Davis County Fair organizers: Despite protests by Big Cat Rescuers, the GW Exotics Tiger show will go on
FARMINGTON — For the most part, the flood of e-mails has stopped coming to Davis County Fair organizers and the show will go on.
Last week, Davis County officials were overwhelmed with thousands of e-mails after a Florida-based animal-rights organization initiated a protest over the primary attraction at next month's fair.
"My boss got them, I got them, a guy who used to work here got them, even one of my sponsors," said Megan Hatch, the Davis County fair coordinator.
The online protest centers on Davis County's booking of an exotic-animal show — lions and tigers — for the fair, which runs Aug. 18-21 at Legacy Events Center.
The organization Big Cat Rescue, a nonprofit educational sanctuary in Tampa, Fla., on July 19 asked its online supporters to protest the use of big cats.
"If you were to commit to not bringing a big cat act this year or ever again, we could give you a LOT of great publicity for doing the right thing," Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue, wrote in a recent e-mail to Hatch and the Standard-Examiner.
Baskin believes that 20,000 protest letters were sent online to public officials, fair organizers and others.
County officials said they could not confirm how many letters they received but estimated it was more than 2,000.
"Almost everybody we had contact with was not from Utah," said John Petroff, the Davis County commissioner who oversees the fair.
Petroff said most of the e-mails were written in one of four form letters.
Fair organizers had originally hired a Texas-based animal show that eventually withdrew from its contract.
An Oklahoma-based company is the potential replacement show. It is titled "Welch's Tiger Experience" and is one of the main attractions for the 2010 fair.
Baskin and her supporters argue the exotic-animal industry is a "big cat mill" that overproduces animals and later, when their short show life is over, crams them into sanctuaries.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency that inspects sanctuaries and animal shows, called Davis County after the federal agency began to receive the same e-mails about the shows, said David Hansen, Legacy Events Center director.
Hansen said a discussion with the USDA about the new show provider and its inspection history left him comfortable to proceed.
"Our goal is just to entertain the people who come out there," said Petroff, who met Wednesday with the Davis County Fair Board.
The sponsor of the show, "Yes!" Utah, also was contacted by a protester, but chose to stick with the sponsorship.
"We are just trying to get a message out to save lives through organ donation, and the Davis fair seems like a good outlet for that," said Alex McDonald, director of public education for "Yes!" Utah.
"Yes!" Utah is the federally designated nonprofit organ-procurement organization operated by Intermountain Donor Services.
Hatch said it would not be a surprise if animal-rights protesters show up at the fair.
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
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to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
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