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Posted on May 25, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 1 comment

Bonnie Ringo

Bonnie Ringo of the Tiger Preservation Center

If you have ever heard of the Tiger Preservation Center it’s probably because they send out professionally created funding appeals, despite the fact that no one in the legitimate sanctuary community appears to have ever heard of her rescuing a cat. 

Craig Busch had dealings with her back in 2002 when she exported 5 tigers (four white and one orange) to New Zealand. It seems she was the forerunner to the type of thing Craig was doing with his hands on with the big cats at Zion Wildlife Gardens.

An anonymous caller reported the following about Bonnie Ringo which may or may not be true.  She claims that she and her husband knew and often worked for Bob and Bonnie Ringo for over 18 years.  We suggested that she file a formal, written complaint, as we have no police power and hearsay won’t help the animals. 

As of 2016 she had 14 tigers, 1 leopard and a lynx. 

It was stated by the caller that Ringo illegally acquired a golden tabby tiger (that’s just a washed out color variation that happens when people inbreed to create white tigers) a TiLiger and a Lemur from Joe Exotic.  Bob and Bonnie told her they were going on “a rescue” to get two golden tabby tigers from Dennis Hill in Indiana, but got a call from Joe offering them a strawberry (same deal; just inbred white variation) tiger, a six week old tiliger and a lemur for $5000.  She claims to have photos and paperwork copies from the transaction and said TPC’s board member, Jim Mitton of Florida paid for the animals even though it is supposedly illegal to sell tigers across state lines.

The caller says Bonnie Ringo is on medication to manage her mental issues and frequently flies into a rage and can’t remember what she’s said.  She has an on again, off again, keeper named Sherry Johnson, who is said to do a lot of her dirty work for her.  They feed the Wal-Mart trash meat diet. 

The caller said that Bob Ringo is a hit man.  The caller said that TPC’s USDA inspector is “in Bonnie’s pocket.”  

The caller said that she was on several trips to Joe Exotic’s place in Wynnewood, OK and that he had a tiger hide hanging on the wall of his private residence as a decoration.  She said he had 7 baby lemurs who she never later saw as adults on the property. She said there was an excess of fur and filth in his cages and that the cats were not watered daily due to the high cost of water. 

Note: All of the above was reported by someone who claimed to be an eye witness and who said she was in fear for her life.  Since the USDA has been investigating Joe Exotic, with no progress on the investigation since 2011 or earlier, I don’t have much faith that they will ever look into any of this.  It’s just one more reason why we need to ban private possession of big cats at 


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Posted on May 18, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Ryan Easley

Ryan Easley

HSUS investigation pulls the curtain back on tiger abuse by traveling circus trainer

A new HSUS undercover investigation reveals the mistreatment of eight tigers featured in Ryan Easley’s ShowMe Tigers act – a traveling circus gig that is contracted out to branded circuses. It’s painful to watch a grown man whipping a majestic tiger as the world’s most powerful predator flinches and cowers in fear. It’s a coercive training technique used to force tigers to perform demeaning and often difficult tricks.

This is the backstory that animal-based circuses don’t want you to see. It’s the reality for tigers and other wild animals trapped in these operations. Our investigator spent three weeks working for Easley, including nine days on the road with the act that has toured with Carden Circus and performed for several Shrine circuses.

As you can see in our undercover video, the tigers endure a great deal of trauma. Even a layperson can recognize the signs of stress, including cringing and bolting from Easley (who uses the stage name Ryan Holder) when he raises his whip and stick. The tigers squint and flatten their ears back, because they’ve felt the lash before. Their shoulders are hunched, defeated. It is simply unethical to force one of the world’s most powerful and extraordinary predators to hop around on her hind legs as a Michael Jackson tune blares over the loudspeakers.

The HSUS has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for potential violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which prohibits the kind of abuse witnessed by our investigator, and is urging the agency to investigate ShowMe Tigers and to take swift enforcement action for violations of federal law.

Increasingly, circuses are recognizing that they have a broken business model that, because of its inherent cruelty, is operating on borrowed time. This week Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus – the political protector of the industry — will perform for the last time. Ringling attributed its decision to declining attendance and stronger regulations that safeguard captive wildlife. But it also recognized how difficult it is to fool the public about what goes on behind the scenes. Abusive circus acts teach nothing about the normal behaviors of these exceptional animals. What they do teach children and others is that cruelty is acceptable, and wild animals can be bullied into doing stunts that are silly and confusing.

At the ShowMe Tigers act, the trainer holds back on obvious abuses during the live performance. It’s out of the circus ring that the more intense punishment occurs. Our investigator videotaped a practice session that showed, among other things, a traumatized tiger being whipped at 31 times in less than two minutes because she refused to get off a pedestal. Whip marks would suddenly appear on a tiger’s fur during both the practice session and live performances, confirming that the whip was making physical contact and not just being used as a threat.

