount their work because they love the big cats. We have 14 paid staff, who do administrative work and manage our 80-100 volunteers who put in the collective hours of 40 more paid staff. By spending the time and money to train expert volunteers, our donors’ money can go directly to the cats.
The reason we can provide such excellent care is because people like you care. It is your donations that keep the food coming every night, the medications on time, the emergency care and the ability to take in other cats like Mickey, who wouldn’t have a chance anywhere else.
Mickey Cougar Update March 6, 2015
Mickey Cougar was rescued in 2014. He was in such bad shape that we weren’t sure if we should try to fix everything that was wrong with him, or put him out of his misery. This video does not seem to have ever been posted, as it was 40 minutes long and 6GB in size. It’s been cut down to 12 minutes and shows the horrible decisions we often have to make.
Check out our main YouTube channel at BigCatTV.com and our website at BigCatRescue.org
Pahrump, NV. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the nation’s premier legal advocacy organization for animals, was joined by PETA, and three reputable big cat sanctuaries, Lions, Tigers, & Bears (“LT&B”), and Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue, in appealing the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission’s (RPC) issuance of a conditional use permit to Kayla Mitchell to keep ten tigers.
On November 12, the RPC voted 4-3 to issue the permit to Kayla Mitchell despite her role in the ongoing illegal exhibition of big cats and improper interstate transport of tigers without a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) license on behalf of Big Cat Encounters, a business that makes tigers available for direct contact and other exhibition in exchange for a fee. The groups argue that permit issuance to Kayla Mitchell is improper given that her husband, Karl Mitchell, their business, Big Cat Encounters, and their landlord, Ray “Flagman” Mielzinski, are currently under a Nye County District Court order to remove the tigers from Pahrump. The Mitchells refused to comply with the court’s order, issued following the county’s revocation of Karl Mitchell’s permit due to his violation of its conditions—including illegal exhibition of tigers without a USDA license.
ALDF, PETA, LT&B, Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue have offered to rehome the big cats to reputable sanctuaries.
Two of Mitchell’s cats were sent to Big Cat Rescue back in the 1990’s. Founder, Carole Baskin said, “Two of the worst cases of physical abuse I have ever seen came from Karl Mitchell. Back in the 90s we rescued a black leopard, named Shaquille (photo above) and a cougar named Darla from him. When they arrived their faces were bloodied beyond recognition. Darla’s injuries resulted in a fungal infection of the brain that later killed her. Shaquille’s eyes constantly teared from the malformed healing of his skull. When my late husband called Karl to ask what had happened to them, he said Karl told him that he had to take a baseball bat to them and that’s why he didn’t want them any more.”
Big Cat Rescue’s policy for the last 18 years has been that if they take a cat it must either be a government confiscation or the owner must agree to never possess another cat.
“The Mitchells have played fast and loose with the law for long enough,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Instead of acting in the best interest of the cats they use as entertainment props, they continue to defy federal laws and a local court order meant to keep the animals and community safe. ALDF is calling upon Nye County Commissioners to reject the Mitchells’ latest attempt to circumvent the law, and overturn the permit that the RPC improperly issued.”
Nevada is one of six states (NV, AL, NC, SC, WI, IN) that currently does not regulate the private ownership of inherently dangerous animals. ALDF, PETA, LT&B, Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue all advocate against the use of big cats for pets or entertainment, and have worked with localities in Nevada that aim to institute basic public safety and animal welfare measures.
Copies of the appeal are available upon request.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, ALDF files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), founded in 1980, is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than three million members and supporters. The organization’s mission statement provides that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or exploit in any way. For more information, please visit peta.org.
About Lions, Tigers, & Bears
Lions Tigers & Bears is a no kill, no breed, no sell rescue and educational facility that allows the big cats and bears in its care the opportunity to live out their lives with dignity in safe, species-appropriate habitats. The sanctuary, located on 96 acres outside of San Diego, Calif., is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), which recently awarded the Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence to LT&B Founder and Director, Bobbi Brink. For more information, please visit, lionstigersandbears.org.
About Keepers of the Wild
Keepers of the Wild, located approximately two hours east of Las Vegas in Valentine, Ariz., provides life-long care for more than 140 exotic and indigenous wild animals who were rescued, surrendered by an owner, or rehomed by other animal welfare agencies. The sanctuary is engaged in public education and collaborates with several organizations to help pass legislation aimed at curtailing the use of exotic animals in traveling circuses and exhibits. Keepers of the Wild has been the recipient of numerous commendations and awards from animal welfare groups and government agencies, including the Nevada Wildlife Federation and the Arizona Attorneys’ & Sheriffs’ Association. For more information, please visit keepersofthewild.org.
