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Posted on Aug 6, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 13 comments

Black Jaguar White Tiger

Black Jaguar White Tiger

How can anyone be a follower of Eddie Serio when they see him kick a small cat and mock the cat’s worried owner in this video? https://www.facebook.com/astiffany

Here is a great article from 2016 https://projecticarus2015.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/cubs-cubs-everywhere-and-with-them-oh-the-funds-well-snare/

This is another excellent article about Black Jaguar White Tiger.

Where do celebrities go to pet cubs?  There are a few backyard breeders in the U.S. but the place that attracts the most, and ignorant celebrities is Black Jaguar White Tiger in Mexico.

You know the public opposes cub breeding and handling when Gizmodo goes after the perpetrators of such cub petting schemes with a vengeance like this article.

This is another well considered article that exposes the lies:  https://projecticarus2015.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/a-rescuer-is-supposed-to-rescue/

Yahoo Celebrity News understands why it’s wrong: https://www.yahoo.com/celebrity/celebs-favorite-animal-sanctuary-raises-serious-004456713.html

And bloggers speak out against using cub petting as a way to end cub petting. #BJWT (we had to remove the link to this article because she said she was being threatened and harassed by the BJWT gang.

Artemis Grey calls out Eddie Serio when he tries to act like he’s answering the questions people have, but really isn’t  https://projecticarus2015.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/with-a-sleight-of-social-media-hand-how-black-jaguar-white-tiger-continues-to-choose-slander-over-answers/

Black Jaguar White Tiger

We get a lot of questions about Black Jaguar White Tiger, asking if it is a legitimate sanctuary.  We don’t think so for the reasons listed below.

Sadly, it’s starting to become popular among animal lovers, despite their extremely unprofessional practices.  Like not knowing how to bottle feed a cub and having her blow milk out her nose, which leads to pneumonia:

Black Jaguar White Tiger is a newly-founded private “rescue” for big cats, which started about a year or so ago in a wealthy area of Mexico City. It’s owned and operated by a Mr. Eduardo Serio. While he seems to have good intentions, they are paired with some very questionable practices.

Serio appears to “rescue” his animals by buying them from circuses and private zoos, usually as young cubs. Very young cubs.  Cubs that still have a lot of lucrative weeks left in them for the abusers.  This, of course, is a counterproductive strategy in the long run, because it only encourages the bad breeders to keep breeding. He claims to have “saved” over 30 cats in his first year of operation, which is scary. I know he probably wants to “save them all”, but at that rate, things are going to get out of hand very quickly. Unless he has a lot of resources or learns to say “no”, I’m worried it’s going to turn into a hoarding situation. Serio supposedly has 100 acres of land, but the enclosures are already starting to look pretty crowded, if this video is anything to go by.

Serio states that he does not spay or neuter his animals. My best guess for the reason, given his other opinions, is that he probably believes that it is “cruel” to do so because it would deny them the “natural life” he’s trying to provide (some domestic pet owners still believe this). Unsurprisingly, his cats appear to be breeding like rabbits. On July 16, he posted a video on Facebook of a new litter of lion cubs.  In response Serio has said that someday he will use contraceptives, but there are no safe contraceptives for use in big cats.  Any zoo can tell you horror stories (if they are honest with you) about the cancers and other health issues that are caused by using pharmaceutical solutions to over breeding.

If you are running a sanctuary and want the cats to not breed and live long happy, healthy lives, then you spay and neuter.  Doing it when they are younger increases the cat’s ability to survive the procedure and recover, so there is no excuse not to do it, especially if you have males and females living together.

And in this video, a poor lion can’t even eat without having 3 young tigers trying to steal his food (although I don’t know the origin of the tigers – they may have been “rescued” (i.e. bought). Unlike other breeders, however, Serio does not sell cubs because he firmly believes that nobody should “own” an animal. Nobody except him, of course, because he “loves” them. So all of the cubs are just piling up at his ranch and causing serious overcrowding issues. While he does occasionally invite people (especially famous people) to pet them, he hasn’t turned it into a business… yet. He really seems to hate the people who breed cubs for photo props, having “rescued” several malnourished cubs from photo displays. However, his site does mention that he is planning a “volunteer” program, which conjures up images of those places in South Africa where people essentially pay to play with big cats.

Abuse-MinneapolisZoo_TigerCubsBy far, the biggest problem I have with Serio’s new “Foundation” is that it’s constantly churning out photos and videos on Instagram and Facebook. I’m sure you’re well aware of this, but these photos show Serio patting adult lions on the head, “play-wrestling” with tigers, pushing jaguars around in wheelbarrows, hugging lionesses, and other inappropriate (and unsafe) behaviors. He even has videos of exotic cats living peacefully in his house like a pet, which only encourages the pet trade. Serio (and his followers) often refer to the cats as “kids”, and visitors to the ranch are invited to “play” with 500-lb. adult lions – not a good idea.

Serio claims on his website that the reason his cats don’t attack people (and I’m not making this up) is “the bond of pure and innocent love that keeps us living harmoniously among one another”. It’s the very same fantasy that has doomed so many big cats to life as “pets” – people so desperately want to believe that as long as they have “love”, everything will be OK.

Hundreds of the people who have been mauled and killed by captive big cats thought they were special too and thought that their love for their big cat “friends” was all they needed.  http://bigcatrescue.org/big-cat-attacks/

Of course, gaggles of well-meaning animal lovers (the same kind who would fall for cub-petting schemes) have nothing but praise for Serio and his “amazing bond.” They think that this is the way a real sanctuary is run, to say nothing of the hundreds who express their wishes for their very own pet big cat, or at least the chance to touch one. An ironic message for Serio to be sending, since he says he doesn’t believe that animals should be property.

We reached out to Serio a year or more before this post, because we thought he was doing himself a huge disservice by posing with cubs. We told him that no animal protection group would accept him or even think him a good person unless he stopped acting in such a hypocritical way. We tried to reason with him and didn’t expose him for a long time because we thought he was just foolish and not trying to be cruel. We could not continue to ignore him though when he began trotting celebrities through and having them pose with cubs because people will stupidly mimic celebrities without thinking about the consequences for the cats. We really tried to be nice and still want him to do the right thing.

Overall, I’d say that Black Jaguar White Tiger is nothing more than an ego project from a well-meaning, but seemingly delusional man. He often posts about the “horrible conditions” his cats came from and about how “happy” they are to live with him – and his followers eat it up, calling him an “angel” and praising him profusely for “saving” the animals. And of course, the celebrity snapshots and cute cub pictures have made him a rising star on Instagram. But I don’t think he’s only in it for the glory – he genuinely seems to think he’s “saving the world” by “rescuing” every circus cub in Mexico.

Sadly, like so many animal hoarders, he can’t see the harm he’s doing. This situation is only going to get worse, I’m afraid, especially with the lack of laws in Mexico regarding exotic animals as pets.

When Big Cat Rescue’s founder and CEO was in Mexico in 2015, Eduardo refused to speak to her or allow her to step foot on the property, because he knows that we do not condone posing with big cats.  What else does he have to hide?

