USDA Big Cat Symposium

USDA Big Cat Symposium


It’s hard for me to promote the USDA’s Lion, Tiger and Bear Symposium Agenda because it looks like their “agenda” is to promote backyard breeding and exploitation of big cat and bear cubs, (and primate babies as well, although that just didn’t fit in with the cutesy name of the gathering.)

Originally I planned to go because it had been discussed that concerned citizens could weigh in on USDA’s current loophole that allows the unbridled breeding of lions, tigers and other dangerous animals so that the cubs can be ripped away from their mothers and used as photo, swimming and ego props until they are 12 weeks old.  But it is rumored that USDA didn’t want to be seen as “having an animal welfare agenda” and instead has opted for more of the same animal exploitation agenda as they promoted in years past.

I was at their last Big Cat Symposium where their “expert” in big cat handling methods was a 5 generation circus carney, named Kay Rosaire, who said “you poke ’em real hard with a pitchfork a time or two and show ’em who’s boss.”

This year’s “training” looks like more of the same if you look at the topics and the “teachers.”


tigers in circus wagons

Else Poulson has spent 25 years working with zoo animals.

Jay Pratte is from the zoo industry.

Steve Bircher has spent 35 years working in the zoo industry.

Hollie Colahan is quoted in an interview saying, “I raised two cheetah cubs. I kept them in my office for a while to socialize them.” but cheetahs belong with their mothers and don’t need to be socialized by people.

Yvonne Nadler has spent the last 6 years in the zoo industry.

Vanessa Stoffel Vanessa Stoffel is the COO of a roadside zoo and on the board of the ZAA, which lists as part of it’s purpose, “Protect and defend the right to own exotic and domestic animals, in both privately funded and publicly funded facilities.”

Gail Hedberg’s claim to fame is that she has spent 36 hand rearing zoo animals, who were bred to live in cages.

Dr. Cheryl Morris is more zoo staff from Henry Doorly Zoo.

Alan Sironen retired from 35 years of zoo employment.

Dr. Ellen Wiedner is a circus vet speaking on geriatric cats and transportation.

Dr. Wm. Kirk Suedmeyer is another zoo vet.

There are 2 members of the sanctuary community who have been invited to speak.  Pat Craig will talk about how to transport animals, because those in the business of exploiting animals really need some advice there and Ben Callison has been allowed to speak about why sanctuaries are needed…as if an after thought to the problem of hundreds of big cats being bred, used and discarded each year by the zoo industry.

So it definitely does look like there is an agenda here, but that agenda is clearly that USDA values the opinions of those who make a living in the zoo industry.  11 speakers from the zoo industry, 1 from the circus and 2 from sanctuaries.

See the USDA Big Cat Symposium Agenda here:

Maybe backyard breeders, roadside zoo operations and traveling acts will learn something useful at the event, but to me it sounds like USDA is trying to legitimize the captive use of wild animals when public opinion is clearly swinging away from such abuses.





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