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.
Today at Big Cat Rescue Aug 1 2013 Shark Week Video
China Hosts International Tiger Conference
Unbeknownst to many, July 29 was the fourth annual International Tiger Day. In commemoration, representatives from the 13 countries where tigers still exist held a conference in Kunming to discuss protecting the largest cat species on earth.
The meeting, somewhat hilariously named the International Workshop for Transboundary Conservation of Tigers and Other Endangered Species, and the Strategy for Combating Illegal Trade in Wildlife (IWTCTOESSCITW), was attended by representatives from state governments, non-governmental organizations and conservation groups.
A day before the conference began, China and Russia announced the establishment of two “ecological corridors” along their shared border. It is hoped the cross-border areas slated for protection will provide Siberian tigers more freedom to roam while lessening their chances of encountering humans.
The two countries will jointly fund and conduct environmental studies in a effort to find more effective policies regarding tiger conservation. China and Russia also agreed to increased cooperation on anti-poaching efforts and in combating the illegal wildlife trade.
China also came to several agreements with India at the meeting in Kunming. These also hinged predominately on eradicating the smuggling of endangered animals. Both parties agreed to share real-time information gathered by police and border agents concerning illegal animal trafficking.
Wild tigers are estimated to number between 3,000 and 4,000 individuals across Asia. This number is down from roughly 100,000 a century ago, largely due to poaching and habitat loss. Countries working to increase tiger populations have set a goal of doubling current numbers by the year 2022. Conversely, that is the same year the World Wildlife Federation has pegged for tiger extinction if global conservation measures are not drastically increased.
It was perhaps appropriate the symposium was held in Yunnan, as the province has a somewhat blemished track record when it comes to understanding and managing tigers. Just days before the preservation meeting in Kunming convened, news broke that the city’s Wild Animals Park was allowing paying customers, including infants, to pet and pose with tiger cubs. This is the same zoo that instituted a ‘tiger-fishing’ attraction in 2006 and where a boy of four was mauled by a tiger five years ago.
Also in 2008, a six year-old girl was killed by a tiger at the Kunming Zoo while she posed for photographs inside the animal’s cage. Violence between humans and tigers, however, is not a one-way street in Yunnan. A man in Xishuangbanna was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he shot and ate an endangered Indochinese tiger in 2010.
USDA Animal Care Issues New Guidance to its Inspectors Regarding Lion/Tiger Enclosures
USDA’s Animal Care program has issued new guidance to its inspectors for evaluating the height of enclosures for lions and tigers at stationary facilities. This guidance is aimed at assuring that USDA inspections will be consistent when determining a facility’s compliance with the Animal Welfare Act regulations.
In light of several escapes that have occurred over the past few years, Animal Care evaluated fence heights and configurations at all USDA-licensed facilities that have lions and tigers. These evaluations build upon Animal Care’s 40+ years of experience inspecting facilities that house potentially dangerous animals and the program’s deep understanding of each species’ physical capabilities.
Animal Care is the federal unit that enforces the Animal Welfare Act. This Act sets standards for humane care and treatment that must be provided for warm-blooded animals that are: exhibited to the public; bred for commercial sale; used in biomedical research; or transported commercially. Individuals/entities that operate facilities using animals in these ways are required to provide their animals with adequate housing, sanitation, nutrition, water and veterinary care, and they must protect the animals from extreme weather and temperatures. When potentially dangerous animals are exhibited to the public for compensation, the federal regulations require that USDA-licensed exhibitors ensure the safety of their animals and protect the viewing public from any contact with the animals.
At Animal Care, ensuring the welfare of the animals we regulate is at the heart of everything we do.
Lion and Tiger Enclosure Heights and Kick-ins Inspection Guidance
Animal Care Inspection Guide Specific Types of Inspections
Lion and TigerEnclosure Heights and Kick-insInspection
This document provides guidance for assessing the height of Lion and Tiger enclosures (this includes liger enclosures) under commonly found circumstances at stationary facilities for purposes of primary containment. It does not provide guidance for assessing the structural integrity or other factors related to housing facilities.
This guidance is a distillation of a well-established interpretation of the AWA regulations and standards. Section 3.125(a) provides that indoor and outdoor housing facilities must be structurally sound and maintained in good repair to protect the animals from injury and to contain the animals. For Lions and Tigers and many other animals, this primary containment system must be backed up by a secondary containment system (a perimeter fence) in most outdoor housing facilities to further ensure the safety and well-being of the animals.
