September 02, 2006
Catskill, NY — To most folks, the planned closing of the Catskill Game Farm is a sad occasion. People have been coming here for 73 years to feed, stroke and stare at everything from deer to emus to white rhinoceri. There must be millions of Kodachrome memories of the place tucked into the scrapbooks of households in the region.
But the private zoo's planned closing next month has sparked sadness of another type — call it the anxious sadness felt by a consortium of animal rights groups that are worried the planned auction of many of the zoo's exotic animals will not be in the animals' best interest.
A coalition of groups and individuals has called on Catskill Game Farm owner Kathie Schulz to "consider a compassionate retirement" for the animals in its care.
That, says Schulz, is exactly what she's trying to do, and if Advocates for Game Farm Animals doesn't like her approach, well, that's their right. She's been in the business all her life, and she wants the animals she auctions off to be well-cared for, just like the advocates groups do.
Of specific concern for AGFA spokeswoman Kirsti Gholson is the possibility that some exotic animals will be purchased for what are called canned hunts, in which trophy hunters shoot exotic animals on private lands.
"I'll have nothing to do with canned hunts," said Schulz, who expects to know most of the people at the auction, which is scheduled for the middle of October. As further insurance, she said representatives of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Agriculture Department will be on hand during the auction.
"They've been very much with us and will help us with the transition," Schulz said.
But there's only so much state and federal agencies can do, Gholson said.
"There's not a very strong paper trail to keep watch of people who breed animals for hunting," she said, but acknowledged that Schulz can't be held responsible for what happens to animals after they've been legally purchased.
She said she would like to discuss with Schulz the possibility of giving animals to "esteemed" nonprofit sanctuaries. Gholson said it against her group's policy to bid on the animals, since it feeds a system members find objectionable.