PETA called Stark’s property a “roadside zoo.” In addition to potential injuries, PETA believes Stark exposes the public to infectious diseases by allowing anyone to hold and pet wild animals.
“Encouraging the public to handle vulnerable cubs roughly and to hit them when they resist is cruel,” PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders said in a statement.
PETA notes Stark pleaded guilty to illegally trafficking an ocelot and has been cited repeatedly by the USDA for animal welfare violations, including keeping a lion and tigers in cages from which they can easily escape, providing bears and tigers with water containing “floating clumps of algae,” and failing to provide animals with any shelter from the heat.
Last year — PETA said citing a USDA inspection report — the zoo had no attending veterinarian and two sick leopards died without receiving any veterinary treatment.
Note: Golden Tabby tigers are merely inbred and crossbred tigers and not a subspecies that serves any conservation program.
WILDLIFE IN PERIL?:
Former employee, volunteers express concern over animal operation
By KRISTINA GOETZ Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting | Posted Nov. 23, 2014
CHARLESTOWN — In the wake of a Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting investigation that found a history of problems at an Indiana exotic animal refuge, current and former members of the organization have come forward to talk about their experiences at the facility.
Meanwhile, legislators who’ve received recent complaints about Wildlife in Need Inc. are looking at potential changes in Indiana law.
KyCIR’s investigation showed Tim Stark’s exotic animal facility in Charlestown has been cited by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors for a variety of problems over the past several years, including having enclosures that are not adequate to prevent big cats from escaping, and allowing cubs that are too old and too aggressive to interact with the public.
Former Wildlife in Need employee Travis Ellis, as well as a current volunteer and a former volunteer, portrayed the organization as in distress and disarray. They allege Stark is dismissive of authority, has contempt for veterinarians and uses volunteers who have good intentions but little to no background in animal care.
The volunteers — who provided evidence of their work there — spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Ellis does not have a degree in animal science but said he grew up around exotic animals and is a licensed falconer in Tennessee. Officials there say Ellis is in compliance with state regulations and has a good track record.
Ellis met Stark when he was animal curator for Kentucky Down Under, he said, and then the two started doing business together. Ellis grew concerned while working for Stark this summer.
“On my side of the tent, we gave people a pretty safe experience with the exception of using that tiger and that bear,” he said of the exotic animal encounter show.
Ellis believes people should be able to interact with exotic animals. He just doesn’t think Stark’s operation is a safe place to do it.
Ellis said he was bitten and clawed by a large tiger this summer. He has photos of the encounter as well.
During the last show of the evening one August night, Ellis told a crowd of about a dozen visitors to get ready for the finale.
“Remain in your seats,” he remembered saying. “Please don’t make loud noises. Don’t attempt to touch her.”
For a moment, he disappeared behind a door but returned with a 250-pound tiger on a woven-knot leash with a leather loop. Just feet away — with no barrier in between — visitors watched the year-old tiger put her paws on two volunteers sitting on the ground, Ellis recalled. He said he tugged the leash to lead the tiger in a circle in order to show off her stripes.
“Once I pulled her away from these girls, she reared up on top of me, grabbed me in my armpit with her teeth and stuck her claws in my back,” he said. “I played it off. The public had no clue what was going on.”
Still feeling the sting of the cat’s teeth, Ellis walked backward out the side door to the tiger’s holding pen.
“She was chewing on me, and she was growling,” he said. “I was still up. I knew if I ever got down it would be bad.”
The tiger hung on, Ellis said, until one of the volunteers smacked her in the nose with a plastic bat.
Ellis scrambled out of the cage, bleeding from four puncture wounds, and slammed the door. He walked back in the tent.
“The public was still sitting there so I had to suck it up and finish the show,” he said.
Ellis claims Stark had little to say after the incident and seemed more upset about what visitors had seen.
“When the cat incident happened, and he wouldn’t take responsibility … that was the final straw,” Ellis said.
He never worked there again. He did not file a complaint with any agency.
Stark did not return an email or a phone message left on Wildlife in Need’s voicemail requesting comment.
In a previous report, Stark said interaction with wild animals is a big part of his operation.
“But the way I look at it, if you’re going to have these animals, they thrive on that interaction. They deserve it, and it’s supposed to be that way,” he said.
One former volunteer said she quit after she found herself crying every day about the animals.
Other volunteers have forged bonds with the animals and don’t want to jeopardize their ability to spend time with them, according to a current volunteer. She questions what she saw there, from dirty cages to overcrowding.
This volunteer was asked over the summer to help with a Tiger Baby Playtime fundraiser event during which patrons paid $25 to play with tiger cubs in a group.
“I was told, ‘If they’re staring, and their ears go up, and they lock onto someone, especially a kid, keep your eye out for that and get in the middle.’ I did not feel comfortable doing that. What you’re telling me is that I’ve got to watch for the tiger to attack someone and stop it? Are you kidding me?”