What’s particularly stark for me is the difference between how circuses treat tigers and how legitimate sanctuaries treat captive cats. At The Fund for Animals’ Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, and other sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, tigers rescued from captive situations love to swim and rest on elevated platforms and lie on cool grass. They chase and tear apart enrichment items provided by dedicated caretakers. Staff specialists go to great lengths to ensure that the sanctuary’s tigers stay physically active and mentally stimulated. In contrast, Easley’s tigers go through the same mind-numbing cycle each day: eating, sleeping, pacing, urinating, defecating in the approximately 13 square feet of floor space for each tiger kept in transport cages, and suffering through eight-minute performances up to three times each day. Once the act hits the road, the tigers live exclusively in tiny, barren transport cages. Our investigator observed other forms of neglect, too, such as lack of protection from bitterly cold weather, a nutritionally deficient diet, and failure to provide veterinary care to a tiger with a raw, open wound near her eye.

We’re seeing states as well as small and large communities taking steps to protect wild animals from abuse and suffering at the circus. In some cases, legislators are banning cruel training tools while others are passing outright bans on the use of various species in traveling shows. We are leading efforts in states and cities across the country to end the era of captive wild animal acts. We’re ready to work with anyone interested in pursuing a circus ordinance in their community. Please contact to request a circus toolkit.

Ask circuses to do away with wild animal acts »

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Posted on Apr 22, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Forest Park Zoo

Forest Park Zoo

The Forest Park Zoo (officially called The Zoo at Forest Park) is another very old facility which has been plagued with chronic mismanagement. It is still a privately-owned zoo but the director is an employee of the City of Springfield. Here are their USDA inspection records.

In 2013, they temporarily exhibited a lion cub named Samson from Bill Coburn’s Wild Acres Ranch. This is the same Bill Coburn who sold cub-petting photo ops at the Kalahari Resort and who admitted to slaughtering his lions for meat. The 4 1/2 week old cub was exhibited at Forest Park in a glass-windowed “nursery” and taken to local news studios before being exhibited in the same enclosure as a miniature pig. The zoo’s “African Lion” exhibit page shows Samson being petted and held by small children, walked on a dog leash, and generally treated like a pet. Samson was returned to Coburn after 6 months at Forest Park.

In January 2015, two monkeys died at the zoo. One of them, a baby marmoset, died after a fight with another monkey, while another monkey succumbed to cold after an overnight power outage shut off the heat to the primate building. The animal deaths were not reported for two months. When the zoo finally did report the deaths to the city, they changed their story, initially claiming that both monkeys were “seniors” who died of cold before admitting that one of them died in a fight (which the zoo downplayed as a “natural occurrence” not worth reporting). The animal deaths and poor communication were concerning enough to city officials that they held a meeting questioning the zoo’s ability to “have the resources available for the animals for their upkeep and well-being.”
In June 2016, a monkey named Dizzy escaped the zoo after a distracted employee failed to lock the enclosure. He roamed the zoo grounds for 3 days before being safely recaptured.

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Posted on Apr 22, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Southwicks Zoo

Southwicks Zoo

Southwicks Zoo

Southwick’s Zoo is an old, family-owned zoo that was originally an exotic animal broker. Today, the zoo itself appears to be a generally humane facility as far as animal care goes. I could find no major issues in their USDA records and there is no real history of complaints about the zoo. Several of the zoo’s animals are rescues (confiscated pets, surplus from other zoos, etc.), they educate people about why white tigers shouldn’t be bred, and they don’t allow their animals to breed if there is no room for the offspring.

That said, Southwick’s has been criticized for contracting with some pretty disreputable companies to provide additional animal “entertainment”. They’ve recently been named by the IDA as one of the US’s “ten worst zoos for elephants” because, for the past decade, they’ve leased elephants from circuses to provide elephant rides and performances during the summer months.

In 2001, Southwick’s leased a wild-caught elephant named “Judy” from the notorious Hawthorn Corporation, even though the elephant had recently almost killed people during a rampage at a church event. After the incident, the USDA warned Hawthorn that Judy was to be “prohibited from exhibition involving potential public contact,” an order which was clearly ignored. In 2004, the USDA seized Judy, along with all of Hawthorn’s other elephants, as part of a settlement for severe animal abuse. When Judy died in 2007, it was discovered that she had tuberculosis, which she had been exposed to in 2003.

In 2010, another performing elephant named Dondi became ill and died at the Southwick’s Zoo at the young age of 33. She had been housed alone at Southwick’s and forced to do tricks for audiences. A necropsy revealed that Dondi’s molars had fallen out and that her lungs were riddled with tuberculosis, which is transmissible to humans.

As of 2015, Southwick’s had contracted with a California-based elephant rental company, “Have Trunk Will Travel,” to provide elephant rides at the zoo. According to this page:

“HTWT has a history of being notoriously brutal and violent to its elephants who are also rented out to be used in other forms of entertainment including appearances in movies, events, and theme parks. HTWT was caught on video viciously beating elephants, using an electric shock device, and striking a baby elephant over the head and pulling her trunk. These elephants were also observed chained for 12 hours a day, barely able to move back and forth, let alone walk.”

This 2015 article reveals that Southwick’s Zoo maintains the “breeding colony” of capuchins for Helping Hands, a Boston organization which is exempt from USDA licensing requirements and uses brutal methods to train monkeys as service animals. The monkeys at Helping Hands are housed in isolation, and employees have testified that “electric shock packs were attached around the monkey’s waist during training  which deliver the equivalent of the charge felt in a typical electric cattle fence to the monkey whenever it performed an action deemed undesirable by trainers. Painful and deforming full-mouth dental extractions were also performed on the capuchin monkeys after incidents occurred involving monkeys biting their owners and trainers.” These methods would be illegal if the facility was not exempt from the Animal Welfare Act.