Here is a good list of articles about #BJWT

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Posted on Aug 4, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Nergers Splendid Tigers

Nergers Splendid Tigers

“Nerger’s Splendid Tigers” is an old-school circus act that’s billed as the largest traveling tiger show in the United States. The Nerger Show features one dozen tigers which are forced to jump through flaming hoops, form pyramids, play leapfrog, and “dance.” The act is run by Judit and Juergen Nerger, a pair of German tiger trainers who have worked in circuses throughout eastern Europe for nearly 30 years before coming to the United States. Over the years, the Nergers and their tiger show have worked at the infamous Cole Bros. Circus, the Tarzan Zerbini/Royal Canadian Circus, and many small “shrine circuses” across the country. They also perform at fairs and festivals.

The Nergers are currently employed by John Cuneo’s notorious Hawthorn Corporation, a shadowy group with a history of severe animal abuse that leases exotic animal acts to traveling circuses. Hawthorn has racked up over $272,000 in federal fines and had their USDA license suspended twice for over 100 Animal Welfare Act violations. These including failure to provide veterinary care to sick animals, housing pairs of tigers in 6 foot long travel cages for weeks at a time, attacks by tigers on staff (one of which allegedly involved a tiger being beaten with baseball bats), providing the head and skin of a white tiger to an individual who wanted to make a rug out of the parts, and using nothing but a single thin rope as a Nergers Splendid Tigers“barrier” between the public and adult tigers. Although the Nergers themselves have their own USDA exhibitor’s license (#33-C-0452), their tigers are owned by the Hawthorn Corporation, and are housed at Hawthorn’s Illinois facility when not on the road, raising serious concerns about the conditions the animals live in when not performing.

 

The Nerger tigers were trained in 2002-3 at the Hawthorn facility by Luis and Marcia Palacio, a team of Mexican trainers who traveled the world in the 1980s with a “mixed act” featuring tigers, lions, leopards, and hyenas. Once the cats were suitably trained, Wade Burck (a circus trainer who once admitted to whacking animals with 2x4s because “they aren’t capable of thinking like I do”) mentored the Nergers in their “presentation methods” and accompanied them to their first few shows.

In this video of the performance, the body language of the cats (ears pinned back, leaning away from the whips) clearly indicates that they are fearful and stressed. Despite the persistent myth that a large animal “can’t be forced to do something it doesn’t want to do”, the motto of the circus is “the show must go on.” In a 2011 interview for a local newspaper, the Nergers admitted that their tigers are naturally solitary creatures and only appear to “get along” while in the ring “because they know we are there”. They also stated that every tiger is made to participate in every performance, even if it is in a “bad mood” that day.

Nergers Tiger Show

More about the Nerger’s

Cubs too small to perform being housed in the back lot of a 2009 Maine circus.

2009 article on a supermarket chain dropping their sponsorship of Nerger’s act after learning about what they were supporting.

Interview with the Nergers from the Sherando Times

22 years with really big cats

A trainer opens up about tigers, PETA and constant danger

by Dan McDermott

April 27, 2011

Juergen Nerger and his wife Judit have been working with big cats for more than twenty years. They headline this year’s Cole Bros. Circus.

For more than 30 years, Juergen and  Judit  Nerger  have  thrilled audiences with their big cat (and occasionally bear) shows. This year, the Nergers and their tiger act will be headlining the Cole Brothers Circus in Winchester during  the 2011 Apple Blossom Festival.

The Sherando Times spoke with Judit Nerger about how she got into such  an  unusual  and  dangerous line of work. Nerger told us about her  life  with  her  feline  colleagues, dealing  with  PETA  and  what  goes through  her  mind  when  she  hears about  a  trainer  getting  mauled, sometimes fatally, while doing what she and her husband do every day.

The  Sherando  Times:  How  did  you  get  interested  and  involved  in  performing with big cats?

Judit  Nerger:  Oh,  that’s  a  long  story from a long time ago. For me it just happened. My husband was working on it and we are originally from East Germany. It was different there and he was the lucky one who got picked out and got in to perform with big cats and train them.

Times: How long have you been performing in front of crowds?

Nerger: Oh gosh, I have to think about it. It’s 22 years for me and for my husband it’s already 25 years.

Times:  Do you own these tigers and do you always perform with the same group?

Nerger: No, we don’t own them. The owner is somebody else. We are just always around them, taking care of them, training, performing, etc.

Times: Typically, would you have to start when they are babies?

Nerger: Not really. It is just always nice if they are at a very young age but like with these cats, they were already 3 or 4 years old when we got them.  So somebody else got them and started, training them. Most of the time, they are 1-1/2 or 2 years old.

Times: So definitely  you  start them young.

Nerger: Yes, we start them young but sometimes you start with older ones if you don’t have any other choice. You can start with them at a very young age, even if they don’t understand what you want, but it’s all just playing around and making them understand this is where you are able to perform, finding out what they like to do which makes the training much easier because each cat has its own personality – they  just have talent on specific things, you know?

Times: So really the cat dictates the show, to a degree because you discover what they like to do? Because obviously you can’t force a tiger to do something it doesn’t want to do?

Nerger: No, it’s kind of pointless to do something which he really cannot.

Times: Do you work exclusively with tigers or also lions?

Nerger: Well, we used to have a lion but we lost him a couple months ago and we are still looking around for a new one to replace him. In the past, before we came over to the United States, we worked with bears too, brown bears.

Times: I noticed that when the circus travels and you see them, the elephants will typically be put in one pen but the tigers and lions they will segregate. Is that because they don’t get along as well as some other animal species?

Nerger: Well, see a tiger in Mother Nature is always single. But lions are a different story. If you have an act with lions you can have all of them together. But with tigers, if you’re lucky you can have 4 or 5 together. But in most cases it’s like 2 by 2. That works out pretty good.

Times: Now they get along during the show. Is that because they are accustomed to each other?

Nerger: Yeah because we are always in there watching them, really not because they like each other, even if they sit right next to each other you never know. It’s just they know we are inside and they don’t have a chance to go at each other. So we have to be on top of it. We are the police in there.

Times: That’s an interesting analogy. Like you said, they have different personalities and just like people they have good days and bad days. Are there some days when one is in a bad mood and you don’t bring that tiger out that day?

Nerger: No, we take them all the time. We just go with the tiger then because before we line them up we can tell, okay this guy is in a bad mood. This female is in a bad mood or she just kind of doesn’t want to do it today. You really put your feelings in there and just keep an eye on that tiger or do this or this today because there is something going on but we aren’t leaving out any cats at any time unless they are sick.

Times: It was interesting when I saw an act 2 or 3 times. I was taking pictures of the circus and I noticed it was a very different show each day. One day they might be really active and energetic and then another day one of them might be having a lazy day but it was a very different show each time.

Nerger: Yeah, a show is never the same. Each show is different because you never know. They have moods like humans. Of course they have moods. Humans have moods and say, ‘I don’t want to do this.” It’s the same with big cats. I think with any animal it is the same because they have moods.

Times: One thing you have to ask when you talk to someone in your line of work because your line of work is potentially very dangerous and we hear stories every few years. The last one is what happened with the Siegfried and Roy show, a horrible accident. What goes through your mind when you hear something like that and what mistakes may have been made? I guess when something like that happens you learn from it?

Nerger: Yes, we do and each time something like that happens we always get a wake up call. We feel bad about what happened to the person but, I tell you what, most of the time it’s really because the trainer did a mistake. So each mistake you do [the cats] want to take advantage of it. So many, many, many times we get a wake up call and say, hey, never let it be us and then for the next couple days we’re going to be more … It’s just a weird feeling. You think you know it but sometimes it is feels like you are getting into a routine and you really shouldn’t because that’s going to cost you your life. So more, more, more attention!

