Planned animal auction at Catskill Game Farm worries Ulster officials
By Joshua M. Rinaldi, Freeman staff
KINGSTON, NY - The Ulster County Environmental Committee has voted unanimously to call on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor the auction of animals from the Catskill Game Farm, which plans to close this fall.
"It's very easy for an animal to end up in a disreputable place," said committee Chairman Brian Shapiro, D-Woodstock.
Shapiro recognizes that because the Catskill Game Farm is in Greene County, the committee has no jurisdiction over it. However, he is looking at the closing of the 73-year-old zoo as a regional issue because so many people in Ulster County would have visited the Catskill Game Farm during their lives.
The Catskill Game Farm announced earlier this month it would be closing for good in October, and Shapiro is concerned about what will happen to the animals afterward. About half of its 2,000 animals, made up of about 150 different species, will be auctioned by Michigan-based Norton Auctioneers, which specializes in items from amusement parks and zoos.
The worry is that some of the animals could end up in "canned-hunt" operations, where people pay top dollar to shoot game animals at close range, or in poor roadside zoos, Shapiro said. He said there have been documented cases where former Catskill Game Farm animals have ended up in canned hunts. Sun Media Newspapers reported in 1999 that the Toronto Zoo stopped selling animals to the Catskill Game Farm after it learned some were ending up in canned hunt operations.
Kathie Schulz, owner of the Catskill Game Farm, said the allegations are a misunderstanding that stems from her ex-husband, Jurgen Schulz. Jurgen Schulz ran an importing and exporting business for exotic animals and because they were husband and wife the permits for the two businesses were consolidated under one, she said. However, she insists the businesses remained separate.
"That's his business. That's not my business and the Game Farm shouldn't be confused with that," she said.
Schulz said her family is keeping several animals for their private estate and said none of the exotic animals are going to auction. She said the cats will go to cat sanctuaries and bears will go back to the breeders. Invitations to the auction come from the Catskill Game Farm's mailing list, and Schulz insists canned hunt organizations will be neither concerned nor invited.
"The animals they would be interested in wouldn't be at the auction," she said.
David Norton, chairman of Norton Auctioneers, said certain animals will require USDA permits to purchase and those permits are the responsibility of the buyer. He also said they animals won't end up in canned hunts, but didn't elaborate on precautions to be taken.
Shapiro, however, is not convinced and worries, because USDA license applications from 2003 that still had Jurgen Schulz listed as president of the Catskill Game Farm.
"I think there is enough connecting the dots to see that there is a historical link connecting the game farm to canned hunts and raising the animals for slaughter," he said.
Shapiro also doesn't think the Catskill Game Farm can effectively track the animals to ensure they don't end up in undesirable places after it goes out of business. He thinks the USDA would be more equipped to do so.
The federal agency will require documentation of who the animals are sold or given to, spokesman Darby Holladay said in Washington D.C. However, according to the federal Animal Welfare Act, that's where the agency's control ends.
"We have no regulatory authority to oversee the auction," he said.