The president of Southwick’s Zoo, Peter Brewer, is a member of the ZAA’s Board of Directors, and as such, he opposes legislation which would crack down on private menageries. In 2007, he opposed a proposed Massachusetts “bullhook ban” (even though it would exempt Southwick’s Zoo), stating that “bullhooks are useful in calming elephants down during medical procedures. Elephants are usually very hardy. The tool keeps them under control.” In 2016, he wrote a letter to the Kansas legislature opposing legislation which would ban cub-petting in that state. In 2016, he wrote an op-ed arguing that ZAA zoos deserve the same legal exemptions that AZA zoos have, that the ZAA has a better safety record than the AZA (it doesn’t), and that favoring the AZA over the ZAA is nothing more than “special-interest bias.” Given his position at the ZAA and his zoo’s tradition of contracting with circuses, it makes sense that he would oppose regulating them.

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Posted on Apr 22, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

ZAA Zoological Association of America

ZAA Zoological Association of America





AZA vs. ZAA. The large zoos with high standards of care in the United States are accredited by a well established and respected professionally run organization called the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, commonly known by the acronym AZA.

While AZA zoos are not “perfect” and as a sanctuary we differ in philosophy in certain ways from zoos, the important things to understand about AZA in our opinion are that they have generally established high standards of animal care, they have a strong history of providing veterinary care, they do not do cub petting or photo ops with tiger cubs or other big cat species, they breed under a science based Species Survival Plan where they track the genetic history of the animals to maintain pure bred subspecies so the animals can have some conservation value, they do not breed freak hybrids like ligers, they do not breed the genetically defective and heavily inbred white tigers.

Also important is that AZA does very intense multi-day inspections by a team of independent experts before accrediting or renewing the accreditation of a zoo, and will decline to renew an accreditation if the standards are not met.  One example is discussed below.

In contrast, ZAA (Zoological Association of America) is primary a collection of road side zoos who have chosen a name that has an acronym deceptively close to AZA.

ZAA typically claims that it is the “little guy’s AZA,” that it maintains high standards, that it does thorough independent inspections before “accrediting” member zoos, that it somehow supports or enhances conservation and education, in particular that holding baby tigers supports conservation, that there is some value to breeding freak hybrids like ligers and tigons that do not appear in nature, and that a USDA exhibitor license means the animals are treated humanely.

Upon closer examination we believe you will find that NONE of these statements are true and that ZAA is simply a clever, well marketed sham intended to give a legitimate façade to roadside zoos that regularly violate the Animal Welfare Act, support abusive practices like cub petting, breed freaks that do not occur in nature, mistreat animals and mislead the public for profit.

And, importantly, this mistreatment is totally UNNECESSARY from a business standpoint.  There are many financially successful sanctuaries and zoos that treat animals well and that provide a truly educational experience for visitors.  The claim by ZAA zoos that they need engage in activities that inherently mistreat animals like cub petting and performances in order to survive financially is contradicted by the many good operators who succeed because they do NOT engage in these abusive practices.

Below we address each of what we believe are the misrepresentations typically made by ZAA.

Standards.  One revealing example is the size of enclosure required for big cats. For two tigers AZA requires 1800 sf, the size of a small house, and a pool to swim in.  ZAA allows two tigers to spend their entire lives in a 19’ x 19’ sf concrete, chain link box, with no pool. To put this in terms of human conditions, the difference between the two standards is like the difference between living in a nice modest size house and living in a refugee camp tent. Two tigers spending their lives in the small ZAA enclosure would be like letting a domestic cat spend its entire life in a large dog carrier.  Who would consider that humane?

Inspections. As with standards, a few examples show the ZAA claim that they do meaningful inspections to be false. The inspection for acceptance into ZAA for the Wright Park Zoo took a mere 2.5 hours and was done by two individuals, one of whom was the clearly not independent vet for that zoo. The Montgomery Zoo was accredited without even the pretense of an inspection, i.e. no inspection at all.

There is simply no legitimate comparison to be made between ZAA’s minimal or nonexistent perfunctory inspections to the intense multi day, multi faceted inspections by experts done by AZA.  And AZA actually enforces its standards and will fail to renew a zoo’s accreditation for violations. This happened in 2008 to our Lowry Park Zoo here in Tampa after the zoo terminated CEO Lex Salisbury for mismanagement. Salisbury had been a long time advocate of private ownership and involved in the formation of ZAA in 2005.  To this day he is on the Board of Directors of ZAA. After his departure from Lowry the new management returned the zoo to meeting AZA standards and was reaccredited by AZA.

Dual accreditation.  One of the ways ZAA creates the illusion of legitimacy is to point to a few members who are also accredited by AZA. Why would a zoo who meets the much higher standards of AZA allow its name to be associated with a bunch of roadside zoos in ZAA?