Times: I remember even when [Roy] was injured, he was down and he said, ‘Don’t hurt the cat!’

Nerger: Yeah, yeah, because it’s not the cat’s fault. They are just taking advantage of it because that’s their nature. So we are saying always, the tiger is just sleeping, even if they are trained. Many people are getting it wrong. Many people think they are tame. They think they are pets and they are really not. They are just trained and the trainer has to always be on top of it. You cannot do any mistakes because the worst is going to happen.

Times: I know that the elephant folks are in a constant battle with PETA and other groups but I don’t hear too much about the other animals. Is that something you have to deal with all the time or do they leave you alone?

Nerger: Well we have to deal with it, not all the time. And you know we even have a website for that reason because I don’t want to get bothered by those people and once in a while you have people in front of the circus – they have demonstrations. Over the years you just get so used to it and it just doesn’t bother you anymore. So we aren’t even going into any arguments or discussions about it because it’s pointless. They don’t know what they are talking about. They have no idea. They don’t understand so therefore we are pretty cool about it. It’s not nice to get bothered by it but I can’t change it. They have their mind. I have my mind and that’s it. And actually with the large cats it’s not so bad as with the elephants.

Times: Yeah I was just reading that at one point there were some elephants in the Cole Bros. Circus I guess last season, and they were calling ahead to each town the circus was in to talk to the local authorities and it was just this ongoing hassle that resulted in eventually losing the elephants.

Nerger: Yeah, I know. Sometimes it’s really bad and some areas are really bad and sometimes you don’t have anything like this so it just depends. It’s very bad.

Times: Now you said you’re from East Germany. I know that the circus, it’s pretty much a novelty in The United States. A lot of kids grow up and they don’t ever get a chance to see a circus except on television. It’s a lot more popular and a bigger deal in Europe isn’t it?

Nerger: Yeah, it’s a big deal; but over the years it’s just business is not too good. To be honest, we have way too many circuses in Germany right now and people will go to circuses they know – they always have good business. But [with] small circuses or family circuses they may have had a bad experience so they aren’t going too often. It used to be a big thing, especially in East Germany because we had no entertainment really. We didn’t have all those cool movie theaters and stuff at the time so it was a big thing.

Times: It was definitely a big difference before the wall fell. A big, big difference between East Germany and what they had.

Nerger: I have a feeling that the circus business here in the U.S. is going way better than in Europe.

Times: Have you performed before in The United States?

Nerger: We have been traveling here for over 8 years now.

Times: How do you like it?

Nerger: Uh, yeah! We like it!

 

 

 

 

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Posted on Aug 2, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

What does the media think about a Walk on the Wild Side?  Listen to this:

Recent news about A Walk on the Wild Side

Cub petting Geoffroy's Cat A Walk on the Wild Side 2017(also known as Toucan’s Exotic Animals) is a traveling fairground exhibit and pseudo-sanctuary based in Canby, Oregon. It is owned and operated by Steve Higgs and Cheryl Jones. Although they are licensed as a nonprofit organization, claim to be a “rescue”,  and are legally permitted to house exotic animals confiscated by the state, they have admitted that they are not a sanctuary and do many things that responsible rescues would never do. These include exploiting tiger cubs for $30 photo-ops; breeding and buying animals for display at fairs; threatening and insulting those who criticize them; renting out animals for parties and commercials; and advocating for the “right” of circuses, roadside zoos, and private owners to own, breed, and exploit endangered species.

A Walk on the Wild Side has had multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and in 2015 public visits to their facility were shut down by Clackamas County officials who found “too many violations to list” of zoning and building codes. Inspectors found that trailers were being used as “nurseries” for baby animals, that other animal enclosures consisted of small chain-link pens covered with tents, and that the zoning under which the property was registered prohibits the facility from being open to the public. When ordered by county officials to build permanent structures to house their animals, A Walk on the Wild Side claimed that they had “no funding” to do so, even though they lamented to a local news station that they made over $50,000 a month from facility tours alone. The organization also does not own any land and is currently in the process of relocating to an equestrian center in Hillsboro, Oregon, creating an unstable situation for their animals.

fair sign A Walk On The Wild Side

From June  through  September, A Walk on the Wild Side visits fairs and festivals throughout the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California, where they display big cats in chain-link cages and sell $30 photos with tiny cubs. The “sanctuary” is a paying member of the Western Fairs Association and the Oregon Fairs Association, where their listing promises fairs “the ultimate feature attraction, education program and crowd pleaser. Exotic animals from all over the world. Lions & tigers, adults & babies.”

Fair Exhibit A Walk On The Wild Side
A Walk on the Wild Side estimates that over 2 million people visit their exhibit each year, and have no qualms about renting out animals for private parties or displaying them at large festivals featuring fireworks and blaring rock music.  They try to justify this by claiming that their rescued animals are never taken to fairs and that their “ambassador animals” were all hand-raised, but no reputable sanctuary  would subject any big cat to the noise and stress of a county fair, or rescue some animals while exploiting others.

Fair Exhibit A Walk On The Wild Side

bobcat at fair A Walk On The Wild SideSacramento County Fair tiger A Walk On The Wild Side

 

Fairground tiger exhibit A Walk On The Wild Side

The above photos were taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s fairground exhibit.

Geoffroy Cat A Walk On The Wild Side

This young Geoffrey’s Cat was being displayed at a fair in a baby stroller.

Selling Photos with Cubs:

During the fair season, A Walk on the Wild Side has a seemingly constant supply of baby big cats, to the point that their staff are expected to work “solely with big cats between the ages of six and 16 weeks.” These cubs are used as photo props in A Walk on the Wild Side’s jungle-themed photo booth, which charges fairgoers $30 to pet and take a photo with a baby tiger, lion, cougar, bobcat, serval, or lynx. Cub-petting is an extremely irresponsible and inhumane practice which no true sanctuary condones. 

cub petting ad on website A Walk On The Wild Side

A screenshot from A Walk on the Wild Side’s website. Legitimate sanctuaries do not provide animals for events, breed cubs, or allow the public to handle animals.

In an industry newsletter, A Walk on the Wild Side writes that their exhibit cubs “are usually given anywhere from 10-12 hours of hands-on, daily interaction by our handlers.” That’s virtually constant handling of a baby that needs to rest, roam, and play to develop properly. Pictures taken at their photo booth show cubs with open sores on their noses from rubbing their faces on the bars of  their travel crates, and although the exhibit claims that the cubs “only work when they want to,” a local news segment filmed at the Oregon State Fair shows a growling, squirming 12-week-old tiger cub named  Siri desperately struggling to escape from the arms of a newscaster while Steve Higgs encourages viewers to pay to hold the cub, too.  The cub is so visibly distressed that the news station’s description for the footage admits that “[the] baby tiger wasn’t happy at all about being held.” In 2015, A Walk on the Wild Side encouraged people to visit their farm to pet a tiger cub that was 15 weeks old, past the 12-week age limit established by federal USDA guidelines.

Cub with open sore A Walk On The Wild Side

Photos of A Walk on the Wild Side’s fair exhibit cubs show visible wounds on the animals’ noses.

photo cub with injured nose A Walk On The Wild Side

Photos of A Walk on the Wild Side’s fair exhibit cubs show visible wounds on the animals’ noses.

tiny lynx cub petting A Walk On The Wild Side

A very tiny lynx kitten being exploited by A Walk on the Wild Side at a fair.

