Exotic wildlife sanctuaries call $100,000 bond plan unbearable
State wants to shield taxpayers if businesses fail
By Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News
May 7, 2007
"Coming up with the bond of $100,000 could put us out of business," said Pat Craig, director of The Wild Animal Sanctuary in rural
Craig’s facility, home to 150 lions, tigers, bears, leopards, wolves and other large carnivores, is part of why the Colorado Wildlife Commission drafted the rules.
In 2005 and 2006, Craig said the nonprofit facility would close because donations didn’t cover costs of feeding the critters who eat 50 pounds of meat apiece a day.
It wasn’t the first time that Craig nearly ran out of money.
But donors again responded to Craig’s nationwide pleas that the animals would be euthanized if she had to shut her doors.
The Prairie Wind Animal Refuge in eastern
But the Colorado Wildlife Commission has decided that taxpayers should be spared the costs involved if one of the state’s 13 exotic animal refuges closed.
"We don’t want to have someone go out of business and say the place is vacant except for the lions, tigers and bears, oh my," said commission chairman Tom Burke.
"It is important that those people with the big cats, bears and wolves have a plan," he said. "They can’t just hand the keys over to their mortgage owner."
The commission will vote in July on the proposal to require closure plans and bonds to cover costs.
Burke said more furry and toothsome refugees arrive each year from states that now ban exotics and breeders and from sanctuaries that have folded.
"We realize the sanctuaries (in
The Colorado Wildlife Commission banned new wildlife refuges for lions, tigers, wolves and bears in 2003.
One of the reasons is that refuge owners have soft hearts and sometimes take in more animals than they can support. Every animal comes with a sad story – broken bones from abusive owners, malnutrition and diseases from lives in tiny, dirty cages.
The last exotic animal sanctuary to go out of business in
Federal and state officials turned over the 27 lions and tigers from Alamo to Craig and Nick Sculac of Big Cats of Serenity Springs, east of
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, however, fell on hard times after Sculac suffered a massive heart attack in 2005, and when his wife died in 2006, but survived by selling land.
Tyler Baskerfield of the Colorado Division of Wildlife said the refuges do help the DOW but still need to be able to cover their closure costs.
Frank Wendland, who owns a wolf sanctuary west of
"We can’t afford to pay a bond," said Wendland, whose volunteers blitzed each wildlife commissioner and the media with nearly 300 e-mails.
"The Division of Wildlife doesn’t want nonprofit wildlife sanctuaries to exist in
frazierd@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5308
Carole’s letter to the reporter:
As the founder of the world’s largest accredited sanctuary for big cats, I can tell you that I am all in favor of a $100,000.00 bond. We have had a hard time trying to get the state of
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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