As noted above, AZA actually enforces its standards. In particular, as evidence has mounted that most elephants suffer horribly in traditional zoo environments and AZA has raised its standards of care for elephants, a few AZA zoos do not want to comply with the elephant standards or other high AZA standards. The most often suspected reason for AZA zoos joining ZAA is to gain leverage to push back at AZA with the threat that if AZA presses them too hard to comply, the zoo will drop its AZA accreditation and only be ZAA accredited, believing, most likely correctly, that members of the public will be none the wiser due to the confusingly similar acronyms.

ZAA sometimes points to these few members who are AZA accredited as examples of the institutions they accept, misleadingly suggesting that these are representative of the ZAA population. In fact these few zoos that are also accredited by AZA are outliers, and most ZAA zoos operate far, far below AZA standards to say the least.

Conservation. ZAA claims that holding tiger cubs somehow educates people and causes them to be more concerned about conservation. In fact, the opposite is true. There is significant and growing empirical evidence that allowing people to interact with wild animals increases the public’s demand to keep those animals as pets, undermines conservation efforts by decreasing public awareness about the plight of endangered species, and decreases support for conservation programs. When true sanctuaries and good zoos give guided tours where people view adult tigers and learn about them from the guide or from audio recordings, the visitors can learn. People who are petting tiger cubs are not listening. If they learn anything at all they learn the wrong message, i.e. to want exotic animals as pets.

For more detail on cub petting see

ZAA further claims that the breeding done at its zoos has a conservation purpose. Except for breeding that may be done under the Species Survival Plan (SSP) by the few AZA accredited zoos that are in ZAA, none of ZAA’s breeding enhances conservation. To have conservation value, captive breeding of endangered tigers and other jeopardized species must be carefully managed to preserve genetic integrity, as is done under the SSP. ZAA zoos do not track the genetic history of their animals. In the case of tigers, the tigers that are rampantly bred by ZAA zoos for cub petting are all tigers of mixed subspecies, generally inbred, who are referred to as “generic,” “junk,” or “mutt” tigers and have no conservation value whatsoever. Breeding horribly inbred and genetically defective white tigers and breeding freak hybrids like ligers is also done at ZAA facilities and sends a misleading message that is inconsistent with conservation principles.

Finally, the rampant breeding of tigers and other big cats, and the lack of tracking requirements and mechanisms in the United States, impairs U.S. efforts to urge other nations to conserve the tiger in the wild. China, which seeks to legalize tiger farming, claims that raising and slaughtering tigers to supply the market for their parts will curb poaching of wild tigers. In fact, the opposite is true.   Increasing the supply by tiger farming would expand the overall market, thereby creating an increased demand for wild tiger products and providing more incentive to poach. China is able to undermine U.S. opposition to tiger farming by correctly pointing out that the U.S. has also failed to restrict the breeding and sale of privately owned captive big cats.

A few states have ZAA exemptions. ZAA likes to point to a few states that have exempted ZAA along with AZA from legislation banning private ownership of big cats. What ZAA never points to are the states like California, Texas, Louisiana and Michigan, and Clark County, Nevada, that rejected heavy lobbying efforts by ZAA, recognizing what we view as their sham “standards.” In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder rejected efforts to exempt ZAA from the law, stating that doing so “could lead to gaps in public health protection and animal welfare.”

So how did ZAA get exempted from exotic ownership bans in a few states? It started in Ohio. In 2011, after years of having no state laws on exotic animals, Ohio saw the horror of the Zanesville massacre in which Terry Thompson released over 50 dangerous animals and committed suicide and law enforcement officers had to shoot most of the animals. When Ohio decided to pass a law banning private ownership of dangerous exotic animals, Governor Kasich turned to local celebrity Jack Hanna from the Columbus Zoo for advice.

Why would Jack Hanna want to exempt ZAA? When Hanna appears on television with animals, viewers assume that his animals come from the Columbus Zoo and live there in conditions consistent with AZA standards. But it is well known among industry insiders that many of Jack Hanna’s “Ambassador Animals” used on popular late night and morning television shows do not actually come from the AZA accredited Columbus Zoo, as viewers would expect. While the animal handlers seen with Hanna are often wearing Columbus Zoo uniforms, many of these handlers do not actually work for the Columbus Zoo. They are in many cases private breeders, exotic animal owners, or from roadside zoos like ZAA zoos and from entertainment animal “brokers.”

To seek exemption in other states ZAA cleverly hired Alan Smith, its Executive Director until late last year. Smith was previously the Chairman of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) where he became very well known to state legislators and had a history of advocating for laws that diminished animal protection and safety, like so called “ag-gag” bills. Smith was a smooth talker with strong personal connections in some state legislatures and managed to leverage the Ohio law to mislead a couple other states into exempting ZAA.

A USDA license does NOT insure humane treatment. ZAA claims that USDA regulation is all that is needed to insure humane treatment. This is not true. USDA cites many bad actors, including many ZAA zoos, year after year for many years with no action except continued citations. In some cases USDA finally, after years of citations, levies a fine. The fines on average are discounted 86% from what Congress authorized. The cases most often settle for a few thousand dollars, simply a modest cost of doing business for the violators. Very, very few violators, only the very worst of the worst, lose their license. And even then, we frequently see them simply continue to operate under someone else’s license. Thousands of animals live in miserable conditions, including those at ZAA zoos, despite USDA efforts at enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. Below is a chart showing a sampling of the kinds of serious citations almost half of the ZAA “accredited” zoos have received from USDA.