Occasionally, baby bobcats, servals, and cougars are also used as photo props.

Occasionally, baby bobcats, servals, and cougars are also used as photo props.

Occasionally, baby bobcats, servals, and cougars are also used as photo props.

Struggling cub on news A Walk On The Wild Side

This extremely stressed tiger cub was filmed at a fair by a local news outlet.

Although A Walk on the Wild Side tells patrons and the media that their cubs were “rescued”,  many are bred on-site (the facility brags about having “breeding programs with other places”) or are purchased from disreputable private breeders and roadside zoos, including Dade City’s Wild Things and Living Treasures Wild Animal Park. And while signs posted at the cub photo booth claim that the money raised by selling photos “benefits the animals”, A Walk on the Wild Side’s promotional video informs fairs that “the point of all this is to have a fun and profitable experience,” and exhibit staff have been caught boasting in profanity-laced Facebook posts about how “exploiting their animals” has made them “so rich” —  even as their facility claims to not have enough money to build permanent enclosures for their animals.

Admitting that exploitation makes them rich A Walk On The Wild Side


Would an employee of a responsible sanctuary ever post something like this?

Once the cubs are too large to use for photo-ops,  A Walk on the Wild Side sometimes sells them to other private owners and backyard zoos. In an industry newsletter, an employee of A Walk on the Wild Side admits: “We often agree to take in cubs, feed, house, love, and raise them temporarily, so that they can properly and safely be placed with another accredited facility to live out their lives.  We have donated many cubs to smaller zoos throughout the Northwest.”  This directly contradicts the feel-good claims made on their website that A Walk on the Wild Side “provides a home for life” for their animals, and perpetuates the cruel cycle of “breed, exploit, and dump” that true sanctuaries are trying to end.

Deliberately misleading “education”:

Like most exhibitors, A Walk on the Wild Side claims that they exist to educate people about wildlife. But instead of teaching patrons about the role that their animals play in the wild, explaining that wild animals make poor pets, or that the private trade in big cats is harmful, they’ve stated that their primary goal is to “educate the public about responsible animal ownership.Their exhibit is designed to “teach” people that their big cats don’t belong in the wild, and that the breeding, exploitation, and trade of endangered animals by private owners is a form of “conservation,” even though virtually all reputable conservation groups warn that it’s not.

Misleading education at cub petting booth A Walk On The Wild Side

At their exhibit, A Walk on the Wild Side displays a large “educational” poster that says “So You Think They Belong in the Wild…” The poster was written by a group which lobbies for the private ownership and trade of big cats, and makes the inaccurate claims that “the wild” no longer exists, that accredited zoos “aren’t doing enough” to save species, and that the only way to save tigers from extinction is with the “help” of private owners, breeders, and exhibitors. Another sign, posted on the cage of what A Walk on the Wild Side claims is a Barbary Lion, includes virtually no information about the species, and instead features a generic message “informing” readers that “legislation trends which threaten to ban private ownership of endangered species” would “speed their extinction.” These claims have been debunked by real conservationists, who warn that the private trade in endangered species is harmful, not helpful.

And what about the cub interactions? A Walk on the Wild Side claims that allowing the public to physically handle an animal increases the public’s knowledge and support of the species. But in a video advertising their cub photo booth, A Walk on the Wild Side mentions that “many people ask us if they can take the tiger home” — not the kind of “educational message”  a sanctuary should be sending.

Animal Welfare Concerns:

When not being exhibited at fairs, A Walk on the Wild Sides’ 174+ exotic animals live at a farm in Canby, Oregon that is being leased from a local concrete company. The big cats appear to be housed in rows of tiny, gravel-floored chain link dog runs with no natural vegetation and poor drainage. In some cases, enclosures are held together with plastic zip-ties and rope. These enclosures are perfectly legal under USDA regulations, which is why having USDA “accreditation” is nothing for a facility to brag about.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

 

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side's pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

Photo taken at A Walk on the Wild Side’s pseudo sanctuary in Canby, Oregon.

 

A Walk on the Wild Side has racked up at least 8 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act since 2009, including failure to provide inspectors with animal transfer records; inexperienced staff; failure to maintain adequate barriers between the public and tigers; and failure to provide animals with adequate veterinary care and housing.

According to USDA inspection records, one of the staff, as of December 2009, only had 3 months of on the job experience working with big cats, and liked to let the cats “comb his hair.”  In 2014, an inspector found that an enclosure holding a pig, a red fox and two young tigers contained excessive water after an overnight rainstorm, leaving the animals without adequate dry space (she noted that plans were in place to remedy the problem later that day). In September of 2012, A Walk on the Wild Side was written up for failing to maintain adequate separation between animals and the public after a spectator at an expo approached a transport cage holding an adult tiger and touched the animal’s face.
Multiple pictures taken behind-the-scenes at the “sanctuary” and posted online show staff members holding metal pipes, wooden canes, and broom handles while “walking” an adolescent tiger on multiple leashes and chains. Another photo, taken from A Walk on the Wild Side’s promotional video, shows an adolescent lion that appears to have an abrasion on its nose being walked on a rope.

Handlers with chain and metal pipe A Walk On The Wild Side

Handlers with chain and metal pipe A Walk On The Wild Side

Cheryl Jones walking tiger A Walk On The Wild Side

Cheryl Jones walking tiger A Walk On The Wild Side

A Walk On The Wild Side Weapons

A Walk On The Wild Side Weapons

injured lion on leash A Walk On The Wild Side

Injured lion on leash A Walk On The Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side’s Canby facility was open to the public until county officials closed it in spring 2015 due to multiple code violations. Visitors who went there have left near-unanimous negative reviews, to the point where the organization has only one star on Google. There, reviewers have referred to it as a “roadside circus attraction” and complained that the cats “are kept in cages far too small for the animal in question,” while Yelp reviews of the farm detail horrific neglect, as evidenced by these excerpts:

I felt sorry for these animals and wonder how they got a license to keep them. The animals were dirty and  some had very little shelter from the rain and cold.

There are no words. This place is absolutely disgusting, and I’m not even sure that it’s actually legal. The exotic tigers are in Huge dog kennels, it was really frightening. The poor exotic cats were in smaller dog kennel cages and their cages were filthy!!! The place smelled sooo horrible as well.

[The animals] were in small dirty cages and seemed distressed. One rabbit we saw had a vicious infection in it’s ears. It was quite disturbing. My girlfriend and I were debating making a call to some agency to investigate their operation.

I visited here last October and it made me sick to my stomach. They have a “farm” aka huge amount of animals there being horribly neglected. They have Lions, a Tiger, and a camel, all kept outdoors in Oregon cold and rain. They also have caged housecats, bobcats, and tons of wild animals that… …shouldn’t be living in small chicken wire cages in the rain and cold.

One of the most recent animal welfare complaints against A Walk on the Wild Side comes from a nearby donkey rescue, which in January 2016 received multiple concerned calls about over 25 donkeys (including pregnant females and foals) which were being kept by Steve Higgs out in the winter elements with no shelter and little food and water. When confronted by the sanctuary, Higgs stated that he had “rescued” the donkeys from several surrounding states and planned to use them for breeding and moneymaking schemes. Attempts by the donkey rescue to help the animals by offering water and hay were rejected by Higgs, who insisted that donkeys “do not need shelter” and warned that any further attempts to help his animals would be considered trespassing. When the donkey sanctuary updated their Facebook followers on the situation, A Walk on the Wild Side threatened to sue for “slander.”

