Legal victory against tiger cub exploiter!
Many of you have followed our two year long legal battle against Joe Schreibvogel and GW Exotic Memorial Animal Park. Schreibvogel constantly breeds tiger cubs to use to make money by charging people to pet or take photos with them, both at his park and on a “road show” that exhibits at malls and fairs. As part of our increasing focus on advocacy work, we have contacted these venues to educate them about why we believe this was mistreatment of the animals and why it was also bad business because it offended the many people who love animals and oppose this exploitation.
Among his many other unprofessional responses and attacks on Big Cat Rescue and Carole personally, in 2010 Schreibvogel decided to use the name Big Cat Rescue Entertainment for his traveling exhibit. He created a logo where the words Big Cat Rescue looked very much like our logo, and even starting using a phone number with our area code, to create confusion and damage our reputation by having people think we were doing cub petting.
We filed suit in federal court in January 2011 to stop him. As we expected, he counter sued, claiming that in our statements to the venues about him and cub petting we had slandered and libeled him and tortiously interfered with his business relationships.
Separately, he repeatedly used photos we own in violation of our copyright ownership and mischaracterized them. So we filed two lawsuits to stop him from doing that.
The trial for the trademark case was to begin Monday, and the trial for the first copyright case was to begin two weeks later.
Last August we filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the judge to throw out his counterclaims. This past Thursday(2/7/13) the judge ruled in our favor. To paraphrase the legal language of part of her ruling, she concluded that our statements to the malls and to our supporters about Schreibvogel met the legal requirements for being “privileged,” in part because they were made in good faith and with a good motive, and therefore could not be considered slander or libel.
Now with no upside in the lawsuit once his counterclaims were pronounced invalid, rather than face us in two trials where he had nothing to gain and a lot to lose, yesterday Schreibvogel agreed to a Consent Final Judgment under which we were awarded damages and legal fees totaling a little over $1 million dollars.
How this plays out in terms of collecting the judgment remains to be seen. There are some scenarios in which this may turn out to be a benefit to the animals at his park, but it is not appropriate to publicly speculate about those at this point, we can only see what happens. In the meantime, this is a huge victory against a man we have viewed as one of the most notorious exploiters of exotic animals who continually adds to the problem by his incessant breeding and who bragged for two years about how he was going to win millions from us through his invalid claims of slander and libel.
As important as this legal victory is, it is secondary by far to the victory won by our followers on Facebook and those who sign up as Advocats on our website who responded to our requests over the last few years to email and call the venues who host such exploitative displays by Schreibvogel and other exhibitors to show the venues that a large, growing number of the consumers they want as customers love animals and view such exploitation of animals as inhumane, and that hosting such exhibits hurt their image with those consumers. Owners of hundreds of venues have been educated through your efforts and agreed not to have such displays. This has saved many, many tiny tiger cubs from the misery of being carted around and tormented in these displays.
Our attorney Frank Jakes at the Johnson, Pope law firm is our hero for the outstanding work he and his associates did for us in handling this lawsuit.
YOU are the heroes who have saved so many cubs from the misery of these traveling exhibits. We have made tremendous progress on stopping this abuse, and with your critical continued help we plan to eliminate it altogether. Thanks so much for standing with us in this battle that we are winning together!
The public record court documents:
Some people are asking what will happen to the animals at GW Exotics, and that too is up to Joe Schreibvogel. He made the choice to use our name, logo and photos and the fate of his animals is in his hands as well. We can’t make him do the right thing for them, but we hope he will.