The following guidelines are to be used by all Inspectors and Compliance Specialists to assure uniform implementation. These guidelines are based on Animal Care’s experience of more than 40 years with inspecting licensees and registrants that house potentially dangerous animals, like Lions and Tigers, and recent events that highlight instances where animals have escaped, as well as specific species’ and animals’ capabilities.
Despite our best evaluation of what will contain an animal, there may still be an escape. If an animal escapes from an enclosure, that enclosure will have to be modified to be considered to be in compliance, regardless of the previous determination.
Complete a checklist in ACIS documenting the safety of Lion and Tiger enclosures for each facility with Lions and Tigers. All citations must refer back to the language of the regulations –there are no engineering standards.
Fencing recommendations regarding the fence height and enhancing structural components like kick-ins and high-tensile smooth electric wire appropriate for the species will be divided into three categories:
1. under review
2. compliant requiring no further action
3. non-compliant prompting a citation.
This category should be evaluated first to determine if there are any special circumstances associated with animals and/or enclosures that would prevent an enclosure from being considered as “Compliant Requiring No Further Action” or “Non-compliant Prompting a Citation.” Some examples of circumstances that would prompt placing an enclosure in the “Under Review” category are listed below (NOTE: this is not an all-inclusive list). For these enclosures, photos and measurements should be submitted to the Big Cat Field Specialist and SACS for review through the use of the “Checklist for Documenting the Safety of Lion and Tiger Enclosures Fencing Height” sheet in ACIS. The Big Cat Field Specialist and SACS will work together to develop a recommendation. If there are no special circumstances, then the enclosure should be assessed to determine if it is “Compliant Requiring No Further Action” or “Non-compliant Prompting a Citation.”
Do not cite or note enclosures that are under review on an inspection report.
Examples of enclosures that an inspector could send for review include:
? Enclosure fence 14 feet in height with a kick-in of 2 feet;
? Fencing a minimum of 12 feet in height with a species-appropriate high-tensile, smooth electric wire;
? An enclosure fence 14 feet in height with a line of electric wire along the top
? An enclosure fence 12 feet in height with a 2 foot kick-in and an impregnable perimeter fence at a facility the public does not visit;
? An enclosure fence of 10 feet with 3 feet or greater kick-ins where animals have lived without incident for over 4 years;
? An enclosure containing a Lion and Tiger that has physical limitations (old/fat/disabled/blind) that may be adequately contained in an enclosure that does not meet the guidance for clearly compliant enclosures;
? An enclosure with trees or enclosure furniture that may be too close to the fence.
The inspector should consult with the licensee on an appropriate identifier for each enclosure. The identifier may be the: name of the animal in the enclosure; location of the enclosure on the premises; enclosure number, etc. This identifier will be used with the corresponding photos in completing the “Checklist for Documenting the Safety of Lion and Tiger Enclosures Fencing Height” sheet in ACIS and in the subsequent letter from the regional office. Compliant requiring No Further Action
Some structures would be considered compliant for meeting the performance-based standards of §3.125(a) absent special circumstances, based on the known physical and behavioral characteristics of Lion and Tiger species and the configuration of the enclosure. Some examples of structures include but are not limited to:
? Fencing a minimum of 12 feet in height with a 3 foot angled kick-in;
? Fencing a minimum of 16 feet in height;
? Fencing 8 feet in height with a completely covered top (Note: All enclosures with a completely covered top must allow for normal and typical behaviors and postures.);
? A dry moat that is 25 feet wide or greater and at least 16 feet deep if both sides are at the same level and there are no deterrents at either side;
? A moat that is at least 20 feet wide if the exhibit side is at least 5 feet or more lower than the public side;
? A wet moat that is at least 20 feet wide with water at least 5 feet deep at all times with another 5 foot wall extending beyond the water level.
Non-compliant prompting a Citation
? Enclosure fencing that is insufficient to contain the animals housed therein.
Completing the Checklist
The inspector will be prompted to review and document the status of the lion/tiger enclosures before finalizing in ACIS your initial inspection on facilities that list Lions and/or Tigers in the inventory. The 3 possible responses are:
? All species specific enclosures are in compliance
• This completes the checklist and you are taken to the report to review and finalize.
