Animal House Zoo Carolyn Atchison
Timeline of Abuse
2006: Animal House loses USDA license after egregious violations of the Animal Welfare Act. See court order. 2012 or before: 18 year old Leopard allegedly injured by a doberman at Carolyn Atchison’s “Animal House” in Moulton, AL.
6/11/13 Big Cat Rescue offers to take leopard is seized and get the cat to a vet and then provide lifetime care.
6/21/13 Big Cat Rescue obtains an import permit from the Florida Wildlife Commission to rescue the leopard.
6/21/13 Ethan Eddy, a trial attorney for the U.S. Dept. of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Div. Wildlife and Marine Resources Section sends an agent for USFWS named John Rawls to the facility to see if they can persuade the owner to abandon the leopard to them.
6/24/13 USFWS’ John Rawls drives 3 hours to the Animal House. He says he will have an outside vet examine the leopard. It is unknown if he did, or if he accepted the word of the unlicensed, former vet that is allegedly Carolyn Atchison’s boyfriend. USFWS does not confiscate the leopard. A month goes by with no word from USFWS so Big Cat Rescue contacts USDA to find out what is going on.
7/22/13 USDA says out of their jurisdiction and up to USFWS if anything is going to be done.
7/23/13 Big Cat Rescue contacts the media to see if they can do anything for this poor cat. Animal House nor Carolyn Atchison can be found in USDA’s database any longer here: http://acissearch.aphis.usda.
Based on the suspension she got in 2006, it looks like she never had a license again to buy and sell exotic animals. She had 29 tigers in 2004, so no telling where they all ended up. Back in 2004, USDA only counted tigers and not other species, but in the 90s she had ligers, lions, leopards and all manner of exotic cats. The thing I remember most, as she was showing me around was that every time a worker came up to her she screamed, “What’s dead now?”
The following are details that were gathered second hand and may not be entirely accurate. The photos, however, tell the grisly truth. The owner, Carolyn Atchison, previously had a contract with Lawrence county to be their holding facility for unwanted pets. Witnesses have reported that she was feeding the domestic animals to her wild animals (thus the Doberman / Leopard fight.)
The county revoked her contract and domestic rescue groups were picking up the domestic animals on June 10 when they saw the gut wrenching condition that this leopard was in. They contacted the local authorities, who did nothing, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund to see what could be done to rescue this leopard.
Ethan Eddy is a trial attorney for the U.S. Dept. of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Div. Wildlife and Marine Resources Section. He is sending an agent for USFWS named John Rawls to the facility to see if they can persuade the owner to abandon the leopard to them. If so they will be expecting Big Cat Rescue to be there within 10-12 hours to pick up the cat.
June 10, 2013 a letter from a concerned citizen: We have a big problem with an exotic zoo … in Alabama…There is a leopard with a huge open injury from his paw to his shoulder, please help… The owner has agreed to allow for the removal of the domestic animals, however the owner is opting to keep the exotic animals…there is an injured exotic big cat that looks like a jaguar or leopard.
They are trying to locate an exotic veterinarian that will donate their services to amputate the left front leg, no questions asked, as the owner shut everything down and the animal will be hard to access to help. There are NO laws on the books to protect from private ownership in the state of Alabama. There is a gaping wound with massive muscle and tissue loss. This is an emergency. Please contact me to help.
June 10, 2013 a letter from another concerned citizen: …As of last night we sent all photos and video to ALDF and also filed a complaint with the USDA. We are keeping this very HUSH as she has multiple prior violations. She also is well connected in the Zoo circuit. It is my understanding that she has sent exotics off to others zoo’s but these are the ones that are either too old or her personal “pets”. I’ve attached a couple pictures of the injured cat, please keep that low profile for now, we have jumped past trying to get a vet in as we were able to remove all but two of the dogs yesterday, well before we actually expected to be able to!
We are hoping to hear back today as to what ALDF will be bale to assist with, there are no state agencies that will be able to handle this, nor do i think they would even care. I also included a video of the Cat that a volunteer was able to get while they were distracted loading dogs. There is MUCH more to the story and many exotics there. She has only two employees and was being contracted as local animal control for years, hardly enough of a team to keep the facility clean much less the animals safe. We were given a story that the Cat had an altercation with Doberman and the dog “lost”. Feel free to call me if you can offer any assistance, but at this point we feel it imperative that something be done on a larger level than just getting a vet in. there are injured Owls and other animals that need medical attention.