Hostility towards critics:

While genuine sanctuaries protect animals from exploitation and welcome questions about their animals, A Walk on the Wild Side advocates for the use of big cats in entertainment and is extremely hostile and rude towards anyone who has concerns about their animals’ welfare. Facebook postings by the “sanctuary” openly support the use of elephants and big cats in circus acts, accuse all responsible sanctuaries and animal welfare groups of being “PETA” and “killing animals,” and mock those who disagree with them, stating that “we welcome positive comments and opinions, not those from uneducated people!This is not the behavior of a professional organization.

Negative comments left on A Walk on the Wild Side’s Facebook page are removed and the original poster blocked, while negative reviews are “responded to” by staff taking a screenshot of the review and posting it on the page with insults. Here are some screenshots from their Facebook page. None of them are things that professional animal rescue organizations would ever post:

Pro Circus A Walk On The Wild Side

facebook3 A Walk On The Wild Side

Here, A Walk on the Wild Side accuses The Elephant Sanctuary, a legitimate, GFAS-accredited sanctuary for retired performing elephants, of being “PETA/HSUS”, even though it has no affiliation with either group. The poster’s suggestion that A Walk on the Wild Side model their responsible behavior by not exploiting animals is dismissed as an “uneducated opinion.

mocking critics online A Walk On The Wild Side

This person posted a link to a news article about A Walk on the Wild Side’s Canby location being shut down due to multiple code violations and urged the Portland Rose Festival to reconsider hosting their exhibit. A Walk on the Wild Side rejected the contents of the article as another “opinion” and mocked the poster, calling her an “uneducated hateful person.

admitting theyre not a sanctuary A Walk On The Wild Side

Here, A Walk on the Wild Side admits that they are not a sanctuary, while shaming and threatening the original reviewer for “online bullying” and leaving a “false review”.

Unfortunately, A Walk on the Wild Side’s online hostility often extends to the real world. There have been multiple reports of A Walk on the Wild Side staff responding to fairgoers’ honest questions and concerns with rude and threatening language that occasionally turns into physical violence. Google reviewers frequently mention that the staff are “mean“, and one mother who visited the exhibit at a festival complained that she was “screamed at by the most repulsive, delusional, and disgusting woman I have ever met.” Another reviewer states that they “happily berate anyone who might disagree or ask a question about the morality of what they do… …they support animals in the circus, and only laugh when you ask about their stance on the abuse those animals go through.” A patron who tried to film the conditions the animals were living in reports being forcibly “escorted out” of the exhibit, and one of A Walk on the Wild Side’s staff recently bragged on Facebook about telling a concerned patron “that he sounds like a PETA freak who needs to be kicked in the nuts!

When a group of animal welfare activists asked Cheryl Jones and Steve Higgs some honest questions about the living conditions of their animals at a 2009 fair, “the only answer they could give was attempting to shout us down and threats of calling 911. Cheryl Jones then struck me and could only respond to us by calling us “PETA lovers” and claiming they were “educating children about animals.When Canby police arrived Cheryl and Steve demanded we be arrested. Canby police politely upheld our first amendment rights.

Connections with roadside zoos and the pet trade:

Responsible sanctuaries do not breed more animals for a lifetime of captivity or support the underregulated private trade which is driving the captive big cat crisis. But in a newsletter published by the deceptively-named Feline Conservation Federation; a  group which advocates for the “right” of private individuals to breed, own, and use exotic cats for entertainment; an employee of Walk on the Wild Side states that their facility’s goal is to “…advocate for private ownership and continue our mission of healthy captive breeding.

A Walk on the Wild Side is very connected with private breeders and roadside zoos, including the notorious Joe Schreibvogel, and have bragged about their “breeding program” with unspecified overseas facilities. Its staff  have directed  prospective “pet” owners looking for a specific cat to their network of wild and exotic animal breeders, and A Walk on the Wild Side’s Facebook page has encouraged people to visit disreputable private zoos such as the Zoological Wildlife Foundation and Dade City Wild Things, calling them “great facilities.” Criticism of any of these “friends” is not tolerated. When a family member of A Walk on the Wild Side employee posted a Facebook comment concerned about screaming tiger cubs being forced to “swim” with tourists at Dade City Wild Things, the employee explained that the abusive attraction “is a friend” of their facility and responded with this rant:
Do you support our allowing the public to get a picture with a lion/tiger cub? And these people paying? And often [our cubs] cry…it’s not “crying” it’s literally the form of communication.  And have you not seen the “negative” comments our fB page had received lately? Lots of negatives. And no they don’t list themselves as “PETA” but clearly they are uneducated individuals who are following along like sheep. Leaving bogus, false, comments/accusations on individuals Business pages, should be illegal! FYI I picked up Kira [a tiger cub], at the age of 4 weeks [from Dade City’s Wild Things]. Along with her sibling who went to West Coast Game Park. If your post such comments on my page, about fellow animal facilities that we support then I’m deleting you. Cause frankly, Cheryl would not approve of such things being posted either. You saying/posting what you are makes us look bad as well. And FYI we ourselves plan (in the future) tiger swims. I hope you or none of your family ask for one, as I will remind you of your comments.”

To sum it up, this “sanctuary” openly advocates for the private breeding and exploitation of exotic animals, houses them in substandard conditions, and bullies anyone who questions their practices or their industry. Events that host them are supporting the private ownership and trade of endangered big cats, and NOT a responsible rescue.

 

A Walk on the Wild Side in the News

A Defiant Couple Is Caging Big Cats in the Portland Suburbs. Should Anybody Stop Them?
The animal lovers behind this nonprofit say they are farmers. What kind of farmers? Tiger farmers.

Customers, like these Jackson County fairgoers, can pay $30 to pose for photos holding tiger cub Zarah. Higgs says the photo ops help condition the cat to enjoy interacting with humans, and they help pay for the cub’s expensive formula. (Shelby Snow)

By Katie Shepherd |
Published July 26 at 5:34 AM  Updated July 26 at 5:34 AM

http://www.wweek.com/news/business/2017/07/26/a-defiant-couple-is-caging-big-cats-in-the-portland-suburbs-should-anybody-stop-them/

What is Cheryl Jones hiding?

Two months ago, Jones and her partner, Steve Higgs, moved much of their family business to an old horse farm outside Hillsboro. Parts of the 80-acre property can be seen just south of Highway 26, but most of the land is tucked behind the tree line.

“No Trespassing” signs line the half-mile gravel driveway. A metal security gate flanked by two stone lions blocks visitors from the farmhouse where Jones and Higgs have set up shop.

Jones and Higgs run one of Oregon’s odder nonprofits: A Walk on the Wild Side, a charity whose purpose, according to tax forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service, is “educational.” Its mission: to house exotic animals and transport them in a fifth-wheeler up and down the West Coast to county fairs and birthday parties. Higgs manages the business of the nonprofit. Jones is the self-taught animal handler.

Since their move to Hillsboro in May, Jones and Higgs have stirred up the largely rural neighborhood. A Walk on the Wild Side’s new home sits among properties that are typically more than 80 acres in size, and are home to blueberry fields and horse stables. But it’s also less than a four-minute drive to a McDonald’s and a Subway. In other words, it sits at the edge of regional planning agency Metro’s urban growth boundary.