KyCIR’s investigation of the facility also has caught the attention of several legislators who’ve fielded calls from constituents about Wildlife in Need. A spokesman for Rep. Todd Young, D-Ind., said his office has received letters and phone calls from three constituents who were concerned about both the animals’ welfare and public safety.
“We have been working with the USDA to identify an appropriate point of contact for concerned citizens to reach out to,” spokesman Trevor Foughty said.
On the state level, state Sen. Michael Crider, a Republican who represents District 28 in suburban Indianapolis, said in a phone interview this week that he plans to introduce legislation for the third year in a row that would require a permit for everyone in the state who has certain types of exotic animals.
Currently, a permit is required for people who own these animals as pets. But those like Stark who have United States Department of Agriculture permits to be animal exhibitors are exempt from state regulations. Crider wants dual jurisdiction so Indiana officials have the authority to inspect the property along with the feds. He’s also looking at restrictions other states have implemented.
“This issue is not going away,” said Crider, who retired after 30 years as an Indiana conservation officer. “In fact, in some cases it’s gotten a little bit worse since I first started talking about it. Hopefully we can come up with something that we can get passed, and it will provide for adequate oversight.”
State Rep. Steven Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, said he has been aware of people’s concerns about the facility for some time and would support Crider’s proposed bill. Several constituents called his office last year when they heard a leopard was shot and killed by a neighbor near Stark’s property. USDA officials have yet to definitively determine whether the animal belonged to Stark.
“Personally I think our responsibility is to provide public safety for citizens,” Stemler said. “And whenever there is a question of public safety that is possibly compromised — and in this case with exotic animals — then there should be oversight that is allowed to ensure that safety.”
Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, has received calls from constituents about Wildlife in Need and knows that neighbors have concerns about the facility.
“As I’ve spoken with folks they became frustrated probably with me because I had to tell them openly, hey, the state has no jurisdiction over the facility so there’s nothing really that I can do other than try to work on policy as we move forward.”
Goodin said USDA specs are minimum standards, and he believes the state should build on those. He supports the dual certification Crider is proposing.
The documentary-maker talks about his encounters with a volatile chimp and an amorous baboon
Written By David Brown 30 October 2011
You’d have thought that Louis Theroux would have had enough of cells. Last time we spoke, he’d recently been visiting the high-security inmates at Miami’s mega-jail who stood accused of murder and rape. And now he’s back among cages and pens – only ones that hold tigers, bears and primates. Which experience did he find the most daunting?“I’d much rather be behind bars with a dangerous rapist or a man who’s killed three people than with a chimpanzee,” he admits. “At least I can communicate with the rapist, but I don’t speak chimp. And you just don’t know what they’re going to do.
“I’m afraid that whatever reputation I have for being intrepid will be shattered. I behave like a total wimp around these wild animals.”
In America’s Most Dangerous Pets (airing tonight on BBC2 at 9pm), the non-humans are, thanks to their unpredictable nature, very much the stars of the show. Theroux is once again stateside, this time meeting the owners of animals that you’d normally expect to find in the wilds of Africa. One such encounter involves Cooper, a 120lb chimpanzee who’s on the cusp of sexual maturity at the volatile age of seven.
When Cooper’s owners, Jill and Brad James, guide their pet into the garden, Theroux and his crew observe from indoors. It’s a smart move as Cooper immediately bounds over and smashes a window with his paws: “I don’t think he was trying to attack,” says Theroux. “He also spat at me and the cameraman and threw a barrel at us. But I believe he was trying to say, ‘look, this is my territory. I’m the king here.’
“I felt a bit bad for Cooper, really. I think if you caught him on a good day, he’d be very sweet. We just weren’t willing to take the risk. On the one hand, we could have got a really good sequence if we’d been outside. On the other, he might have bitten off my testicles. So I thought we’d skip it.”
Up close and personal
But is the documentary-maker in danger of downplaying his pluck? After all, on another occasion, Theroux’s suburban safari leads him into the arms of Tatiana, a three-year-old baboon housed at Indiana’s Wildlife In Need & In Deed preserve. “We got along well,” he says.
‘Getting along’ in this case means being pawed, sniffed and screeched at in quite a disconcerting manner, but Theroux has his reasons for thinking that he and Tatiana hit it off:
“Tim Stark, who runs the business, had introduced her as his baboon daughter, so he’d established her in my mind as being a very feminine creature. When she was hugging me quite close and grooming me, it almost felt like a primate-to-primate interaction. The feeling of being understood up to a point was very odd. Having said that, the boom microphone made her go nuts and she’d freak out and climb on it. That was one of my more nerve-racking moments.”
There is, of course, a reason for all this monkeying around. In shedding light on the eccentricities of the country’s private zookeepers and owners of exotic pets, Theroux learns that there are, for example, more tigers in captivity in the US than can be found roaming wild in the whole of Asia.
