Date of birth (approximate): 2018
Date of Rescue: March 2, 2022
We are excited to share some very BIG rescue news! This afternoon BCR’s staff and vet aided law enforcement with the seizure of a 4 year old lioness. She was sedated and transported to the sanctuary and will recover in her transport before being given access to her new enclosure (Nikita’s past enclosure). She did very well under sedation and has since recovered nice and easy. Her name is Koda.
Miss Koda Lioness is out exploring. She is being closely monitored but given space to explore.
You can watch Koda on her Explore, Verkada and Nest cams at BigCatCams.com
Two Important Things You Can Do to Make a Difference for big cats like Koda Lioness:
You might be interested in learning more about how cub petting impacts lions, tigers and their cubs, and saving big cats in the wild. Learn all about it at CubTruth.com
After you read CubTruth.com if it leaves you wondering what you can do please go to BigCatAct.com and use the quick easy tool there to let lawmakers know you want The Big Cat Public Safety Act passed into law.
Thank you for speaking up for the cats and being a voice for the voiceless!
April 18, 2022 Update:
We’ve worked with law enforcement on cases like Koda’s for many years. Never before has a former owner been successful in getting a court to compel the wildlife agency to send a cat to a place of their own choosing, after the cat was sent to us, but this one has. We have no other choice than to comply with the court order and FWC’s demand that we catch her and deliver her to that facility. We don’t know if we can reveal where she’s going yet. We are trying to catch her by crate training rather than sedating her again so soon after her rescue March 2. We aren’t done fighting for her and will share what we are allowed to share as soon as possible.
KODA’S PAST AND FUTURE
During the confiscation Koda’s owner, Roy Pinson, at times spoke about the history of his ownership of Koda. Below is our understanding of what he said. There may be some inaccuracies, but it reflects what we believe we heard Pinson say.
Three white lions were imported from Africa to sell here in the U.S., two males and a female. The males were sold, the female did not sell. Pinson decided to help in some way with the female that remained, who we think was named Molly.
He ended up becoming half owner of Molly. Molly had two cubs, a male and Koda. As half owner of Molly, Pinson said he was entitled to one of the cubs. He then purchased the other cub. Molly was apparently bred shortly after giving birth, because within a year another male cub was born. This is called “speed breeding” and is neither a good life nor a healthy life for females who in the wild would only breed every few years because they would be raising their cubs for years between litters.
During the first year or two Pinson did not have physical possession of the cats. They were housed at another facility. He did not name the facility. But the transfer document showing his receipt of Koda says she came from Zooville, a facility operated by Susan Aronoff Bradshaw. See https://911animalabuse.com/bradshaw-susan-aronoff/. The transfer form says it was an “exchange or transfer,” not a “sale.” We do not have the forms for the two male lions to see if they also say this. If so, this would conflict with Pinson’s statement about purchasing at least one of the cubs.
Pinson obtained a Florida Class I license to be able to house the cubs on his own property in February 2020 when the cubs were about two years old and brought them to his property. During 2020 one of the male lions died suddenly. We do not know the cause. Some time later in the year both the other male and Koda became ill. Koda survived. The other male died. Again, we do not know the cause.
The Florida Class I license was issued to Pinson by FWC on February 27, 2020. The license expires one year later, on February 26, 2021, unless it is renewed. The license required that he obtain a USDA exhibitor’s license within 180 days of receiving his license, i.e., by late August of 2020.
Pinson did not even submit his application to USDA for that license until January 2021, five months after he was required to have obtained it. As we understand it, failure to comply with this condition resulted in him being notified that his license would not be renewed or his license was denied in July 2021.
An Administrative Informal Hearing was held on October 6, 2021, in front of an FWC Hearing Officer. As we understand it this hearing was his opportunity to have that decision reviewed and reconsidered by FWC, sort of like an appeal but not necessarily called that. During that hearing Pinson testified that he had not begun the process of seeking to obtain his USDA license until May of 2020, three months into his six month time period to obtain the license. He testified that the veterinarian he had been using informed him at that time that the veterinarian was no longer “doing exotics.” He testified that it took him “almost six months” to find another vet who would attend to exotics and work with him to complete the USDA application.
A Final Order dated December 9, 2021, upheld the decision to deny his license. FWC sent him a letter indicating the Final Order was issued on January 21, 2022, (we are not sure why the difference) and advising him that he had 30 days from that date to appeal the Final Order decision to the proper Court of Appeals.
From what we can gather, it appears that he filed the appeal document on February 17, within the 30 days, but instead of filing it properly in the appeals court, he filed it in the Tenth Circuit District Court which is located in a different city in the County.
Our understanding is that FWC checked in the normal appeals court records to see if Pinson’s appeal had been filed and it did not show up there. Based on that, FWC then sent a notice on February 23rd saying he had missed the deadline for the appeal, he no longer had a valid license, and he had to move his cat to a licensed facility of his choice immediately. As we understand it, when he failed to comply, FWC decided at some point in the following days to issue criminal citations for owning the cat without a license and to confiscate the cat. They asked us to assist them in picking up the cat and boarding the cat while they proceeded with their prosecution. The confiscation took place March 2nd. We placed her in the large enclosure formerly occupied by lioness Nikita. Her original name was Juma. We renamed her Koda to comply with the FWC’s desire that we not share online any details of their pending criminal case.