For more detail on why regulation does not work visit

Conclusion. ZAA is an organization that deserves credit for only one thing: doing a masterful job of marketing itself as an accrediting body that has high standards of animal care and enforcing them. In our view this is nothing more than a sham, providing the appearance of legitimacy to a collection of roadside zoo exploiters of animals who as a group consistently mistreat animals for profit, and not only do not foster conservation but promote activities and messages that HARM conservation.



ZAA (The Zoological Association of America), whose acronym is deceptively similar to the well respected AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums), misleading presents itself as the “little guy’s AZA.”


In actual fact ZAA is for the most part a collection of roadside zoos that as a group have a history of serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act like failure to provide adequate medical care. Below are a sampling of such violations and some incidents that occurred at 25 of the 61 “accredited” zoos.


1 Bearizona Williams, AZ 2016 cited for animals killed by other animals. 2014 cited repeatedly for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to sick animals and for allowing an unqualified employee to administer anesthesia. Transferred a black bear to Lee Greenly, owner of Minnesota Wildlife Connections, who had previously allowed a customer to illegally kill a captive-reared bear contained in a 3 acre enclosure with a bow-and-arrow. (Greenly’s USDA license was revoked for more than a dozen violations.)
2 California Living Museum Bakersfield, CA 2016 cited for failure to observe animals on a daily basis, failure to promptly communicate health issues with the attending veterinarian, failure to separate incompatible animals.
3 Catoctin Wildlife Preserve Thurmont, MD 2009 cited for failure to adequately train and appropriately supervise employees after a keeper who was on the job only two months was mauled by two jaguars. 2007 cited for failure to provide minimum required space to three bears.
4 Cougar Mountain Zoo Issaquah, WA 2015 USDA issued official warning for failure to provide veterinary care to an emaciated animal.
5 Gulf Breeze Zoo Gulf Breeze, FL Cited repeatedly for failing to provide sufficient public safety barriers around primate cages. Cited for an untrained and unsupervised intern who allowed the escape and subsequent death of an animal.
6 Have Trunk, Will Travel Perris, CA Cited for unsafe handling of elephants during rides. According to In Defense of Animals HTWT was caught on video viciously beating elephants, using an electric shock device, and striking a baby elephant over the head and pulling her trunk. These elephants were also observed chained for 12 hours a day, barely able to move back and forth, let alone walk.
7 Lion Habitat Ranch Henderson, NV Cited for allowing public to have unsafe contact with adult lions. 2010 cited for declawing 2 lion cubs.  Affiliated w
8 Montgomery Zoo Montgomery, AL 2014 cited for failure to provide veterinary care to newborn rhino that subsequently died. 2012 cited for failure to provide minimum space to a black bear kept in a cage where the bear could not even stand upright on her hind legs. 2013 visitor scratched by jaguar. 2014 fined $8107 by USDA for the escape of a tiger and a hyena from poorly maintained cages, a barn fire that killed to animals, allowing unsupervised contact with animals in the petting zoo, and failure to repair rusty primate cages. Accredited with no inspection at all.
9 Myrtle Beach Safari Myrtle Beack, SC AKA T.I.G.E.R.S. Kevin Antle. 2016 cited for failure to have an adequate veterinary care program for a recurring problem of tiger cubs infected with ringworm. (Ringworm is typically caused by filthy conditions and is highly contagious to humans.) US Fish & Wildlife Service denied application to export and re-import 18 tigers to and from Mexico citing, among other things, substandard conditions.

One of the most notorious cub petting operations, supplier of cubs to other cub petting operations. Warehouses tigers in box stalls in a horse barn.