A number of neighbors say Jones is a menace. Former neighbors say she keeps her animals in cages too small. Washington County planning officers say she’s flouting regulations. Her landlord, on the other hand, calls her a freedom fighter.

Jones herself? She says she and her husband are misunderstood. “Come and see us at a fair,” she says. “Come and talk to us. Don’t just think that we’re the most terrible people who walk this earth.”

Just don’t ask to visit their new home.

This much is certain: At dusk in Washington County, the roar of lions can be heard from more than a mile away.

KEEP OUT: No one is allowed to visit A Walk on the Wild Side’s property – making it difficult to know exactly what the nonprofit is keeping in its chainlink cages. (Daniel Stindt)
KEEP OUT: No one is allowed to visit A Walk on the Wild Side’s property – making it difficult to know exactly what the nonprofit is keeping in its chainlink cages. (Daniel Stindt)

That’s because Jones and Higgs are assembling one of the largest collections of big cats in the state. Their farm, a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland, holds nearly twice as many lions and tigers as the Oregon Zoo.

No government official has inspected the property since they moved the cats in. Jones and Higgs declined to allow WW to see the animals, saying the publicity could embolden regulators trying to shut them down.

For two decades, allegations of animal neglect and insufficient safeguards have dogged the couple—part of the reason they left their previous location, in Canby, 26 miles south of Portland along 1-5. But those complaints, often filed by neighbors, have almost never been substantiated. In fact, the couple have only once been cited for criminal animal neglect, in 2002, and the charges were later dropped.

Yet their new home could be short-lived, for reasons that stem not from animal welfare protections but land-use laws. In June, Washington County officials sent Jones and Higgs notice that the property they are now renting for A Walk on the Wild Side isn’t zoned for exotic animal exhibits. It can only be used as a farm.

Jones and Higgs, who have several decades’ experience dealing with adversaries, say—with completely straight faces—that’s exactly what it is. A farm.

And what are they farming? Tiger poop.

SORE SPOT: Zarah, a 3-month-old Bengal tiger, rubbed her face raw before the Jackson County Fair this month. “They rub,” says Cheryl Jones. “Some cats more so than others because they want to be out with you.” (Paul Steele)
SORE SPOT: Zarah, a 3-month-old Bengal tiger, rubbed her face raw before the Jackson County Fair this month. “They rub,” says Cheryl Jones. “Some cats more so than others because they want to be out with you.” (Paul Steele)

Zarah, a 3-month-old Bengal tiger cub, has spent most of her short life on the road: the Stockton County Fair in California, the Jackson County Fair in Southern Oregon, and Portland’s own Rose Festival.

Because she’s still so small—45 pounds, about twice the size of a housecat—she gets to sit in the cab of Jones and Higgs’ van and sleep with them in hotel rooms. Jones feeds her formula from a bottle.

At each stop, A Walk on the Wild Side charges fairgoers $30 to pick Zarah up from behind and hoist her into the air, like Simba being offered to the sun in The Lion King.

Jones and Higgs also take cubs to birthday parties and other private events, charging $200 to add a tiger to elaborate photo ops with partygoers dressed as Aladdin and Jasmine.

On occasion, they waive the fee. Mindy Hegstad’s son Jay is terminally ill with a rare genetic condition. Hegstad, who lives in Longview, Wash., called Higgs recently and asked if he would bring one of his big cats to Jay’s 11th birthday party on July 1. Higgs brought Zarah for free.

“This birthday was a miracle. We didn’t think he was going to make it,” Hegstad says. “Jay got to hold the tiger and feed the tiger its bottle. The tiger was just freaking adorable and so well-behaved.”

ANIMAL LOVER: Cheryl Jones has been in love with wild animals since she saved a seagull with a hook its beak at age 12. (A Walk on the Wild Side)
ANIMAL LOVER: Cheryl Jones has been in love with wild animals since she saved a seagull with a hook its beak at age 12. (A Walk on the Wild Side)

Cheryl Jones rescued her first animal when she was 12 years old and living on a Portland houseboat with her family, which had moved there from Pasadena, Calif. It was a seagull with a fishhook in its beak.

Ever since then, she’s been in love with wild animals.

Jones and Higgs look as if they could be twins: straw blond-haired, tanned and clad in matching black polo shirts with a lion and tiger embroidered on the breast pocket.

The pair met 37 years ago at a Portland riding stable. She had worked as an operations manager at horse and greyhound racetracks. He had studied to become a physician’s assistant but dropped out of school to take care of his kids when his first marriage fell apart.

When they moved in together in Sandy, people started bringing them farm animals. At first, it was donkeys, horses and goats that had been abandoned by their owners.

But in 1987, they took in a cougar from the litter of a friend’s cat.
“A friend of ours asked us if we would bottle-raise one of her cougars,” Higgs recalls. “It took off from there.”

A Walk on the Wild Side displayed a cougar at the Jackson County Fair this month. (Paul Steele)
A Walk on the Wild Side displayed a cougar at the Jackson County Fair this month. (Paul Steele)

Keeping a big cat is perfectly legal.

There are more tigers in American backyards than in the jungles of Asia. The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses about 2,600 animal exhibitors nationally, including roadside zoos, circuses and private rescue organizations. A Walk on the Wild Side is one of them—and has been since the early 1990s.

In 2011, Oregon lawmakers stopped issuing permits to people who wanted to own exotic animals as pets, after a number of high-profile escapes and maulings nationwide. But because Jones and Higgs were already licensed by the USDA, they were grandfathered in. Not only could they keep their animals, they could take in new ones.

By then, Jones and Higgs had settled in Canby, on 72 leased acres. They began taking in strays in earnest—both animals and people.

Jennifer McCall Ricke, a Clackamas County medical assistant, volunteered at A Walk on the Wild Side when she was a teenager in the early 2000s. She says Jones and Higgs would often provide lodging for their volunteers, many of whom were otherwise homeless.

“They’re good people,” she says. “Some people think that they’re not because of what they do, but you just have to get to know them.”

In 2002, Jones and Higgs brought home their first tiger, Shere Khan. And in 2009, A Walk on the Wild Side registered as a nonprofit. According to the nonprofit’s tax returns, no one takes a salary or stipend from the organization’s revenues, including Jones and Higgs.

HAVE TIGER, WILL TRAVEL: A Walk on the Wild Side advertises its many entertainment offerings on the side of a trailer it uses to haul aninflatable slide and other equipment. (Clackamas County photo.)
HAVE TIGER, WILL TRAVEL: A Walk on the Wild Side advertises its many entertainment offerings on the side of a trailer it uses to haul aninflatable slide and other equipment. (Clackamas County photo.)

The money that A Walk on the Wild Side brings in from fairs, parties and photo ops—between $250,000 and $350,000 a year in recent years—helps pay for care of the animals, Higgs says.

“These animals are like our kids,” says Higgs, who manages the nonprofit’s business side. “We’re not making money off these guys. All the money that we earn, that’s keeping these guys alive.”

Anna Frostic, an attorney for the Humane Society of the United States, questions whether A Walk on the Wild Side is a charity or just a hobby.

Frostic helped author a 2012 petition to the USDA asking for tighter restrictions on who may own exotic animals. She says A Walk on the Wild Side was mentioned twice in that petition for allowing thousands of strangers to hold, bottle-feed and pose for photos with baby tigers.