I wonder what this says about the mentality of people who choose to keep animals that are too volatile and powerful to ever leave their cages for long periods.
“It’s a generalisation, but the men are looking for large, dangerous animals that represent raw physical power and aggression. Controlling and disciplining something ferocious like a tiger gives them a status. With women – and again it’s a generalisation – you notice that they’ve got the chimps and capuchin monkeys, who’re like surrogate children.”Animal instincts
The problem is that all children mature and owners often reach the conclusion that they don’t have the necessary skills to deal with their fast-growing playmates.
“No one is going out there thinking, ‘what I want is a fully-grown chimp that I can only feed through the bars’. They’re after ones like Bubbles that they can cuddle and fool around with. And then six or seven years later, when they aren’t as frisky and fun, people realise that they’ve taken on more than they can handle.”
These unmanageable pets often end up at self-styled “sanctuaries” like the one Theroux spends time at in Oklahoma or at the home of Connie Casey, a breeder and dealer with a colony of 20 chimpanzees. Theroux visits her compound in Missouri after learning that one former resident, a male chimp named Travis, earned notoriety following a 2009 attack on his owner’s friend that left the victim with a lacerated face and severed nose.
“Those accounts really stick in your head and the primates do seem like they’d be happier in larger cages. That’s just my personal view because the atmosphere in Connie’s basement pens was quite prison-like. In fact, one of the strange things is that some of the traits of caged-up chimpanzees are exactly the same as those of caged-up humans.
“At San Quentin [Theroux spent time at the notorious prison for a documentary in 2008], I’d hear a lot about ‘gassing’, which is when prisoners take faeces and urine and fling them at the guards they don’t like. And on one of the last days at the GW Animal Park in Oklahoma, we saw a monkey that had learned to hide faeces in his mouth and if a keeper he didn’t like went near him, he’d spit poop at him.”
Incidents such as these raise an obvious question about whether a “wild” animal can ever truly settle to a life in captivity and it’s one that Theroux asks with his usual quiet tenacity. But, of course, the obvious attraction for the viewer is witnessing how he handles the more physical confrontations.
Whether he’s dodging excretions (human or otherwise) or fending off the advances of amorous baboons, it seems that these days Theroux is now constantly in search of increasingly perilous situations. Is he trying to up the ante with each outing?
“Well, it’s always been a case of pursuing stories that I’m interested in. Here, I actually wanted to reintroduce a humour and lightness that has been absent from some of my more recent projects.” And then he adds finally, “I really don’t consider myself to be a danger freak.”
Tatiana and Cooper, however, may well have a different opinion on the matter.
This video by one of Stark’s relatives shows that two years before the BBC documentary he was still beating up on the bobcat named Tuck. It also showed a number of tigers and lions who did not appear to still be there two years later even though they were obviously youngsters at the time he was having interaction with them.
According to this USDA report, Tim Stark lied about having a veterinarian, had two young leopards die without seeing a vet, failed to keep acquisition and disposition records, among other things.
The debate is whether the cubs should be allowed at the festival.Event committee members say absolutely, while one woman emphatically says no.Trish Roehm is a longtime resident of Bethlehem. She runs an animal rescue organization out of her home.For years, she has helped organize the Autumn on the River event, but this year, she’s sitting out.”I don’t think it’s a safe environment for children and, as for education, it’s sending the wrong message to the public that these are cute, cuddly animals. They aren’t. They are wild animals,” Roehm said.Roehm doesn’t want the tigers at the annual gathering.
Wildlife in Need, Wildlife in Deed
Tim Stark owns an animal refuge in Charlestown. He applied for booth space at the Autumn on the River festival.Stark’s plan is to give people the opportunity to take pictures with the Bengal tiger cubs.”I control the kittens. I control it. Its nails are clipped so they don’t scratch anybody. I am on the spot in case anything happens. They are just babies, 10-week-old babies,” Stark said.
Stark’s house is home to the Wildlife in Need, Wildlife in Deed sanctuary. His nonprofit organization works solely on donations.”All these guys were raised here, they went through the photo shoot program, that’s how we fundraise. I have someone that is protesting that? I am in no way shape or form going to endanger anybody,” said Stark.Roehm said that despite her concern, the festival co-chairman told Stark it would be fine for him to set up his photo booth at the event.Stark said as an American, it is his right.”I carry a USDA license to do what I do, to raise, breed and exhibit them,” Stark said.David Abbott, the co-chairman of the event, said that as long as Stark produces his certificate of insurance and information about the cubs’ immunizations, then he is fine to set up his booth at the event.Stark said he has been doing this for years.Last weekend, more than 700 pictures were taken with the cubs at the Harvest Homecoming Festival in New Albany.Stark said that he has never had a problem with the tiger babies in public.
The Autumn on the River Festival is Saturday and Sunday in Bethlehem.
