By Joshua M. Rinaldi , Freeman staff
The Humane Society of the United States alleges that two dealers known to sell animals to people operating canned hunts purchased animals at the Catskill Game Farm auction on Oct. 18.
“These are tamed animals, that people once hand-fed, that are now going to be mounted on someone’s wall,” said Andrew Page, manager of the Humane Society’s anti-hunting campaign.
Fearing the worst, the Humane Society sent three people to the auction to monitor who was buying animals. The two dealers in question have been known to sell animals to canned hunts in Texas and purchased antlered fallow deer, yak and red deer, among other animals, Page said. One dealer spent more than $22,000, he said.
“It’s what we expected and what we had kind of warned the public of since the beginning,” Page said.
Catskill Game Farm owner Kathie Schulz, who closed the operation earlier this month after 73 years in business, could not be reached for comment on Thursday. She previously said the Game Farm would not sell any of its animals to operators of canned hunts, which allow people to shoot exotic animals at close range in a controlled environment. However, the auction was open to all, and permits were required for the purchase of only six species.
The Game Farm, off state Route 32 in Catskill, auctioned about half of its 2,000 animals – along with rides and various pieces of equipment – on Oct. 18, two months after Schulz announced the hands-on zoo was going out of business.
The animals that weren’t auctioned were sent to sanctuaries or remained in Schulz’s family’s private collection, she said previously.
The Humane Society petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor the auction, but the USDA replied that it did not have any authority in such matters.
While the Humane Society monitored the auction inside the Game Farm’s gates, other animals rights activists – calling themselves Advocates for Game Farm Animals – staged a protest outside, on Game Farm Road, during the zoo’s final weekend of operation.
Some of the advocates also aligned with a similar group in Washington, D.C., and bought 205 animals at the auction, including two rhinos and a warthog that went for $9,000.
“It was the last thing we could do to save some lives,” said Jim Van Alstine of the advocacy group.
The animals purchased by the coalition will go to sanctuaries or private owners, Van Alstine said. He said animal rights groups usually don’t buy animals during auctions – because it simply gives the owners money to buy more animals – but the coalition made an exception in this case because the Catskill Game Farm was going out of business.
“Or course, we would have liked to get more (animals) out, but we got quite a few out and more than I thought possible a few weeks ago,” he said.
Page fears the animals allegedly sold to canned hunt dealers are lost, but he hopes the Catskill Game Farm auction will help generate legislation to ban canned hunts nationwide.
“Ultimately, getting an animal at an auction is not illegal, which illustrated the need for legislation,” he said.
More than 20 states currently ban canned hunts, Page said. New York is not one of them.