10 Oswald’s Bear Ranch Newberry, MI Cited for using physical abuse on bear cubs used for photo ops and for allowing children to have unsafe contact with the bears.
11 Panther Ridge Conservation Center Wellington, FL 2010 jaguar tore off woman’s thumb. 2008 owner Judy Behrens attacked by two cheetahs during fund raising event and airlifted to hospital. 2009 cited for declawing two clouded leopards.
12 Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium Pittsburgh, PA 2016 cited for failure to provide seas lions with shade and unhealthy chlorine levels in their pool, both of which may contribute to long history of sea lions with painful eye disorders at the facility.  An internal USDA document contained a list identifying facilities with animals who were at risk of tuberculosis due to exposure to Hawthorn’s elephants including Pittsburgh Zoo.
13 Safari Niagara Stevensville, Ontario, Canada 2008 fined $2000 after pleading guilty to making a false statement to a conservation officer regarding native wildlife kept at the facility.
14 Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Vallejo, CA Cited for unsafe public contact with an elephant. 2014 several university students bitten during petting session with 3 month old lion cubs. 2014 cited for the deaths of two dolphin calves apparently related to poor water.
15 Southwick’s Zoo Mendon, MA Used for public rides an elephant named Judy from the notorious Hawthorn Corporation. Judy had previously almost killed people on a rampage at a church event. A few years later all of Hawthorn’s elephants were seized for abuse. In 2010, another performing elephant named Dondi became ill and died at the Southwick’s Zoo at the young age of 33. She had been housed alone at Southwick’s and forced to do tricks for audiences. A necropsy revealed that Dondi’s molars had fallen out and that her lungs were riddled with tuberculosis, which is transmissible to humans.
As of 2015, Southwick’s had contracted with a California-based elephant rental company, “Have Trunk Will Travel,” to provide elephant rides at the zoo. According to In Defense of Animals HTWT was caught on video viciously beating elephants, using an electric shock device, and striking a baby elephant over the head and pulling her trunk. These elephants were also observed chained for 12 hours a day, barely able to move back and forth, let alone walk.
16 Tanganyika Wildlife Park Goddard, KS Cited for allowing lemur to have contact with human infant
17 Triple D Game Farm Kalispell, MT 2013 Cited for declawing 2 month old tiger cub. Dealt w/ Big Cats of Serenity Springs.
18 Two Tails Ranch Williston, FL Owned by circus. 2013 woman hospitalized for months with life threatening injuries after attack by elephant. Zoo failed to report the attack, fined $857.
19 Virginia Safari Park Natural Bridge, VA 2016 10 year old girl hospitalized from camel bite. Settled for $155k.
20 Wild Wonders Bonsall, CA Cited repeatedly for failure to provide animals with minimum space, filthy rodent infested conditions and feeding a diseased goat carcass to wolves.
21 Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium Litchfield Park, AZ 2016 cited for failure to provide supplemental heat to 59 primates housed outdoors in 36 degree temperature – numerous primates were huddled together shivering. Cited for failure to provide adequate shelter from the cold, filthy and rodent infested conditions, inadequate public safety barriers, and inadequate veterinary care. 2015 cited for concealing areas that contained regulated species from the inspector, failure to have staff present while visitors were having contact with giraffes and kangaroos, filthy cages, enclosures in disrepair, unsanitary feeding practices, filthy water receptacles, and housing animals near a foul-smelling garbage dump.
22 Wright Park Zoo Dodge City, KS 40 USDA citations including failure to provide veterinary care, cages in disrepair, repeatedly failing to have an adequate enrichment plan for primates, poor sanitation, failure to provide any bedding during bitterly cold temperatures to wolf dogs. 2015 USDA issued official warning.

Accredited by ZAA based on an inspection that only took 2.5 hours with one of two inspectors being the zoo’s own veterinarian, i.e. clearly not “independent.”

23 Zoo at Forest Park Springfield, MA 2015 the public learned of two likely preventable primate deaths.  A marmoset died from injuries sustained in a fight with other monkeys, and a tamarin died from exposure to cold temperatures after the zoo failed to have a back-up generator when an electrical malfunction shut off power to a heating system. In June 2016, a monkey named Dizzy escaped the zoo after a distracted employee failed to lock the enclosure. He roamed the zoo grounds for 3 days before being safely recaptured.
24 Zoo World Zoological and Botanical Conservatory Panama City Beach, FL 2015 8 year old boy scratched and bitten by lemur. Cited for insufficient safety barriers around primates and big cats. 2015 cited for failure to provide relief from excessive heat to primates showing signs of heat exhaustion on a day when the heat index was 115 degrees in the shade. 2014 cited for failure to fed a veterinarian-approved diet to adult big cats and cubs, failure to provide environmental enrichment to a solitary lemur, failure to provide a sufficient public safety barrier around a kangaroo enclosure, and housing two newly acquired tiger cubs at locations that had not been inspected and approved. 2013 cited for staff ignoring instructions from the veterinarian including feeding sugary foods to a diabetic monkey, failing for months to provide supplements to squirrel monkeys suffering from calcium deficiency, feeding a lion the morning after anesthesia interfering with veterinarian’s ability to evaluate the lion’s condition, and inadequate drainage in a lion’s cage that resulted in an anesthetized lion being dropped by staff while wading through knee deep mud causing an extremely painful injury that led to the lion’s euthanasia. 2016 USDA issued official warning for repeated failure to adequately clean and sanitize primate cages, repeated failure to maintain cages, and inadequate public safety barriers.
25 Zoosiana – Zoo of Acadiana Broussard, LA 2009 USFWS denied a Captive-Bred Wildlife registration application citing inadequate space and lack of cage furnishings.


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Posted on Apr 19, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Amazing Animals Jim Clubb Heythrop Zoological Gardens

Amazing Animals Jim Clubb Heythrop Zoological Gardens

Jim Clubb’s Heythrop Zoological Gardens (d.b.a. “Amazing Animals”)

“Amazing Animals” is the largest privately-owned collection of exotic animals in the UK, and one of the country’s only licensed providers of exotic wildlife for commercials, TV, movies, and advertisements. Their facility has the nice-sounding name of “Heythrop Zoological Gardens” but, except for six “open days” per year, it is not open to the public and does not have to comply with zoo laws and regulations.

Ties with the circus industry:

Amazing  Animals is owned and directed by Jim Clubb. Clubb is a longtime circus lion trainer, chairman of the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain (ACP) and is married to Sally Chipperfield, of the infamous Chipperfield circus dynasty. Clubb got his start training animals while working for the Chipperfields and was once part-owner and managing director of Clubb-Chipperfield, his own company that shared premises with Chipperfield’s circus in 1998.

