UPDATE about Big Cat Rescue’s “Witness Protection” Cats
Watch our Facebook page LIVE throughout Thursday Morning – May 2nd Big Cat Rescue Giving Day – as we Introduce the Tigers and Black Leopard!
ALMOST FOUR YEARS…that is how long Big Cat Rescue has waited to officially introduce our four big cats which were seized in 2015 from Ohio’s Tiger Ridge Exotics roadside zoo and owner/operator Kenny Hetrick by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). We are so excited for you, our amazing supporters, to get to know our three precious female tigers Dutchess, Jasmine and Sapphire and gorgeous male black leopard Jinx. We know you will fall in love with them just as we have!
Some background: In October 2011 in Zanesville, Ohio, a private owner of dozens of big cats and other wild animals named Terry Thompson opened their cages and turned them loose before committing suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities were forced to shoot and kill 38 big cats and 10 other animals as they roamed the town loose that evening. As a result of this tragic massacre, Ohio passed a strong law banning the private possession of big cats. Like all such bans, anyone who already owned exotic cats would be allowed to keep them; owners were simply required to register their cats with the state (by filling out a form saying how many cats and what kind they had) and they were not allowed to buy or breed more. Most people complied or capitulated when ODA began enforcing the rule.
But Tiger Ridge Exotics owner Kenny Hetrick thumbed his nose at the law and refused to report how many dangerous wild animals he owned. Hetrick’s facility had also racked up numerous USDA violations prior to the seizure, including failure to provide adequate veterinary care, repeated failure to provide animals with a proper diet, failure to provide animals with clean water, failure to provide animals with clean, dry enclosures, and failure to comply with federal safety requirements.
In January 2015, ODA seized his 11 wild animals – 10 big cats and a bear – and initially housed them at the state’s temporary animal holding facility in Reynoldsburg. A few months later ODA awarded temporary custody of the animals to three sanctuaries including Big Cat Rescue pending the final outcome of the litigation. Dutchess, Jasmine, Sapphire and Jinx arrived at Big Cat Rescue in August 2015. We have been taking care of these four magnificent cats at our own expense every day since.
Hetrick took his legal battle for the return of his cats all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which maintained in 2018 that ODA had acted appropriately in seizing the animals. Then ODA filed a lawsuit for permanent possession of the animals, which was the final step before awarding the sanctuaries including Big Cat Rescue permanent custody of the cats in our care for the last four years. Hetrick did not fight this final lawsuit; his final day to do so was April 29, 2019. Big Cat Rescue was officially awarded permanent custody of the four cats on April 30, 2019.
It has been a long road and there were several stipulations Big Cat Rescue agreed to in order to temporarily house the cats, including not discussing the situation of the cats or sharing their information or photos/video on our social media sites. We even changed the names of the cats after their arrival (we will continue to use their current names). This is why you may be surprised to learn these three female tigers (Sapphire is a white tiger) and one handsome male black leopard have been housed at Big Cat Rescue for almost four years but you’ve probably never heard about them! Well that’s about to change. We cannot wait to share the photos and videos of these cats that we’ve taken during their stay here but could never divulge. And of course there will now be numerous new photos and videos so you can get to know each of their personalities!
We know very little history about the cats, not even their ages, but we do know they have been loved from the very second they arrived at Big Cat Rescue and we plan to keep giving them a lifetime of love, nutritious food, excellent vet care, and enrichment.
Thank you for your ongoing support of our cats and our sanctuary. It is only because of the donations we receive from donors like you that we can continue to rescue and care for big cats. If you’d like to be one of the first to support the lifetime care of these four beautiful cats, you can do so here: https://bigcatrescue.salsalabs.org/2019givingday/index.html
Join us LIVE on Facebook throughout the day May 2, 2019 as we introduce these precious cats to you for the very first time. https://www.facebook.com/bigcatrescue