About Big Cat Rescue
Big Cat Rescue, located in Tampa, Fla., is a GFAS-accredited sanctuary for tigers, lions, and other exotic cats who have been rescued or confiscated from owners who can no longer care for them. Big Cat Rescue has emerged as a leading national voice in advocating for state and federal legislation to end the exploitation of big cats for entertainment and use as pets. The sanctuary pursues its vision of ending the exploitation of captive exotic animals and promoting legitimate species conservation by providing lifelong care to big cats and public education. For more information, please visit bigcatrescue.org.
Dallas – Once used to haul big cats across the country, an empty trailer has been transformed into a billboard announcing an end to the circus acts its former occupants once appeared in. Bill Cunningham—Dallas native and owner of Fun Time Shows, Inc., the largest Shrine circus producer in the country—will join PETA in front of the trailer for a news conference to announce that he’ll no longer produce shows featuring elephants, tigers, lions, or other wild animals. Cunningham, a Shriner for his entire adult life, will call on his fellow Shriners to end all wild-animal acts. Members of the media will be invited to tour the trailer to see the cages that were used to confine tigers as they zigzagged across the country, jumping through fiery hoops and attempting to avoid the tamer’s whip.
When: Tuesday, September 1, 12 p.m.
Where: Robert E. Lee Park, 3333 Turtle Creek Blvd. The trailer will be parked near the entrance to Arlington Hall at Lee Park on Lee Parkway between N. Hall and Rawlins streets, Dallas.
Cunningham produces circus shows in 100 cities every year. The Shrine circus in Garland, Texas, which performs from September 11 to 13, will be the first of his shows to be free of wild animals.
“The Shrine circus creates lasting memories for millions of American families each year, so we are proud to be an agent of change by helping the Shrine circus evolve to be in alignment with the standards of today’s modern families. For our company, those standards mean producing appropriate forms of circus entertainment for today’s audiences, which includes no longer exhibiting wild animals,” says Cunningham. “We decided the best thing we could do is lead by example. There are so many wonderfully talented acts for us to wow our fans with it just makes no sense to hold on to stubborn held beliefs. Today is a new day, and we intend to uphold a standard of never having anything in our shows that would cause a mother not to want to bring her family to the circus.”
“This move means that hundreds of Shrine circuses will never again feature wild animals who are denied all semblance of a natural life in the circus, kept chained and caged, and electro-shocked and beaten into performing,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “As more people object to the use of animals in circuses, PETA is calling on Shrine circuses nationwide to follow this example of positive change.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—has gathered extensive video and photographic evidence showing circus trainers and handlers as they jab elephants, including babies, with bullhooks (weapons that resemble a fireplace poker with a sharp metal hook on one end). Circuses keep elephants, tigers, and other animals on the road for up to 50 weeks a year, and when they aren’t being used in performances, they’re usually shackled in chains or locked away inside cramped cages.
regarding DEW Haven and Yankee Jungle in South Portland on Saturday, August 29th, 2015
Hello Maine supporters of Big Cat Rescue! We are assisting local Maine big cat lovers who are organizing a protest in South Portland next Saturday, August 29th, from 11 am to 2 pm at 8 Cottage Road, South Portland, Maine 04106.
These big cat advocates — lead by Kris Snyder and Karen Coker — will be demonstrating to Maine residents that animal lovers don’t want to see DEW Haven (formerly DEW Animal Kingdom) buy, sell, trade, breed and exhibit big cats and other animals.
As you may be aware, DEW Haven is featured on the program Yankee Jungle, which airs on Animal Planet. The protest will be on the sidewalk outside the office of Lone Wolf Media, producers of Yankee Jungle. Big Cat Rescue joins these animal lovers in seeking to raise awareness about the sad reality of what’s happening at DEW Haven and why the animals should not be further exploited in a television program.
Learn more and sign up to attend the peaceful protest here: https://www.facebook.com/events/570814466392088/
Bring your own signs or just show up. They will have extra signs for your use!
We hope you will add your voice and stand up for the cats and cubs being exploited and used as entertainment at DEW Haven. We are the only voice these animals have!
Feel free to email me any questions you may have. THANK YOU!
Director of Public Relations
Big Cat Rescue