Clubb’s close ties with the Chipperfields are very concerning because while he was working with them, the directors of Chipperfield Enterprises were convicted of animal cruelty in 1999 after undercover investigations by Animal Defenders International revealed that they routinely used severe physical abuse  to “train” their circus animals. ADI obtained footage of the Chipperfields beating lions and tigers with metal crowbars and pipes, whipping a sick elephant, beating camels with broom handles, and mercilessly thrashing a baby chimpanzee named Trudy with a riding crop while taunting the crying animal.

The Chipperfield’s “litany of crimes against animals” were so shocking that the circus was shut down and the horrific footage convinced the UK government to ban the use of wild animals in circus acts nationwide (a ban which started in 2015).

Despite the ban and the folding of the circus, Clubb continues to use his Amazing Animals business to train and sell big cats to circuses in other countries, and he makes his cats give circus-like “performances” to guests during the six days per year his facility is open to the public — if it were open any longer than that, it would have to be regulated like a zoo. This 2010 blog post by Clubb includes photos of him wielding long sticks to train a batch of white lions in a dark, dungeon-like room.

The lions were shipped to a circus in Japan once their training was complete, where one of them was attacked by other circus lions and was so stressed his mane fell out. The circus folk in the comments pointed out that the sticks are called “forks” and “are for lifting an animal off of another animal or used to pin an animal down.”

Amazing Animals Jim Clubb's Heythrop Zoological Gardens

Undercover photo of Jim Clubb with his circus lions at one of Amazing Animals’ “open days.”

In 2012, there was national outrage after an investigation by the Captive Animals’ Protection Society and LionAid revealed that these lions were born at the West Midlands Safari Park, which claimed to be a reputable zoo breeding the white lions for “conservation”. An article about this has been reproduced below. It fails to mention that the West Midlands Safari Park was founded by Jimmy Chipperfield (a relative of Clubb’s wife), that the current director of the Park is a former circus performer,  and that Clubb’s lion act had previously performed at the Kinoshita circus where the cubs were sent. LionAid has more details about the circus connections in this case.

Fury as rare white lion cubs born in UK safari park are sent to a Japanese circus

By Anna Edwards

Published: 05:28 EDT, 27 November 2012 | Updated: 09:06 EDT, 27 November 2012

Four rare white lion cubs born in a UK safari park have been sent to perform in a Japanese circus after being trained in a British facility.

The cubs were born at West Midlands Safari Park, in Bewdley, Worcester, in 2008 but will spend their adult lives entertaining crowds in the Far East.

Animal rights charities have expressed outrage after discovering they were flown 6,000 miles to Japan’s Circus Kinoshita.

The safari park has been criticised for providing four rare white lion cubs to a businessman who provided them to a Japanese circus.

It is understood one of the lions has since moved to a zoo in western Japan after it developed a nervous condition which caused its mane to fall out.

The animals were given to British businessman Jim Clubb who runs Amazing Animals, which also goes by the name Heythrop Zoological Gardens, in Chipping Norton, Oxon.

Undercover video footage taken by Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) and Lion Aid taken in 2010 appears to show Clubb training the lion cubs during an open day at his firm.

Months later the same lions were seen performing for a Japanese circus.

Amazing Animals Japan

Animal rights groups are furious that the rare lions have ended up in Circus Kinoshita in Japan

Amazing Animals Circus

Animal entertainment: The white lions are shown on the circus website, promoting the show

The Kinoshita Circus website boasts that four white lions currently being used in shows were all born in a UK zoo and trained at a UK site.

It states: ‘When they became six months old, they were moved to an animal training facility in UK.

‘They began training there when they were 18 months old.’

A Japanese investigator working for CAPS discovered one of the lions has been moved to a zoo in the west of the country after it was attacked by the other circus animals.

The lion is reported to have developed a ‘nervous disease called autonomic ataxia’ causing his mane to completely fall out.

Animal rights campaigners have criticized the safari park for allowing the lions to end up in a circus.

The four cubs were among eight born at West Midlands Safari Park in Bewdley in 2008 and sent to Amazing Animals of Chipping Norton, Oxon, aged six months

CAPS director Liz Tyson said: ‘The current Government has promised an outright ban on the use of wild animals in circuses as a result of overwhelming public, expert and parliamentary support.

‘And yet here we have a zoo apparently providing lion cubs to this cruel and unethical trade via a middleman, whilst publicising their work to their paying visitors as based in conservation and welfare.

‘It is an appalling betrayal of those people that trust the zoo to protect and care for the animals.

‘But most importantly, it is an appalling betrayal of the lion cubs who appear to have been abandoned to this hopeless fate by West Midland Safari Park.’

An investigation by CAPS claim the safari park has close ties with Clubb’s animal entertainment business.

In 2007 Clubb appeared on the zoo’s own TV channel talking about his company which provides animals to the entertainment industry.

Jim Clubb, owner of Amazing Animals, yesterday confirmed he had provided the lions to the circus – saying it was “business.” He said: “We did receive the lion cubs from West Midlands Safari Park and provided them to the circus in Japan.”

“There is nothing illegal or underhand about this whatsoever. I will not discuss our financial arrangements but we are a business of course.”