…she has multiple violations through 2004-08 and a mere 3500 fine for it all! I am now being told that her “vet” lives on this 100 acre property and is her boyfriend, but that could all be a big story to keep the heat off. What do you suggest we do? Feel free to call me if you think you can offer any guidance or help. Below is the link to the USDA complaint from the time period I mentioned. Everything in there is so familiar as to what is occurring now too! http://www.dm.usda.gov/
The lies just don’t add up, the animals there suffering should be enough for the USDA to act however they only gave a 3500 fine the first time, but this goes far beyond exotic ownership it’s a 100 acre hell hole filled with rotting carcasses and unsanitary conditions. The workers mentioned trying to Quit 3 to 4 times over the last 13 years and have gone back “as they knew she would mistreat the animals”
I believe with applied pressure they will, speak out. There is also rumor that the Vet lives in a 3 story mansion on this property. If that is the case, he should be prosecuted as well! Also that there are more exotic cats behind his “house”, but it’s a huge property and we were only able to get access to the certain areas she allowed. We have many accounts of live domestics being fed to the exotics, but no solid proof that I know of. For now all we have is what I sent, which we are all hoping will be enough.
…we do have volunteers who are willing to testify to the pic and videos they took and what they saw and heard, i also have the personal cell numbers of the two workers. We have gotten all but two dogs out aside from the ones she claims to be her personal pets. i feel if we wait she will be able to get rid of key evidence. …PS no vaccinations are given to the domestic animals for those diseases, so those exotics ARE in fact in grave danger of contracting any number of those, we are rampant with parvo here in the South and even speculate at a new strain that may be partially resistant to the vaccinations. have not contacted ANY local agencies, I am terrified they will potentially be someone who will protect her, we have even gotten accounts that a close by AC facility director has been also protecting her over the years, this runs deep!
I don’t know a lot about the care of exotic animals, I am a dog rescuer and animal advocate. what i do know is very little if any precautions were taken to separate the ” Animal Control Facility” from the exotic pens and enclosures. I cannot tell you how many rotting corpses are present as there is just no way to tell without being able to really get in there. I work with some amazing ladies who went up there at thr risk on endangering their own lives to save the domestics, however we all agree that we would be just as bad if not worse than she to turn a blind eye to this, do you hear my friend … telling the Cat how sorry she is, it’s just ripped my heart out and brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.
We are just a group of people that love animals enough to speak and act for them, what good we will be to ensure the safety of these exotics, i just don’t know, but i am a fighter and i will see this through to an end that will help them. I am lost here, i just know i see animals that need us to speak for them as no one else has been willing to, people seem to be afraid of her, I AM NOT, WE ARE NOT! Whatever you can offer to help would be greatly appreciated. I know not much can be done locally nor do i think they will act… I didn’t sleep at all last night, i just couldn’t get this cat and the others out of my head, i already don’t think that the laws protect them at ALL, so i have very little faith in govt agencies and even less in those that are local, from personal experience!
Alabama Regs on Keeping Big Cats
Alabama Category: N Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 64 N Union St.Montgomery, AL 36104 (334) 242-3465 State Web Site Department Web Site Possession of Wildlife for Public Exhibition Purposes Bobcats and mountain lions are not allowed to be imported into the state, transported within the state (except for licensed game breeders), and future possession permits to keep these species will not be issued (as of March, 2003).
Accredited educational facilities, research facilities, and permitted rehabilitation facilities shall be exempt from this regulation through the written permission of the Director of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries or his designee. Previous owners that already have permits will be grand fathered, but breeding is prohibited.
Also issues permits for the public exhibition of wildlife. Carnivals, zoos, circuses, and other like shows and exhibits where ample provision is made so the birds, animals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish will not escape or be released in this state are permitted.
Applications require statement regarding person education and experience, description of facilities, number of species desired, and signed agreement that recommended standards for wildlife exhibition will be adhered to.
Section 3-8-1 Rabies vaccine required for any canidae or felidae; applicability. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, it shall be illegal to own, maintain, sell, or trade any canidae or felidae for which there is no USDA licensed rabies vaccine. Anyone currently owning or maintaining such animal may keep the animal for the length of the animal’s life providing the animal is spayed or neutered and is registered with the Department of Agriculture and Industries.
This section does not apply to any zoological parks, circuses, colleges, and universities, animal refuges approved by the Department of Agriculture and Industries, county or municipal humane shelters, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, or veterinary clinics.(Acts 1994, No. 94-322, p. 562, §8.) http://wwwlegislature.state.