Above: From left, Daryl Cauffman, Melony Vanhorn, Steven William Kaye II and Dain Heaton were among those protesting against the appearance of Big Cat Rescue Entertainment at the Platte River Mall on Saturday afternoon.
The group currently in North Platte has appeared at the mall several times under several different names.The owner of record for G.W. Exotic is Joe Schreibvogel. The facility currently has two USDA licenses, one in Schreibvogel’s name. Beth Corley, who is operating Big Cat Rescue Entertainment, holds the second license.
The protesters plan to be at the mall again today, the final day of the Big Cat Rescue Entertainment stint.
David Sacks, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the licensing and regulation of big cat facilities, said G.W. Exotic has been the subject of USDA enforcement actions.
On October 21, 2010, there was a complaint that alleged that baby tigers were too weak, Sacks said.
“That case was closed with no violations found by the USDA,” Sacks said.
In September 2009, G.W. Exotic received an official warning letter from the USDA because a cub allegedly hurt a member of the public and a male leopard allegedly killed a female leopard.
“Warning letters carry no fine, but do put a licensee on notice that they are facing stiffer penalties if the situation happens again,” Sacks said.
Sacks also noted that there is a current open case against G.W. Exotic, involving the deaths of baby tigers over a seven-month period. Sacks could not comment further on the open investigation.
On January 26, 2006, G.W. Exotic paid a civil penalty of $25,000 and their license was suspended for two weeks, after inspections at the facility showed numerous violations, including failure to properly handle animals. (On June 14, 2003, a tiger swiped and tore a boy’s pants during a photo shoot, according to the settlement agreement provided by the USDA.)
“What bothers me is the way these groups claim that they do this to educate people,” said protester Stephen Kay II. “If they weren’t making money, I’m sure they wouldn’t be doing this.”
Shelton said she intends to petition the mall to stop bringing the exotic animal exhibit to town.
“If you want to donate money to help big cats, donate to the real Big Cat Rescue,” Shelton said.
The small group of protesters is not part of any specific animal right organization, said protester Angela Triplett.
“We are all about the animals,” she said. “Big cats are not domestic animals and they are not pets. Kids pet and touch these animals and grow up thinking it’s okay, but it’s not.”
Baby animals are taken from their mothers and taken on the road to be displayed in cages and handled by strangers for hours at a time and it’s wrong, Triplett said.
To learn more about the regulation and licensing of exotic animals, go to www.aphis.usda.gov. Visit bigcatrecue.orgfor information about Big Cat Rescue in Tampa.
Click on this story at at the link below to post your comments and contact the mall’s Clarine Eickhoff, Property Manager of Platte River Mall at (308) 534-3090 to ask her to send this abusive act home and to never invite wild animal exhibitors into the mall again.
More about Beth Corley and Joe Schreibvogel at http://www.TigerCubAbuse.com .