“I have no idea whether West Midlands Safari Park knew the lions would be going to the circus, that is a matter for them. I will not go into the arrangement we have with them.”

The safari park – which attracts 1.3 million visitors each year – confirmed they had “sent” white lions to Clubb “in good faith.”

Safari park spokeswoman Wendy Jackson said: “West Midland Safari Park sent white lions to Heythrop Zoological Gardens in good faith and were unaware of any subsequent moves.”


Animal Welfare Issues:

This circus fan blog has posted 3 videos of Jim Clubb “working” his big cats in the studio with bamboo canes, which he uses to poke and prod the cats and to replicate the sound of a whip.

In the first video, a tiger in the studio appears to be very stressed (panting, ears back) as Clubb touches it with the canes. Clubb claims that the tiger is “stressed out by the blue screen.”

The second video shows an agitated 10-year-old lion, King, growling and swiping at Clubb during an ad shoot in the noisy studio. Clubb’s voiceover reassures the viewers that King “really looks forward to this” and that training “stimulates” the animals and is “an extension of their play.” Odd, since the cat ran out of the studio as fast as he could once the door was opened. Maybe he wasn’t having fun, after all.

In the last video, poor King is forced to perform again because the cameraman “missed” the first shot, even though the crew knows that King is already agitated and probably doesn’t want any more filming.  Just like human actors, movie and TV animals are forced to do the same shot again and again until the director is pleased — only the animals don’t understand or have a choice in the matter. King comes out snarling and angry, the crew gets their shot, and  Clubb happily proclaims that “the only thing that matters is that the director’s happy.” Not the animal. The director.

The Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS) has done several recent investigations of Amazing Animals and has produced lots of photos, videos, and notes about the facility for you to look through.

In late 2016, one of their investigators  attended  an “open day” at Amazing Animals in 2016 and wrote a blog post about what s/he saw, complete with plenty of pictures. Excerpts from the investigator’s blog are reproduced below:

As commonly seen in captive wild animals, stereotypical (stress-induced) behaviour was observed in a number of those kept at the zoo. Wolves, a lone hyena, hippos, tigers, and meerkats were all viewed pacing repeatedly up and down the sides of their enclosures.”

“Of all the animals we saw, the tigers – in particular the white tiger, appeared the most distressed. The white tiger paced back and forth repeatedly in front of a window in the side of the enclosure which visitors crowded around.”

“Next two tigers were brought out by Jim Clubb, the owner of Amazing Animals, and made to move around the enclosed studio space, jumping from podiums, roaring on command etc. One tiger in particular appeared quite stressed with their ears flat back and making a lot of noise. The “trainer” used long sticks to order the cats around, pointing and hitting them together behind the animals. Jim then brought two male lions. While I know that watching wild animals being made to perform is always difficult, I was still overwhelmed by the sadness of seeing such huge, powerful, sentient beings oppressed to the point of submission by a human who seemed so proud of what he had done. These magnificent animals could have maimed the trainers in a heartbeat, but through whatever method, they had been forced to submit and obey commands.”

“Again, there was no attempt to provide any educational information about the animals themselves, their biology or conservation. This show was purely about how the animals were trained for and used in the entertainment industry to make money for the owners of Amazing Animals.”

As a result of the CAPS investigation, a scathing news article was published detailing the increasing disgust within the TV industry and UK politics towards Amazing Animals. From the article:

Campaigners said footage taken at one open day suggested the animals were “broken, mentally disturbed and miserable.”

“BBC naturalist Chris Packham called the company ‘appalling, abominable’ and ‘morally bankrupt’. The host of Springwatch and Autumnwatch has told corporation bosses he refuses to have anything to do with Jim Clubb, the owner of Amazing Animals, after hearing ‘nothing but negative reports’ from people who have filmed there.”

‘The fact that this is going on in the UK today is appalling,’ [Packham] said. “The beating of sticks at tigers in front of an audience is likely to be done to replicate the sound of a whip. This is abominable.”

” Henry Smith MP, Tory co-chairman of the All-Party Group on Animal Welfare, said he was concerned after seeing the CAPS evidence and called for the law to be tightened. He said: ‘Asking big cats to do tricks is an outdated practice that has echoes of Edwardian circuses.’”

“Labour’s Jim Fitzpatrick said: ‘Wild cats performing tricks is neither natural, nor dignified nor appropriate in the 21st century.’

Safety Concerns:

One of the photos taken by CAPS shows a distressed white tiger pawing at one of the cracked glass windows of her enclosure. The cracks were “fixed” by painting jungle vines on top of them, posing a potential safety risk to the visitors crowded around the window.

In an interview for the book Let The Credits Roll: Interviews with Film Crew, Clubb admits that he “was bitten very badly by a puma on a TV commercial once, but that was the director’s fault and mine, because I should have just said, “No,” but the director wanted us to do more and more.”


Other News Articles:

Amazing Animals regularly takes exotic animals to local events, hospitals, and nursing homes as a “public service.” But conservationists, legitimate zoos, and even the general public aren’t always pleased:

Anger as penguins and monkeys visit Kingland House Residential Home

Oxfordshire bear cub show appearance on despite protests


Read More