CO Exotic wildlife sanctuaries call $100,000 bond plan unbearable

Avatar BCR | May 7, 2007 38 Views 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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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

Owners of Colorado‘s exotic wildlife sanctuaries are yowling over proposed rules that would require closure bonds to cover going-out-of-business costs.

"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 Weld County.


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 Colorado claimed the same woes in 2006 and was likewise rescued.


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.


Colorado is home to four nonprofit refuges that each house 40 to 160 African lions, multiple varieties of tigers, wolves, mountain lions, cheetahs, panthers, jaguars and other exotic carnivores.


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 Colorado) fill a niche," he said. "But if they go out of business, counties can’t deal with it, zoos are overcrowded and we need to protect the public."


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 Colorado was the Alamo Tiger Ranch near Alamosa in 1997.


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 Colorado Springs.


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 Fort Collins, said he has a closure plan that would use his personal assets to place the 42 animals in his care.


"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 Colorado," said Wendland, who has taken in wolves from the DOW. or 303-954-5308,1299,DRMN_15_5524186,00.html


Carole’s letter to the reporter:


Dear Deborah,


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 Florida to approve even a small $10,000.00 bond because the people who keep big cats are opposed to being held responsible for their care and that just isn’t right.  If people want the privilege of keeping big cats, bears and other dangerous carnivores, even if they truly have been rescued, they should be responsible for the animals until they die.  Every year I see people rush into the limelight to save some animal because that is what brings in the donations and volunteers, but every time they do it they are putting last year’s rescues at risk because it is like a reversed Ponzi scheme that eventually collapses under the pressure of so many mouths to feed.  When the inevitable happens there is currently no provision made for their temporary care and placement.  Rescuing any animal is a lifetime commitment and that commitment is for the life of the animal, not the rescuer. 



For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457


Sign our petition here:




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