Go to the link to see video of Tim Stark being stupid with big cats. Notice he is carrying what looks like a golf club inside the cage with the cats. You can be sure he isn’t teaching them to swing.
If on your next trip to the Genesis Wildlife Center your kids or grandkids turn to you and ask, “Where do baby tigers come from?” don’t be afraid to look them in the eye and give an earnest, grown-up answer — Oklahoma.
Two new tiger cubs are on their way to the Nay Aug Park wildlife sanctuary, where a beloved Siberian tiger died in May.
The approximately 11-week-old cubs, a boy and a girl, are being donated by the G.W. Exotic Animal Park, a conservancy and educational zoo in Wynnewood, Okla.
After the death of 15-year-old Reba, a park favorite since 2003, Mayor Chris Doherty approached Margaret Miller, the center’s director, and said it was up to her if she wanted to get another tiger. Ms. Miller said she was undecided but quickly convinced by the overwhelming number of cards and letters from kids and visitors.
“The children really showed great compassion and empathy, beyond belief,” Ms. Miller said.
As Ms. Miller spoke on the phone Monday at the start of a 1,500-mile trip home with two tigers in the back seat, the cubs could be heard roaring their 20-pound roars. They will arrive at Nay Aug later this week, after clearing a veterinarian.
To make room, the wildlife center will temporarily partition its cougar pen, Ms. Miller said. Mr. Doherty said the tigers would be welcomed with a contest to name them.
The zoo at Nay Aug once hosted the famous Tilly the elephant and Joshua the donkey. The zoo closed in 1988, and the newest elephant Toni was shipped to the National Zoo in 1989. The zoo at Nay Aug remained closed until summer 2003, when it reopened as a wildlife rehabilitation center. The current zoo complex is comparatively small and does not house the same number of animals as the original zoo. In an article in Time’s Magazine, this zoo in 2008 was the 4th worst animal treated (abuse) zoo in America. In 2009 the Zoo once again closed, due to public outcry over conditions, with the Site being given to Lackawanna College to use as a natural research center.
In 2009, the zoo closed again due to public outcry after Time Magazine ranked the Genesis Wildlife Center as the 4th most abusive zoo in the United States in 2008.
To see more pictures of the Abandoned Zoo at Nay Aug Park, visit:
In Scranton, Pennsylvania, this structure has been a symbol of community debate about animal cruelty for decades, first as the failed Nay Aug Park Zoo and most recently as the Genesis Wildlife Center.
The original Zoo opened in 1920 and was a source of civic pride. In 1924 and 1935, schoolchildren raised money to purchase new elephants, one penny at a time.
During its heyday, the Nay Aug Park Zoo was visited on average by 500 people per day during the mid-1950s.
People began questioning the conditions at the zoo in the early 1960s. In 1963, the Humane Society of Lackawanna County blasted the Zoological society for its approach to renovating the heating system at the zoo, in addition to the leaky roof and a drafty tiger and lion cage. That was a bad year for the zoo because an elk gored a baby elk to death, a monkey escaped and bit a zoo attendant and four monkeys died from exposure because of insufficient heat, in addition a to a female lion killing two cubs because a faulty door allowed her to enter their cage.
The history of animal tragedies at Nay Aug Park Zoo just goes on from there, with stories about animal escapes and abuse by visitors, in addition to other animal mishaps resulting in injury or death.
In 1983, the Humane Society of the United States named the zoo as one of the nation’s 10 most substandard zoos noting “the exhibits at the Scranton Zoo are so outdated and sterile that there can be no understanding of the animals’ natural behaviors.” Even the zoo’s newest exhibits were deemed “archaic” by the standards of modern zoology at that time.
While the Nay Aug Park Zoo was home to more than 200 animals during the 1960s, by the end of 1989 the only animals that remained were two bears and an elephant because the zoo was in debt and struggling financially.
When the last animal, Toni the elephant, was finally relocated to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., it was acknowledged that it had been unsuitable for an elephant to be kept without any peers and that the animal had developed arthritis in the lower joint of her left leg because she was forced to stand in a concrete pen all day. The elephant was eventually euthanized because of this condition.
The zoo structure remained closed until the summer of 2003, reopening as a wildlife rehabilitation center. In 2009, the zoo closed again due to public outcry after Time Magazine ranked the Genesis Wildlife Center as the 4th most abusive zoo in the United States in 2008.
I’m sure that in the 1920’s the zoo was a fine example of a zoo during that time period. But it could never be anything but a 1920s-style zoo. While I was taking these pictures, a group a students on a field trip walked by. I heard a little boy, probably in about second grade, ask his teacher what I was doing. “Taking pictures of the elephant house”, she responded. “They made an elephant live in there?” he asked. When she answered “yes”, he shook his head and said, “That’s just wrong.” No one disagreed with him.
Margaret Miller, the 64-year-old director of the Genesis Wildlife Center, escorted a visitor into a side room full of caged birds that nattered and squawked when she entered.
