Controversial farm giving up exotic animals after mauling
By KEVIN MURPHY
The Kansas City Star
Finding a good home for kittens and puppies is one thing, but how about 33 tigers, eight lions, four wolves, a bear, a cougar and a leopard?
Two Missourians reluctantly are trying to do just that and figure they have a good start: Someone is picking up 19 of the animals Saturday.
“I miss them already,” Sandra Smith said Wednesday. And they, apparently, will miss her. “My animals have not talked, they have not roared, they know something is up.”
Sandra and Ken Smith of rural Warrenton, Mo., are voluntarily giving up their animals in the wake of a tiger’s mauling of a volunteer Aug. 3 that required a partial leg amputation.
The Smiths keep the animals caged on their farm, but have heard complaints from a neighbor, the county and animal-rights groups. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has investigated the farm for various violations.
“For nine years, I have fought them,” Sandra Smith said. “I bought 17 acres 22 years ago, and my dream was to turn 17 acres into a park for my animals so the tigers could have their little ponds and lilies and the lions could have their trees, etc.”
The Smiths formerly exhibited the animals publicly, but gave up their federal license in 2003 after authorities got complaints about how the animals were fenced and kept. But the Smiths hung on to the animals and have spent all their money and time to keep them healthy and safe, Sandra Smith said
On Saturday, a truck will pick up the eight lions, the four wolves, four tigers, the bear, the cougar and the leopard. They will go to a sanctuary in Oklahoma, Smith said. She hopes to have the remaining tigers placed by the end of the month.
The Smiths will have a news conference Saturday morning before the animals are picked up. Sandra Smith said she was upset with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal-rights group critical of the Smiths’ keeping of the animals.
“I want them to step up with donations and help me find homes for the rest of the animals they said needed homes,” Smith said.
Lisa Wathne, spokeswoman for Virginia-based PETA, said that there are not enough places for the animals and that donations wouldn’t help.
“Euthanasia is probably the kindest option for the animals, rather than to pay for them to go from one bad situation to another,” Wathne said.
Any animals that are moved should be sterilized so they cannot breed, Wathne said, and PETA would pay for that.
Smith said the mauling victim, Jacob Barr, 26, remains in the hospital. Barr is a friend of a regular volunteer at the Smiths’ Wesa-A-Geh-Ya animal farm.
“I am so sorry,” Smith said. “I wish it was me up at the hospital instead of him. That isn’t just talk, I swear.”