Frostic says A Walk on the Wild Side’s justifications—that it is educating the public and training cubs to embrace human interaction—was “a common song we hear from unaccredited roadside zoos across the country.”

Since 2009, Higgs and Jones have been dogged by complaint calls, often from neighbors going to the Clackamas County sheriff about undernourished horses and dirty cages. The sheriff’s office and Canby police say they have responded to 83 calls regarding the property during the past nine years.

“It is an unusually high number of calls for a single property,” says Deputy Brian Jensen.

In August 2009, Joanna Derungs, who lived nearby, called to report eight horses that looked too thin.

“I drove by there every day and saw the horses’ health deteriorate,” Derungs recalls. “I finally decided to do something about it. This was so obvious because the horses were getting sick and laying down and probably dying.”

Jones acknowledges that inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture came out to look at their horses several times after calls like that—but she was never cited for neglect. (She says sometimes she’d take in sick, undernourished horses to treat and fatten them up.)

SQUASHED: A Walk on the Wild Side’s tigers played with fruit fromthe pumpkin patch that Steve Higgs and Cheryl Jones opened each Octoberin Canby. (A Walk on the Wild Side)
SQUASHED: A Walk on the Wild Side’s tigers played with fruit fromthe pumpkin patch that Steve Higgs and Cheryl Jones opened each Octoberin Canby. (A Walk on the Wild Side)

In fact, records show Jones and Higgs have actually been cited only a handful of times by the USDA, for insufficient fencing, dirty cages and improper paperwork. Jones says all of those problems were minor and fixed.

By 2012, Jones and Higgs had accumulated several lions and tigers, letting the public come and view the animals in their cages for $5 per person. Many of their early visitors also came for an annual pumpkin patch.

One of those visitors was John Robinson, who came to the property in October 2013. He told WW he was so shocked by the conditions he witnessed—specifically, small, filthy cages—that he called the sheriff. So did another visitor, Christine Smith.

“The last Halloween trip we took the kids there, it wasn’t very clean,” Smith says. “There was a lion, I think, or a cougar, a bunch of different rodent-type things, birds, chickens, skunks, different types of wild animals. They were stinky and nasty-looking. I’m never going back there again.”

Clackamas County never found much to support the claims of animal neglect. But officials did start bugging Jones and Higgs about code violations.

In 2014, Andrea Hall and Kim Priest, code enforcement coordinators for Clackamas County, inspected the property. She found piles of garbage leaning against animal cages. The fencing around the bear’s cage had been built without a permit. A barn had been converted into a reptile house, but the electrical work for lamps that kept the cold-blooded animals alive was installed without a permit, had not been inspected and left wires exposed. People were living in two unlicensed RVs that the county deemed illegally occupied.

“I don’t think I’ve run into a case with such a variety of animals,” Hall now says.

Clackamas County officials captured shots of a tiger pacing up and down its cage during a 2014 site visit to A Walk on the Wild Side’s Canby property. (Clackamas County)
Clackamas County officials captured shots of a tiger pacing up and down its cage during a 2014 site visit to A Walk on the Wild Side’s Canby property. (Clackamas County)

Higgs says the violations were nitpicky and designed to unfairly target A Walk on the Wild Side. “She was just like a pit bull going after us,” he says. “If one thing didn’t work, then she would just come up with another thing.”

For more than a year, Clackamas County sent letters to Jones and Higgs about the zoning violations, which were upheld. By November 2014, the couple decided to shut down their public zoo and started traveling more often to county fairs, typically bringing tiger cubs and cougars.

About a year later, the Canby property they were renting was sold to a new owner. Fortunately, a wealthy patron had already invited them to Hillsboro.

LEASE ON LIFE: Clackamas tycoon Terry Emmert has become a landlord for A Walk on the Wild Side. “I think that organizations that help rescue animals are a plus to our society,” he says, “not a minus.”
LEASE ON LIFE: Clackamas tycoon Terry Emmert has become a landlord for A Walk on the Wild Side. “I think that organizations that help rescue animals are a plus to our society,” he says, “not a minus.”

He met Jones and Higgs at a local fair. When he heard they needed to move, he offered them a lease. And he says their battles with regulators in Canby motivated him to help.

“No matter what you’re trying to do, whether you’re trying to help kids or help animals, there’s always someone who is going to try to stop you these days,” Emmert says, sitting behind a conference table at his Clackamas hauling company, Emmert International. “No man’s life, property or liberty is safe while we have unrealistic regulations.”

MYSTERY FARM: From above, you can see the four houses and other structures on the old McKay Creek horse farm. But the tenants won’t permit visitors.(Google Maps)
MYSTERY FARM: From above, you can see the four houses and other structures on the old McKay Creek horse farm. But the tenants won’t permit visitors.(Google Maps)

In March 2015, a full year before Higgs and Jones began their move, Washington County officials say they informed their real estate agent that the land wasn’t zoned for wild animals—it could only be used as a farm.

Rita Howard, who has lived nearby on her family farm in rural Hillsboro since 1966, was aware of the restriction. Which is why she was surprised in May when she heard lions roaring.

“It almost sounded like a cow calling its calf,” Howard recalls, “but no, that’s not a cow.”

Standing on a neighbor’s truck bed, she realized it was the sound of big cats. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, are you kidding me?'” Howard says. “They were told they couldn’t move in there. How could that be?”

Cheryl Jones says the big cats are kept in smaller cages when visitors come to the property—for safety. (Clackamas County)
Cheryl Jones says the big cats are kept in smaller cages when visitors come to the property—for safety. (Clackamas County)

In early June, Tom Harry, a code enforcer for Washington County, got the first call about lions roaring nightly. He sent a cease-and-desist letter June 23 informing A Walk on the Wild Side that it could not keep wild animals.

Jones and Higgs’ attorney, Geordie Duckler, doesn’t dispute that the couple is keeping exotic animals in Hillsboro. But he argued to Washington County in a June 28 letter that the nonprofit may keep big cats on the property because A Walk on the Wild Side meets the legal definition of a farm.

“They’ve got livestock,” Duckler tells WW. “They’re raising poultry. They’re selling other animal products. They’re not operating like an attraction.”

To be considered a farm under Oregon law, A Walk on the Wild Side must produce an agricultural product. Duckler and his clients say they have one: tiger and lion dung.

A Walk on the Wild Side’s front entrance in Hillsboro. (Daniel Stindt)
A Walk on the Wild Side’s front entrance in Hillsboro. (Daniel Stindt)

“By raising these tigers, they of course have poop that [we] extract,” Higgs says. “That is being used by farmers to keep the coyotes out and the cougars out. They smell that scent, and they don’t want anything to do with a tiger.”

Higgs says he has a dozen clients buying tiger dung. Among them are cattle and sheep ranchers—but he says the biggest market is cannabis growers who want to keep pests out of their crop.

Steve Pedery, who studies native predators as conservation director for the environmental nonprofit Oregon Wild, doesn’t think tiger poop would help ranchers much. “I am dubious that exotic cat dung would do much to deter wolves or coyotes,” he wrote in an email. “In the case of wolves, I’d fear it might actually serve as an attractant.”

Washington County officials don’t have a ready answer for Jones and Higgs’ argument.

“This is the first we’ve heard about them selling manure,” says county land-use spokeswoman Melissa DeLyser. She says the county’s lawyer “would have to do some legal research to determine whether manure from an exotic animal is a farm use.”