She stood in the narrow middle of the room partitioned by parallel 2-by-4s suspended thigh-high, each board labeled in handwritten pen “Do Not Cross.” As an additional precaution, Ms. Miller likes to have a volunteer sit in the room to prevent people leaning over the wobbly boards and sticking their fingers into the birds’ cages. The birds are apt to bite, she said.
“Isn’t that right?” she asked the birds. The birds bobbed their heads.
Genesis Wildlife Center aims to be a sanctuary for animals that once were unwanted or abused. But a lack of adequate funding, modern facilities or a long-term plan means chronic problems often are overlooked or patched with makeshift solutions.
Since 2003, when the menagerie was moved to the city-owned building that once was part of the Nay Aug Zoo, the center has struggled to make a home fit for the animals, revealing limitations in both the facility and the way the center is run.
Care fails inspectionsThe center strains to meet even the minimum standards of animal care set by the federal government under the Animal Welfare Act.Inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture between June 2005 and September 2007, obtained by The Sunday Times in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, describe an array of infractions.
In June 2007, four “grossly overweight” primates were given a “morning snack” of waffles coated with marshmallow topping. They had become “very sedentary” in their cages after apparently gaining back the weight lost on a previous diet.
In November 2005, a member of the public accompanied an employee and volunteer inside the tiger and cougar enclosure, where she was allowed to pet the tiger. Neither animal was restrained or under a handler’s control.
In June 2005, most of the medications stored in the office were noted to be expired, including an antibiotic that had been expired for a year but was being administered to a coatimundi, a long-tailed mammal in the raccoon family. The outdated medicines were still on site during an inspection two months later, when staff members threw them out.
None of the animals was examined by a veterinarian during the six months between October 2005 and April 2006, despite the center’s program calling for the animals to receive monthly checkups.
Throughout the 27 months of inspections there were numerous examples of noncompliance concerning the building, including dangerous or frayed wire in the animals’ metal enclosures, an exposed heater, peeling paint and wallpaper, and gaps and weeds around the perimeter fences that posed a risk to animal or human safety.
In the nine inspections during the period when records were released, Genesis was found to have 17 examples of noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act. During two of the nine inspections, the center was found to be violation-free. A Freedom of Information Act request for records of USDA inspections performed in 2008 and 2009 is still pending.
‘Is it going to kill them?’
Ms. Miller, who owns the animals, said she generally receives clean inspections. When she is cited, the violations most often have to do with maintenance of the city-owned building, “things that I have no control over,” she said, like the aging structure, the weeds around it, and the occasional mice that get inside.
“I think I’m doing a terrific job, and most people do. If I was doing something wrong, they would close me,” she said. “And if (the animals) get a waffle every once in a while, is it going to kill them? No. No, it won’t.”
She explained that the citation for having a visitor inside the tiger and cougar cage was a misunderstanding: The woman was the mother of the center’s lynx caretaker at the time and she was trained to work with big cats, though she was not wearing any identification when the inspector saw her.
“I don’t take people in with the cats because the cats would kill you,” Ms. Miller said.
Not all of Genesis’ inspectors have recorded violations. The state Game Commission, which regulates the center as a wildlife menagerie, has never issued a citation “for any deficiencies or blatant violations” in seven years of at least twice-annual inspections, said Mark Rutkowski, a conservation officer for the region.
A June 2008 inspection report — the only one released in response to a Right-to-Know records request — indicated the center passed all 22 categories on which it was evaluated, including providing bedding, clean water and adequately sized pens for the animals.
Mr. Rutkowski said visitors’ complaints to the Game Commission about the center often are about what he calls “aesthetics.”
“When people go there, they go there looking for these well-groomed animals you might see at the Bronx Zoo or Philadelphia Zoo, and that’s just not what the center is,” he said.
But the center’s most vocal critics say their concerns go beyond aesthetics: they fear it is unsafe for both people and animals and sends the wrong message to the public.
“The way they display those animals, the huge message you get from that place is these wild animals make good pets,” said Mary Sweeney, a former Scranton resident. “A big part of the attitude is, ‘Aren’t they cute.'”
Eunice Alexander, who grew up in the Hill Section next to the Nay Aug Zoo, said there is little educational value in displaying animals in small cages with concrete floors.
“You can’t really do education divorced from any kind of habitat context,” she said. “You’re showing them that animal seems to be OK in nothing.”
Backlash over breeder
The most sustained roar of public criticism leveled at Genesis Wildlife Center began a year ago and was caused by two tiger cubs then big enough to emit only fledgling mews.
Ms. Miller acquired the cubs two months after her beloved Siberian tiger, Reba, died. Many visitors were happy for the chance to see baby animals, but others questioned whether a small, aging facility that admittedly struggled to afford to stay open was an appropriate place to bring 11-week-old tigers.
Captive wildlife and animal sanctuary experts now say the transfer of the cubs had far graver implications.