? All species specific enclosures are not in compliance, no help needed.
• Use this option if there is a combination of compliant and non-compliant enclosures.
• This completes the checklist and you are taken to the report to review and finalize.
? One or more species specific enclosures are unsure, and help is requested.
• Use this option if there is a combination of compliant and non-compliant enclosures in which one or more is unsure and help is needed.
• Complete the specialist review form, where you will provide:
? Location Name: Use the enclosure identifier determined by you and the licensee.
? Location Description: Describe the animals contained in the enclosure; the height of the fencing; the materials used for the fencing; the approximate dimensions of the enclosure.
? Location Comments: Add any comments or recommendations to the Big Cat Specialist/RO.
• Link the photos of the enclosures you uploaded to the inspection report to each enclosure description. Photos must include:
? Something that provides a reference for the scale of the fencing height; Be sure to get the entire fence from top to bottom in the photograph;
? The kick-ins with a side view as much as safely possible;
? Trees or cage furnishings that may be too close to the fence. Try to include two views from different sides.
Field Specialist Review
The Big Cat Field Specialist will enter into ACIS a written assessment of the suitability of the enclosure(s)to contain the animals being housed in them. The appropriate personnel will prepare the review response letter for the Regional Director or Assistant Regional Director signature. The review response letter will contain for each reviewed enclosure: the decision regarding each enclosure; a correction deadline, if necessary, and other relevant needed information.
The letter will be mailed to the facility. A copy of the final letter will be maintained in the customer files in ACIS and a copy of the letter emailed to the SACS, inspector and Big Cat Field Specialist. Subsequent Inspections of Reviewed Enclosures
At the next inspection of a facility placed under review, you will receive a prompt to review and document the status of the enclosures that were not in compliance or were found to be compliant based on specific current conditions during the previous inspection. Additional review of the enclosure is dependent on the following criteria:
? Enclosures found not in compliance, current status?
• In compliance;
? You will receive no further prompts on subsequent inspections.
• Time still remaining;
? You will be asked to review the enclosure at the next inspection.
• If not in compliance, select the applicable NCI(s) for this enclosure.
? Enclosures found in compliance based on specific current conditions; are these conditions still true for these enclosures?
• If the conditions still true;
? You will continue to finalize the report, and will be asked to review the enclosure at the next inspection.
• If the enclosure is in compliance now;
? The process ends, and you will receive no further prompts on subsequent inspections.
• If not in compliance, you will be asked to select the appropriate NCI(s) on the inspection report citing this enclosure’s non-compliance.
Here’s the great part about the following article:
If cub petting displays have to identify their cubs by name, sex, age, species and identifying markings AND has to reveal who the real owners of the cubs are, then it will be easier for USDA to catch them when cubs disappear and it will be easier for USDA to see that they are using the cubs too young (under 8 weeks according to the USDA Big Cat FAQ) and too old (according to USDA court cases where they found 12 weeks to be the oldest allowed.)
USDA Publishes Final Rule to Help Ensure Health of Animals While Traveling
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has amended the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to require traveling exhibitors to submit itineraries to the agency 48 hours in advance of travel so that inspectors will know where regulated animals are located.
“This rule will help APHIS ensure animals are receiving humane care and treatment while they are away from their main facility,” APHIS Acting Administrator Kevin Shea.
In the final rule, APHIS has clarified that only those exhibitors traveling overnight or longer away from the main facility would need to provide itinerary information. The itineraries must include:
the name and license/registration number under the AWA of the person who will exhibit the animals, and the name of the person who owns the animals if any animals are leased, borrowed or loaned;
the name, identification number or identifying characteristics, species (common or scientific name), sex and age of each animal;
the dates and locations where the animals will travel, be housed, and be exhibited, and including all anticipated dates and locations for any stops and layovers.
Exhibitors can choose to submit their itineraries via fax, USPS mail, or e-mail.
Questions and Answers regarding this rule and an optional itinerary form are accessible from the Animal Welfare web site.
There are less than 100 USDA inspectors (closer to 50 in 2013 who actually deal with wild animals) to try and keep track of all of these cub petting schemes, but it is a start in the right direction. What USDA needs to do, in order to protect the animals and the public is to ban public contact with exotic cats altogether. We believe that they can do so under their current authority and along with the Big Cat Coalition have submitted a formal 70 page petition spelling that out for them.