Davie wildlife show operator might lose licenses
officials allege more care violations
State and federal agencies again scrutinizing Vanishing Species Wildlife Inc.March 15, 2010|By David Fleshler, Sun Sentinel
DAVIE An arthritic tiger failed to receive proper veterinary care. Small mammals housed in a shed died when the air conditioning broke down. Tigers disappeared without proper documentation.
A Davie wildlife exhibitor has been accused of those violations in federal inspection reports.
She faces the possible loss of state and federal licenses, after years of using animals to entertain at schools, summer camps, fairs and parties.
Barbara Harrod, who operates Vanishing Species Wildlife Inc., pleaded no contest in February to state charges that she kept animals in unsanitary conditions, used cages that were too small and engaged in other wildlife violations.
She was assessed court costs, not fines.
But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reviewing the case to determine whether to suspend or revoke her license, said Capt. John West, of the agency's law enforcement division.
After a separate federal review, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said she has failed to comply with a federal consent order to move all big cats off her site.
The order was issued after inspectors found animals' food contaminated with blood and maggots, inadequate veterinary care, and tigers left unprotected from sun and rain.
The agreement signed last year gave her until July 31, 2009, to get big cats off her fenced compound along Southwest 136th Avenue in Davie.
However, visits by federal inspectors over the past several months found big cats still there and repeated violations of the laws requiring adequate care for the animals.
"It's been systematic noncompliance," said Nolan Lemon, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"The Animal Welfare Act details minimum standards — minimum standards," Lemon said. "These are repeat violations of those standards."
Harrod said she would answer questions only in writing. Questions were sent by e-mail March 3, but she never responded. Her lawyer, Marshall Platt, could not be reached to comment despite messages left by phone and e-mail.
Despite the agreement to move out big cats, a Feb. 4 inspection found two adult tigers and an adult cougar on the property.
Lemon said Harrod was in violation of the consent agreement.
"It's with our legal folks at this point," he said.
Inspections over the past several months have turned up other violations.
Several small mammals housed in a windowless structure died after the air conditioning failed, according to USDA inspection reports.
Three adult tigers disappeared without the required documentation showing to whom they were given or sold.
The Feb. 4 inspection found an adult tiger named Nicky limping and suffering from arthritis and not receiving adequate veterinary care. The attending veterinarian, who last signed a program of care in 2008, does not live in the area, according to the inspection report.
"It's not like owning a dog or a cat," Lemon said. "There are people who get in with the best intentions and they forget that Tigger is a dangerous animal with very demanding and expensive needs. Vet care is expensive, but you can't compromise on that."
David Fleshler can be reached at dfleshler@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4535.
Tiger in a Shed and a Bobcat in Box
A tiger has been kept in a shed, in a small concrete floored cage for more than 3 years. She interrupts her constant pacing, only to stand up and look out the small window at the world who has forgotten about her. Outside there is a tiny chain link box barely more than two feet wide and maybe eight feet long. Inside, on a toxic mulch floor, paces a bobcat. No where to go and nothing to do, the pitiful bobcat paces back and forth, back and forth...waiting for help to come.
The owner is in the hospital and her volunteers say that she may die there. If she does, she is the only permit holder for the cats and the state could come in and euthanize the cats, or send them to another awful facility where they will be treated just as badly or worse. There are no decent facilities in FL that are willing to take them and Big Cat Rescue doesn't have room. We have to be responsible to the cats we have already rescued and cannot take on another big mouth to feed. We offered to take the bobcat if she would quit trading in cats, but she refused.
This woman runs Animal Rescue Kingdom in Ocala, FL. Even though she exhibits her tiger, she has never complied with getting a USDA license, nor in posting the FL bond. She and another couple are both on her board and on that of Vanishing Species Wildlife. USDA just fined Vanishing Species and found them unfit to care for their big cats, demanding that they find new homes for the tiger, lion and cougar they house in Davie, FL. Horrible facilities like this abound in FL because, unlike other states, our FL Wildlife Commission makes their rules outside of public will. They aren't elected. They know that more than 90% of the public is opposed to this kind cruelty, but they have been unwilling to stop it. Please help us end the breeding and trade in big cats, at least in Florida. Get involved here: http://bigcatrescue.org/laws/fwc.htm Even though the FWC probably won't listen to you, we can then take the case to the Governor who appoints the Commissioners, but we need to be able to let the Governor know that we all tried. Please copy us with your letters so we can present them to him too.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
Caring for cats - Ending the trade
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