Ms. Miller obtained the tigers from G.W. Exotic Animal Park, which formerly billed itself as a sanctuary but now considers itself a “conservancy and educational zoo” in Wynnewood, Okla. Sanctuary representatives say G.W. Exotic is notorious for inhumane treatment of its animals.
In 2006, the USDA fined the park $25,000, suspended its license for two weeks and put it on an 18-month probation for violating at least 14 regulations of the Animal Welfare Act.
The park is particularly infamous among animal sanctuary experts for breeding exotic animals indiscriminately to entice visitors who want to play with new cubs. For sanctuary accrediting agencies, such as the American Sanctuary Association and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, breeding breaks the cardinal rule of true sanctuaries because it adds to the population of unwanted captive species.
“Genesis is essentially enabling them to continue breeding these animals,” she said.
Vernon Weir, director of the American Sanctuary Association, said Ms. Miller’s move is particularly problematic because of a surplus of adult tigers in the country.
“There probably wasn’t a single day in the last 10 years when someone didn’t call me about an adult tiger that didn’t have a place to go,” he said. “For them to get tigers from this breeder down in Oklahoma is ridiculous.”
Ms. Miller said she had “nothing to do with” G.W. Exotic’s practices as a breeder or its past USDA violations. She explained that she found a listing for the cubs in the Animal Finder’s Guide, a publication for those who raise captive wildlife. She was asked to make a donation to the park to reserve the cubs, and never got the money back.
She said she does not breed animals at her center — the male tiger and monkeys are neutered, she said, and the male lemurs were “fixed” after several reproduced. She also countered the claims that she is complicit in G.W. Exotic’s breeding.
“Do you think he’s going to stop? He’s not going to,” she said of G.W. Exotic. “I wanted two baby tigers that I wanted to save out of there. Does it mean I approve? No.”
Now she says she is “truly sorry” she brought the tigers to Genesis, in part because of the public criticism and in part because of the cost. The tigers each eat about 20 pounds of meat each day and a pallet of meat costs about $3,600.
Asked why she acquired the cats, knowing the high cost of feeding them, she said she had leftover meat when Reba died and other cats to feed.
“I had children coming and asking about Reba and not understanding death or where she was or why she went. And some of the cards from the children, that probably influenced me,” she said. “But if I could have flashed forward and seen everything, I probably would not have taken them.”
Around the country and the world, zoo, aquarium and sanctuary accrediting agencies have worked to set a true standard for humane, viable animal care and distinguish what they call “pseudo-sanctuaries” from real ones.
Accredited sanctuaries are marked by their exceptional care, their avoidance of any trade in animals, and their dedication to creating havens for animals that have been exploited. Once a sanctuary is accredited, it often is easier for it to receive funding and other grants.
Sanctuary accreditation exists because simply complying with the Animal Welfare Act “is so inadequate in terms of what these animals need,” said Kim Haddad, a board member of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the manager of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition.
“Our standards are much, much higher” than USDA regulations, she said. “They take into account the natural history of the animal, the animal’s life experience.”
According to Mr. Weir, the director of the American Sanctuary Association, accredited sanctuaries should have steady finances, strong nonprofit boards, plenty of room for animals to roam and enrichment activities to stimulate them. They also should have a robust education program that focuses on why exotic animals should not be pets.
Both organizations also indicated their willingness to work with sanctuaries to help them meet such standards, if the sanctuaries disavow breeding and trade.
“The whole idea behind it, it’s not to shut every place down that’s not perfect,” Dr. Haddad said. “It’s to say, ‘Here’s how you do it right.'”
Genesis Wildlife Center is not accredited as either a sanctuary or a zoo, although Ms. Miller said she would like to work toward it. She had papers in her office about accreditation through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but had not heard of the American Sanctuary Association or the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
She is in the process of cutting back at the center, working to place some of her tropical birds at an Ohio sanctuary.
“I’m thinking about not doing this (anymore),” she said.
She has been flustered by a stream of public criticism and believes she is being personally attacked, even as she draws consolation from students, volunteers and supporters she works with daily.
She said she wants everything for her center that critics want: a space that serves the needs of her animals and benefits the community.
“I would like it to be a place that, when people visit, they walk away saying, ‘Wow, did you see that amazing little wildlife center at Nay Aug Park?’ Not, ‘The building’s falling down. They’re not adequately staffed. They don’t have funding.’
“Why would you want people to walk away thinking something like that?”
Published: Monday, March 09, 2009
Updated: Monday, March 9, 2009 4:13 AM EDT
Back when Scranton’s government operated a zoo at Nay Aug Park, the obsolete, wholly inadequate facility became a major embarrassment and a metaphor for the blighted park and the city itself.
The Doherty administration has strived mightily to restore the park, making it once again a source of pride. Yet it allows a reincarnation of the decrepit zoo to drag down the effort.
