WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A BIG CAT FACILITY GOES UNDER?
Hardly a week goes by now that there isn’t a case in the news of a big cat facility that was once considered a haven for the animals rescued has found itself over run with animals that there are no funds to provide for.
People love a good rescue story and they want to be involved. They will volunteer or donate to facilities that are in the public eye doing the heart pounding rescues because it makes them feel good about themselves. They are instantly gratified with the rescue of the animal from some deplorable condition and for a few weeks they thrill in seeing the animal rebound in health and personality until the rescued one appears to be safely set for life…then they are off looking for the next thrilling rescue.
Sometimes sanctuary founders are this short sighted themselves and they continue to take on more animals than they can afford because they believe that recognition is right around the corner and surely some big donor is just about to discover them. Sort of like the starry eyed actress that lives hand to mouth until she has lost her good looks and ability to land a meaningful job, while hoping to be discovered by Hollywood. They usually mean well but just aren’t in touch with reality.
Often a person with the chutzpah to start a sanctuary may be cognizant of how unlikely this is, but they may depend on volunteers and donations to keep their dream alive and they know that if they aren’t rescuing the “animal in distress of the week” then they will lose their volunteers and donors to someone who is acting so irresponsibly.
One thing you can always count on is that the unexpected will happen. A founder will become sick or die or just change their mind about how they want to spend their life. A day like 9/11 will send the world as we know it into a three year tail spin. A year in which there is not a month that goes by without a tsunami, earthquake, major health epidemic, war or a hurricane will happen and the giving public will be so greatly pressed upon for human needs that there will be little left over for the animals. With global warming now finally being recognized as a planet changing reality we are only just beginning to see times of trouble…expensive trouble.
The following list of links go to stories about facilities that once housed big cats and failed. In some cases they never were really sanctuaries, but they claimed to be and many people were fooled into supporting them. In other cases they actually were sanctuaries and some of them even great ones but something happened and they either shut down or had to consider doing so. When a big cat sanctuary closes there is no where for the great cats to go. All of the decent sanctuaries are full and most of the rest continue to breed, sell and further exacerbate the exploitation. These are just a few sad examples of what happens when a big cat facility goes under.
Closed exotic cat facilities of considerable size:
Archangel Underwood, MN
Ashville Game Farm, Jeff Ash, NY
Bearcat Hollow, Ken Kraft, MN
Catherine Gordon Twiss, MS (had 86 lions and tigers when she was shut down)
Corpus Christi Zoo
Cougar Haven David Mallory had 38 big cats at one time, but only 14 at the time that he abandoned them. 9 tigers died while waiting for help to arrive.
Dennis Hill Exotics Shelbyville, IN (20 tigers confiscated in 2005 and he got rid of the last 4 in 2011)
Great Cats of Indiana
Greenville Wildlife Center in Greenville, NJ
Horseshoe Creek in Davenport, FL owned by Darryl Atkinson
Karl Mitchell, Pahrump, NV
L & L Exotics owned by Lorenza Pearson in Copeley Township, OH
Savage Kingdom owned by Robert Baudy in Centerville, FL (had 11 tigers at time of closure)
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Siberian Tiger Foundation owned by Diana Cziraky aka Diana McCourt (6 tigers at time of closure)
Tiger Creek/Wild World Morepark, CA (4 tigers in 2004)
Tiger Rescue Colton, CA (2002 10 tigers were seized and in 2003 13 young tigers were confiscated and 58 cubs found in the freezer)
Tigers Only owned by Joan Byron-Marasek in Ocean County, NJ (24 tigers were seized and sent to Wild Animal Orphanage in 2003)
Tiger Truck Stop AKA Tiger Travel Plaza ordered to remove Tony the tiger by Dec. 2011
Wesa-A-Geh-Ya in Warrenton, MO Sandra and Kenneth Smith, owners of Wesa-A-Geh-Ya animal facility, settle with USDA after being charged with violations of Animal Welfare Act. Smiths agree to civil penalty of $13,000 and revoking of their AWA license. Although Smiths no longer have USDA exhibitor’s license or AWA license, no law prevents them from keeping their animals under little supervision from any state or federal agency. (Warrenton Journal)
Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio, TX shuttered her doors in May of 2010 after a state attorney investigation into misappropriation of funds and a take over by the board of directors. At the time of closure the board members in charge said they had 400 wild animals and that 200 were tigers. Later, once groups like GFAS, IFAW and Born Free were called in there were only 75 tigers to be found. Where did 125 tigers go in those first couple of months? A year after closure there are still 30 tigers left languishing and countless primates, bears and other animals.
Zoo Cats AKA Zoo Dynamics owned by Marcus Cook FL and TX addresses (17 tigers in 2008, 7 in 2010)
This video shows facilities that are currently licensed and approved by the USDA and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission that have been operating at this level or worse for more than 10 years and yet are still open to the public. This shows precisely why we need better laws. Play 6 minute video HERE.
Cited by officials animal welfare violations but still in operation:
John Cuneo Hawthorn Circus owner appx. 50 big cats
G.W. Exotics in Oklahoma claims to have 190 big cats, 23 cubs died in an 18 mo. period, filed for bankruptcy in 2013
Big Cats of Serenity Springs, CO appx 130 big cats – USDA lists 71 tigers in 2011
The Zoo owned by Pat and Robert Engesser DBA Jungle Safari Chiefland, FL
T.I.G.E.R.S. owned by Bhagavan Antle who calls himself “Doc” Antle appx 75 big cats – USDA lists 51 tigers 2011
K ay and Clay Rosaire Circus reports 18 tigers on her 2011 USDA census
Big Cat Rescue’s mission is to provide for the cats we have already committed ourselves to and to educate people and change laws so that animals don’t end up in situations requiring their rescue.
Help us stay vital so that the cats you have helped rescue will have a home for life. Donate to Save Big Cats
I wish you would be a little more detailed on the “too big” to fail. You make it sound as if these sanctuaries are on the brink of failure or that somehow they are “questionable”. The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado is a large sanctuary, very true. But do you know much about them? They are a TRUE sanctuary, no breeding, no exploitation, no entertainment. These animals have an amazing life and many were rescued from some of the stories you site here. They have been in operation for 31 years. They have recently acquired 400 more acres on top the of the over 300 through a private donation. The problem is truly the laws, it is or should be, every sanctuaries dream to close due to lack of animals needing homes. Laws do need to be passed to ban the auction and the ownership of exotic animals.
I live within a quarter mile of Karl and Kayla Mitchell's Big Cat Encounters in Pahrump, NV and they are up and running. In fact I just heard the lions talking a few minutes ago. Please double check your info before posting it!!!!