In 2013, Jones told Clackamas County officials that A Walk on the Wild Side owned sheep, goats, miniature cows, alpacas, pigs, horses, donkeys, rabbits, cavies (a large rodent), birds, kinkajous, lemurs, monkeys, bobcats, servals, caracals, a lynx, a fox, tigers, lions, a leopard, and hundreds of reptiles.

Jones and Higgs tells WW that most of these animals have been moved to Hillsboro—including the big cats: seven tigers and five lions. (The Oregon Zoo has six lions and one tiger.)

They are seeking more.

Jones claims to have one of the world’s few purebred Barbary lionesses and and has partnered her with a mate, hoping for cubs. She says she’s talking with zoos that aim to preserve the species, including the San Diego Zoo. (Neither the San Diego Zoo nor the Association of Zoos and Aquariums had any recollection of Jones.)

Jones also says she is successfully breeding smaller cats like servals and Canada lynx, and other animals like cavies and wallabies.

“Sometimes we feel like, ‘God, we’re the only ones out there trying to do anything and help with this,'” Higgs says. “We’re working hard to make sure that our children’s children’s children are going to be able to see these cats.”

FAT CAT: A Walk on the Wild Side provided photographs of its animals, like Leo the lion. Cheryl Jones says Leo loves to play in old McDonald’s PlayPlace tubing. (A Walk on the Wild Side)
FAT CAT: A Walk on the Wild Side provided photographs of its animals, like Leo the lion. Cheryl Jones says Leo loves to play in old McDonald’s PlayPlace tubing. (A Walk on the Wild Side)

The couple is adamant that they are an open book. For almost two weeks, Higgs told WW that a reporter would be welcome to tour the farm, to see how carefully it’s being run. But last week, Duckler said abruptly that WW would not be allowed on the property.

When WW traveled to Jones and Higgs’ property this week to ask follow-up questions, a reporter was not allowed to view the animals.

Jones says that’s because they’re gearing up for a battle with Washington County and don’t want to give their opponents any ammunition.

“We’d love to have you,” she says. “I have nothing whatsoever to hide, but we’ve kind of got a gun to our head.”

Howard, their Hillsboro neighbor, remains worried.

“I’m an animal lover,” she says. “I’m just opposed to the sneakiness. To me, that means they’re hiding something.”

A Canada lynx at the Jackson County Fair. (Paul Steele)
A Canada lynx at the Jackson County Fair. (Paul Steele)

Jones and Higgs laugh at the idea that neighbors should be alarmed at the prospect of their tigers escaping.

“If they got out, they’re not going to go far,” Jones says. “They’re going to come to us. Tigers are the biggest chicken animals you’ve ever seen in your life.”

“We have Chihuahuas that will chase our tigers away,” Higgs adds.

A Walk on the Wild Side’s next exhibit starts July 26 at the Hood River County Fair. Next month, it’ll be a featured attraction at the Clark County Fair in Ridgefield, Wash.

Washington County planning officials say they still don’t know their next move.

This story is published in the July 26 print edition of WW with the headline, “The Tiger Farmer.”

(Joanna Gorham)
(Joanna Gorham)
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Posted on Jun 17, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Wild Animal Park Jeff Taylor

Wild Animal Park Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor should be judged by the company he keeps: Joe Schreibvogel (#73-C-0139) remains one of the largest suppliers of big cat cubs for public contact exhibition and other purposes (despite the fact that he filed for bankruptcy on behalf of his personal estate and his corporation in March 2013). Certificates of Veterinary Inspection received through a public records request to the state of Oklahoma illustrate the web of connections between Mr. Schreibvogel and numerous substandard exhibition facilities across the country. In addition to the evidence of animal transport and disposition that was presented in the Petition, between February 19, 2011 and September 5, 2013, Mr. Schreibvogel exported at least 51 tigers, 7 lions, 2 leopards, 5 bears, and 2 monkeys. To date this year, Mr. Schreibvogel has disposed of at least 21 tiger cubs, including four cubs who were only three days old at the time of transport (and nearly all of whom were under four months at the time of transport, yet were not traveling with their dams). These big cats, bears, and nonhuman primates went to multiple exhibitors (several of whom regularly engage in public contact exhibition) in over a dozen states: Karl Mitchell, Robert Engesser (d/b/a The Zoo/Jungle Safari), Joel Almquist (d/b/a Forever Wild), Bearizona, Bill Coburn (d/b/a/ Wild Acres Ranch), Tiger Haven, Greg Woody, Ryan Easely, Joe Camp (d/b/a Jungle Exotics), Noah’s Lost Ark, National Tiger Sanctuary, Big Cats of Serenity Springs, Deborah Hendrickson, Jeremy Hinkle (d/b/a Wild Animal Safari), Noah’s Ark, Sue Pearce (d/b/a Animal Adventures), Ringling Bros. Circus, Dana Savorelli (d/b/a Monkey Island), Jeff Taylor (d/b/a Wild Animal Experience), Tammy Thomson (d/b/a Camp Junction), and Tiger World.

Find out more about why exploiters, who claim to be “educating” are sending the worst possible message at CubTruth.com

 

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Posted on Jun 12, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Kevin Richardson

Kevin Richardson

Kevin Richardson says he loves his cats however, we feel that what he does is not only dangerous but is incredibly irresponsible and selfish. What he does sets a horrible example.

With his WORDS he says big cats are not pets but with his ACTIONS he makes people want to touch and play with big cats, and their babies. People pay more attention to actions than they do words.

When people see facilities or exhibits that pimp cubs out for petting and photo schemes they will pay to participate in those because people like Kevin Richardson make it look like so much fun.  They want people to think they are a “Lion Whisperer” too.

Facilities in Africa that pimp cubs for petting and photos like that sell them to canned hunts when they are too big to be used that way. That means many of those cubs end up suffering the same fate that Cecil Lion did.

In America, and other countries, the bad guys breed a steady stream of big cat cubs to be pimped out for the public to pay to play with. When those cubs get too big to be used like that their futures are pretty bleak.

The cub pay to play and photo schemes are at the very root of so many big cats suffering. Learn more at CubTruth.com

Another point to consider is petting big cats and their babies can result in the cats’ death. A tragic story unfolded that is the perfect example of that:

Bobcat Kitten Killed After being petted

In Springfield, Missouri a three week old bobcat kitten was found. The man took her to a rehabber there. The man who brought her to the rehabber ignorantly stuck his hand in her crate. The terrified little bobcat kitten bit him. Six days later, the Missouri Greene County Health Dept. stepped in, took the kitten, killed her, cut off her head, and sent her brain out to be rabies tested. The kitten did not have rabies.

Big Cat Rescue did everything they could to prevent it and many of their fans spoke out in an effort to save the healthy bobcat kitten. BCR offered to pay for the thousands of dollars in rabies shots, if the man would take them instead of having the kitten killed.  Sadly in the end, the precious little kitten lost her life because a human just had to stick his hand in with her because the law stated that ANY time an exotic animal was involved in a bite, they must be killed and tested for rabies.  There is no quarantine time, like in dogs and cats, because no one has ever studied the incubation time of rabies in exotics. 

Big Cat Rescue will not risk the lives of the cats there for a selfish desire to touch them. They are also are committed to ending the suffering of big cats and their babies and believe firmly that setting an example by actions, not just by words is important to achieve that goal.  

By comparison, Kevin Richardson has failed to speak out in favor of the Big Cat Public Safety Act

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