Although the Genesis Wildlife Center is not technically a zoo, it serves that purpose in terms of its role in the park. And, although it is not operated by the city, the center operates in much the way the city operated the former zoo — hand to mouth, month to month.
The center has a dedicated director and volunteers, and it might well do some good work. But it is far removed from the modern zoos that grace the parks of progressive American cities — the sort of parks to which the Doherty administration otherwise aspires.
Mr. Doherty saw the center as a means to establish a zoo-like presence at the park without binding the city government to a project that it could not afford. The question that the mayor and City Council should consider, going forward, is whether the center enhances the park. The answer, unfortunately, is that it does not.
If Mr. Doherty and council think a zoo is fundamental to the ongoing renaissance and long-term stability of the park, they should methodically go about establishing one. That would involve substantial planning, expert opinions, and a step-by-step implementation plan, including long-term sustainable funding.
The most likely objective conclusion, unfortunately, is that Scranton simply cannot afford to operate a zoo according to modern standards for humane treatment of animals and for amenities required by human visitors. That is why the city does not have its own zoo now.
If the government studies the matter and reaches that conclusion, it should help the wildlife center with a relocation, and use the old zoo grounds to enhance the park in a different way.
Nay Aug tiger cub fights infection
Published: Sunday, January 25, 2009
Updated: Sunday, January 25, 2009 8:11 AM EST
In the six months since Nay Aug Park welcomed two new tiger cubs, both big cats have grown up quickly, but the male continues to be plagued by health problems.
Ivan, a Siberian tiger now 7 months old and 130 pounds, has not been able to fully fight off ringworm he arrived with from Oklahoma. Margaret Miller, director of the Genesis Wildlife Center, said the fungus keeps reoccurring, and Ivan is under regular veterinary care. Otherwise, he is a healthy growing tiger, but Ms. Miller is worried his immune system could be compromised.
“With him tiring easily, that scares me,” she said.
The other tiger, an Indochinese named Alea, has a clean bill of health, and she and Ivan are inseparable. Both often share a pen now with the cougars at Genesis.
Tiger cubs debut at Nay Aug with video
A male tiger cub at the Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary on Friday, July 25, 2008. Linda Morgan/Staff Photograph
BY JEREMY G. BURTON
Published: Saturday, July 26, 2008
Updated: Saturday, July 26, 2008 1:00 AM EDT
If the newest stars at the Genesis Wildlife Center were feeling any effects of a cross-country trek, they didn’t seem to show it.
But two bottles of formula and some ground beef are apparently enough to conk a couple of tigers right out.
The Genesis sanctuary on Friday introduced two new tiger cubs, two months after the death in May of 15-year-old Siberian tiger Reba, a park favorite.
The Indochinese tigers, a male and a female, arrived Thursday night from G.W. Exotic Animal Park, a conservancy and educational zoo in Wynnewood, Okla.
“Long drive there, long drive back, but it was well worth it,” volunteer Robin Perri said.
With the acquisition of two new cubs, some have criticized the aging, outdated facilities as inadequate for such animals. Throughout the afternoon, though, visitors crowded in front of the enclosure for a glimpse at the cubs. Little kids grinned, and adults marveled.
“Oh my goodness gracious, isn’t he cute?”
“Wave to him!”
Staffers said the cubs were doing well and enjoying the attention.
Linda Layland, of South Scranton, said her 6-year-old granddaughter, Stephanie, bawled over the death of Reba.
On Friday, Ms. Layland carried her 18-month-old grandson, Jeremy, who doesn’t make a habit of sitting still for long but spent a half-hour watching the two cubs feed and play.
“The kids need something like this,” she said.
For now, the 11- and 12-week-old tigers will be housed in an enclosure next to the 3,700-square-foot cougar pen, and they will rotate time outside until a partition can be built between the big cats. Eventually, they will all share the single space, possibly also with the wildlife center’s Siberian lynx.
Mayor Chris Doherty is expected to announce a contest to name the two cubs.
Many residents’ concerns stem from the rocky history of the former Nay Aug Zoo. Twice in five years in the 1980s, Parade magazine named it among the worst zoos nationwide. The facilities date from 1938, with renovations in the 1970s, 1990s and in 2003, when the Genesis sanctuary moved there. In 1981, two Humane Society officials called the zoo “archaic” and recommended it be closed, which it was in 1991.
Genesis is not by definition a zoo, and its volunteers feel like they are catching flak for a burden that isn’t theirs.
“All the things the public wants, I want, too. But it’s not my building,” Genesis director Margaret Miller said.
Ms. Miller said the new cubs don’t represent a change in mission or direction. As a rescue, it’s rare for the center to acquire young, healthy animals, but Ms. Miller said they are simply replacing what was lost.
Reba’s death cast a pall over the center. The staff was devastated; the cougars didn’t eat. Ms. Miller said the cubs bring an infusion of energy and excitement.
