Care of exotic animals criticizedby Lacey Hampton The Enquirer Journal
Some have concerns about a current animal exhibit in the Monroe Crossing mall parking lot.
While visitors overflowed the tent to see the myriad of animals featured in Jungle Safari, there are people with concerns about it.
“It’s very stressful for the animals to be carted around in the back of a truck,” Pat Shannon, a Monroe resident and local animal welfare advocate, said.
Jungle Safari is a traveling educational and family entertaining exhibit based out of Florida. Robert and Pat Engesser travel around the country with a variety of animals that include, tigers, monkeys, llamas, snakes and others.
There have been concerns cited about the exhibit and its owners by PETA, Shannon said.
She wants to see the exhibit shut down completely and has questions about how the animals are cared for and other aspects of the exhibit. She has not been out to it but since the mall is hosting it, she plans to stop shopping there completely, she said.
“If this is what they support, they won’t get my business,” she said.
A PETA fact sheet lists 29 citations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Engessers between 1990-2007. The citations listed include inadequate vaccination and veterinary records of animals, improper storage of supplies and a report of a 5-year-old girl being attacked and mauled by a leopard in 1990.
An attempt by The Enquirer-Journal to confirm the list of citations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture was unsuccessful.
Concerns by PETA and others about the citations have been exaggerated, Robert Engesser said.
In the incident involving a 5-year-old girl, for instance, Engesser said a former employee brought his stepdaughter to the exhibit and took her behind an enclosure with the leopard where they were not allowed to be.
The animal ended up leaving a puncture wound in the girl’s arm. The employee was fired shortly after, he said.
In another incident, an inspector decided that a lion cub had gotten too big too use in pictures with customers. They followed the inspector’s advice to stop using the cub, but the inspector still had to write up the incident, he said.
The trucks the animals travel in are ventilated and generators run fans to keep them cool.
Jungle Safari was started by Engesser’s grandparents and ever since then they have worked with animals raised in captivity. The exhibit, as well as their Florida base, is regularly inspected and veterinarians regularly treat the animals, he said.
“We interact with everything we’ve got here,” he said.
The animals are on the road about four to six weeks at a time before being switched out with other animals. They regularly take precautions to ensure the safety and health of all the animals and the people who attend the show, he said.
They are licensed, Pat Engesser said.
The animals they use are from generations of captively raised animals. They work to make sure the animals are properly fed and healthy, she said.
“They really do feed them well and make sure they’re well taken care of,” Dawn Miller, a veterinarian out of Florida who has worked with the Engessers and have treated their animals since 1992, said.
She treats all of their animals in Florida and travels to some of the sites when necessary. If she is unable to make it to a specific location, the Engessers will contact a local vet who calls her with any questions or concerns. The animals are healthy and have the proper vaccinations at the right ages, she said.
Big Cat Rescue, an organization that runs a non-profit educational sanctuary, began posting comments about the Engresser’s Jungle Safari six months ago at 911animalabuse.com, Carole Baskin, the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, said.
“We just get so many complaints everywhere they go,” she said.
She saw a photo of a lion cub that appeared in The Enquirer-Journal May 12 from the exhibit. The photo concerned her because of the way hair had been rubbed off the cub’s nose, she said.
“This is typical of cats that have been confined in small places,” she said.
They swing their heads back and forth against the grates of pet carriers until their nose is rubbed raw. Their nose sometimes remains that way into adulthood, she said.
Carole's note: The latter part of that quote that was not used included the fact that the scraping and scabbing of the cubs noses during these transports to and from pay to play schemes often results in the fur never growing back properly. You can almost frequently tell when a big cat was abused as a cub because they are missing the fur at the end of their noses for their entire lifetime. The reporter was given the information to look up verification of all of the citations verbally, because USDA provides that online, but apparently was not able to wade through their maze and didn't call back to get the exact URL. To check on recent citations of USDA facilities go to: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/publications_and_reports.shtml Note that a FOIA report can take up to 3 years for USDA to respond to, so that is why the information tracked by animal protection groups is often so far out of date.
More about the Engessors and other wild animal exploiters: http://911animalabuse.com/index.php/search-abusers/31-browse-by-name/99-engesser-robert-a-pat