It was clear when we first set eyes on Koda that, in our opinion, she was overweight to a degree that was unhealthy and should be on a diet to lose some of the excess weight. Our medical exam then revealed acute kidney disease and a severe parasitic load. There is no access to water or electricity on Pinson’s property so it was obvious, from the water containers on his truck, that he had to bring water periodically. The vet report states that her acute kidney disease could be from a lack of access to water. In the transcript of the hearing Pinson claims that he has three veterinarians that he uses to provide care for Koda. In our opinion, the preventable issues the lioness suffered should be a violation of both the Florida and USDA rules requiring that owners provide proper veterinary care. (USDA rules would not apply though since he had not obtained a USDA license.) Her medical records are available to law enforcement upon request.
Then, nine days later on March 11th the Clerk of the Circuit Court issued a certificate saying that the appeal had been “processed in error and refiled” with the appeals court. That same day the Appeals Court issued an “Acknowledgement of New Case” indicating that it had “received the APPEAL reflecting a filing date of February 17, 2022.” As we understand it, this means the appeal is being treated as if it were filed in the proper court on time. We are told that as a result of this the criminal charges were dropped, and absent criminal charges Pinson was entitled to have the cat moved to a licensed facility of his choice.
The day of the seizure we overheard Pinson talking by phone with a woman who we could hear advising him that he should demand Juma go to anywhere but Big Cat Rescue. We believe he was talking to Bradshaw. Because of our successful advocacy work, we are seen as the enemy by those who wish to buy, breed, sell, exploit and/or abuse exotic cats. On the day of the seizure, we had no reason to believe that it would later be determined that we would have to move Koda to a facility of Pinson’s choice.
Currently we are not permitted to say what facility he chose. FWC instructed us to take Koda there, which we had no choice but to do. Fortunately, our staff were able to coax her into the transport wagon without having to dart her again so soon.
So, what’s next for Koda? That’s still uncertain. Appeals like this can sometimes only take a few months, sometimes much longer. Meantime the good news is that presumably the new temporary home will provide a proper diet, weight management, and veterinary care.
From what we understand Pinson has separately applied for a new license, but that application is on hold until the appeal is decided. It appears very clear that Pinson did not comply with the requirement that he obtain a USDA license within the six months. It is our understanding that an appeals court only considers whether FWC made an error in not renewing the license, i.e., they would not normally consider whatever excuses he makes. But time will tell.
However, even if Pinson loses the appeal, he has options. One is that he can apply again for a Florida Class I license, or perhaps have the additional one that he already filed that we believe is on hold reactivated. If so, presumably he would again have time to obtain a USDA license.
Another option might be to appeal an adverse Appeals Court decision to the Florida Supreme Court, which could take an indefinite amount of more time.
Yet another option used by people who want to have big cats is to apply for a Florida “sanctuary license” under rule 68A-6.006. This license does not require having a USDA exhibitor license. You may have heard the exploiters claim Big Cat Rescue is not a sanctuary because we have not sought to have that kind of license. We haven’t chosen that classification because we believe it was just a good ol’ boy way for circus folk to offload their unusable animals into tiny backyard cages without any oversight by USDA. We believe this type of license should never have been created.
While it does not require a USDA license, our understanding is that a sanctuary license under this rule requires setting up a Florida not-for-profit corporation and obtaining an IRS Determination Letter as a nonprofit. The latter can take some time. Breeding the animals is generally prohibited under this license, but there is an exception that reads much like the exception in some federal legislation for situations “where such breeding program clearly enhances the survival potential of the species.” What is required to satisfy this exception is unclear. We do not believe that breeding animals for life in a cage should ever qualify. We believe Pinson has voiced an interest in obtaining this kind of license. But in court documents Pinson claims Koda has value because of the value of cubs she could produce, which appears to us to indicate an intention to breed her.
I know you are angry and frustrated and so am I. The only thing you can do is to speak up when we ask you to be a voice for the animals. When the FWC asks for input on rules, cats like Koda are dependent on you making common sense suggestions for ways to protect wildcats from being mistreated.
When we ask you to contact your member of Congress every week asking them where they are on the Big Cat Public Safety Act getting passed, it is because cats like Koda are suffering or in peril all over this country until there are better laws to protect them. You may love big cats but hate politics. But if you love them, the best way to show it is to do the hard work needed to change the laws to protect them.
If you are a Florida resident, you can weigh in on current FWC rule changes here: https://myfwc.com/license/captive-wildlife/public-comments/
If you are not a resident of Florida, but are a U.S. citizen, you can ask your member of Congress to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act here: https://p2a.co/7dPHsL6
Whether you are a U.S. citizen or not, you can be a voice for exotic cats on social media. Don’t just scroll past people touching wild cats or showing them off in backyard cages. Stop and take the time to tell them about CubTruth.com and let them know what they are doing is cruel, NOT cool.
OTHER NOTES AND BACKUP DOCUMENTS
The three vets he said in the hearing that he now has:
Click on each of the images below to see the whole image.