Big Cat Vet Says Clients Kill Cubs
On June 14 & 15, 2007 I attended the Captive Wild Animal Technical Assistance Group meeting in Orlando and was stunned at what I heard. You can hear it for yourself below.
I was not surprised to hear Kathy Stearns, an woman with a backyard full of big cats, try to excuse the inexcusable behavior of those who breed cubs for photo booths and petting sessions. I was not surprised to hear a couple others suggest that studies be done, (ie: stall for as long as we can) before taking action to stop the abusive practice, but I was surprised at what one veterinarian had to say. You can hear that short version here:
This segment starts out with Florida Wildlife Commission officer, Captain Linda Harrison, saying that the FWC doesn’t have any information that would enable them to know how many of these cats are being bred and discarded. While the FWC has the authority to do a census each year, and requires the applicant to submit one as part of the permit renewal each year, that information is not available to the public, and apparently is not tracked by the FWC. There are not enough inspectors in the field to do accurate counts and compare them to the licensees’ claims and since there is no requirement that the animals be marked with microchips there would be no way to validate that the animals there on any given day are the same ones that were there a month ago. At best, inspections occur once a year for a couple hours per facility.
The male voice asking questions of Captain Linda Harrison and Kathy Stearns is Joe Christman the mammal curator from Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The person who keeps telling Kathy to stop interrupting is the monitor, Julie Morris. Joe accurately points out that there can’t be a continuous home for 12-144 big cats each year who are born into this trade, but he did not take into consideration that there are usually 2-4 cubs per litter and he was only calculating that there would be one per litter. Thus the numbers would be 24-576 per year if these known users each only bred once or twice per year.
Dr. Lee Coffman is next saying we need a study. The person he refers to, who was chosen as the spokesperson for the tiger industry by the group, is Brian Werner a back yard tiger breeder in Texas who claims to breed for conservation, but who is not a part of any real conservation plan. Dr. Coffman suggests that the owners keep their own records and just let the inspectors check them, which is already required, but is not being done due to the lack of funding and man power to keep a close eye on what is happening. Despite having been given reports from Big Cat Rescue at past meetings, and again at this one, that detail the over abundance of big cats who end up abandoned, Dr. Leroy Coffman says he hasn’t seen any evidence that Florida is the problem, while admitting that there may well be a national problem. The charts clearly indicate that Florida leads the nation in every problematic area of exotic cat ownership. He goes on to say that he thought USDA was going to stop the practice anyway and that the FWC should just leave it like it is.
Kathy says that USDA has new rules that no longer allow cubs to be used up to 3-4 months, but now limit it to the time between 8 and 12 weeks. She says we don’t have a problem with big cats having no where to go. Apparently she didn’t read the reports either. She educated Dr. Lee Coffman on the fact that the paper trail already is required and that inspectors can ask to see where a cat went, but she followed that by saying no one is keeping track because the FWC doesn’t have the manpower.
Next, Dr. Terri Parrot-Nenezian, DVM dropped the bombshell and, referring to the list Kathy had handed her of exhibitors said, “Out of all these facilities, I know intimately of four of them that I do work for. Two of them I know euthanize their cats. They have separate facilities, in separate areas of the country, where they take these cats, and whether it is humane or not, they euthanize them and they replace them with the same cat, same name, and it’s quite a common…” She was interrupted by someone asking, “Who would that be?” to which Dr. Parrot-Nenezian responded, “I’m, I’m, I’m not allowed to give you that information, but I’m a veterinarian that’s been doing this for 25 years, and I can tell you first hand, it IS being done, and until we catch them, we won’t have any kind of statistics, but it IS being done and it’s very easy to do. I don’t…(stopped short) I agree with you in some respects that they can be traceable, but the Fish and Wildlife, when they see that cat, and its a tiger cub and his name is Simba, and it was the same Simba a year ago, and it’s Simba again, they have (stopped short again and picked up saying) and even microchips, unfortunately, have been pulled out of the hides and are implanted, so that’s probably not going to work. And I know FIRST HAND this is going on.” Before you call Dr. Parrot-Nenezian keep in mind the fact that there is currently no law against what her clients are doing.
Precious Boatright asked, “When you’re saying the cats are euthanized, you’re saying the cubs, is that correct?” To which Dr. Parrot-Nenezian responded affirmatively, “The cubs, when they reach a certain amount, because then they (stopped short again and restarted with) then they’re buried and they go on.”
Dr. Lee Coffman went back and said there has to be some sort of accountability but he said it should be something the industry does to police itself and that the committee shouldn’t expect the FWC, with its limited resources to be able to do it. Lee ends by saying, “It’s just not going to happen.” That is why other states are banning the practice of keeping wild animals captive. Tax dollars shouldn’t be spent trying to regulate a business that the vast majority of tax payers oppose.
The clip ends with R. Donavan Smith saying he is growing tired of the propaganda and sensationalism involving exotic cat issues. He operates a road side zoo that uses wild animals for party props and like most people in that business is becoming aware that there is a huge shift in the way people are thinking about animals and that spells bad business for him.
August 4, 2007 Carole Baskin
If you are appalled that cubs are killed when they can no longer be used as photo props, take a few minutes and show that you care by sending a letter to your lawmaker asking them to co-sponsor Haley’s Act here: www.CatLaws.com
If you would like to use the audio or video from above in your own campaign to ban the private possession of exotic cats feel free to link to this page