“They fit in here just perfectly,” she said.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Genesis Wildlife Center animals
A pig nose turtle swims in a tank at the Genesis Wildlife Center at Nay Aug Park. April 1, 2009. PAMELA SUCHY / Staff Photographer
Published: Sunday, April 05, 2009
Updated: Sunday, April 5, 2009 9:20 AM EDT
More than 50 animals from over 20 species reside at the Genesis Wildlife Center. Click each for more information.
‘It’s like I lost a part of me’ with video and photos
Published: Thursday, May 08, 2008
Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2008 1:00 AM EDT
But as the sun beat down on the zoo area, the Elmo doll lay alone in the middle of the cage, which still contains mattresses and blankets for each of Reba’s animal roommates.
BY STACY BROWN
Visitors to the Genesis Wildlife Center in Nay Aug Park stared into an empty cage Wednesday, as if expecting Reba the tiger to toss around the Elmo doll she often played with to the delight of those young and old.
But as the sun beat down on the zoo area, the Elmo doll lay alone in the middle of the cage, which still contains mattresses and blankets for each of Reba’s animal roommates.
Reba, the beloved Siberian tiger, died late Tuesday. She was 15.
After Reba had been cremated early Wednesday, Katlynn, the cougar whom Reba helped raise, moved about slowly, apparently grieving for her companion. Katlynn barely mingled with the cage’s other cougar, Dakota.
“Katlynn licked Reba’s head as she died last night,” said a tearful Margaret Miller, director of the wildlife center. “This is what people don’t see: The real animals and what they’re really like.”
Ms. Miller raised Reba after she obtained her from a small zoo in Marshalls Creek in 1993.
“When I got her, she was nearly dead,” Ms. Miller recalled. “Her mother didn’t have any milk, one other cub had died, and Reba was in an incubator. I held Reba in the palm of my hand; she was so small.
“It’s like I’ve lost a part of me.”
Reba featured in a 2007 video about the Genesis Wildlife Center:
Contact the writer: email@example.com
Reba, a park favorite since her arrival here in September 2003, suffered a seizure three weeks ago and was taken to the University of Pennsylvania, where doctors performed an MRI, a CT scan and blood test, all of which failed to show why the tiger was ill, Ms. Miller said. The average life expectancy of a Siberian tiger is 8 years in the wild, but 20 to 25 years in captivity, she said.
“It was a fluke blood clot that caused the seizure,” she said.
Tears flowed freely among the workers and passers-by at the Genesis Wildlife Center on Wednesday.
“I can’t believe we won’t see her anymore,” said Jesse Walker, a Dunmore resident and frequent visitor to the Wildlife Center. “I heard about Reba dying, and I felt bad. I wanted to see if I could see her just one more time, but it was too late.”
Ms. Miller said all the animals will eventually die, but the staff provides regular, first-rate care for all of them.
While the city pays heating bills and contributes $50,000 annually and the use of the building, Ms. Miller has said she needs about $150,000 more a year to run the facility.
The center has relied heavily on donations, and Ms. Miller has said that she often pays for some expenditures out of her own pocket.
One expense Ms. Miller would not have minded paying, if it were at all possible, was whatever the cost would have been to keep Reba alive.
“She was so adorable. Everyone loved her and she loved everyone,” said Fern Norton, wildlife center volunteer. “Margaret (Miller) is devastated, as are all of us.”
The remaining animals, not including tigers and other large cats, seized in Marion County from Barbara Hoffmann and Fred Lolling were turned over to the Humane Society of Harrison County for placement Friday following a new trial.
A trial de novo was held Friday in the District Courtroom at the Marion County Courthouse to decide if Ms. Hoffman and Lolling, who represented themselves at court, should have their animals returned.
“This court is going to find in favor of the state, which proved a violation of section 821.023 of the health and safety code,” said County Court Judge Phil Parker. The section of code refers to the disposition or return of cruelly treated animals. If the court finds the animal’s owner has cruelly treated the animal, the animal is to go to either public sale or auction or a non-profit animal shelter. “The animals will be placed with the Marion County Humane Society, and ordered, if the Humane Society sells any of the animals, the money is to be returned to the court,” Parker said.
Ms. Hoffman and Lolling left the courtroom quietly as the trial concluded about 4:30 p.m.
“This is a win for the animals. That’s who won here,” said Caroline Wedding, president and founder of the Marion County Humane Society. “They will be placed in the best facilities available.”
Testimony in the de novo trial began at 9 a.m., with a sign language interpreter provided for Lolling, who is deaf.
Marion County District Attorney Bill Gleason began with Marion County Sheriff’s Investigator Shawn Cox, who took video of the search warrant’s execution.
The video included cramped conditions, and Cox’s testimony included the element of smell, which he said was “pretty strong” and made him cough.
“This is the second trailer with urine and feces all over the floor of the dogs cages. There was no food there, at the time, but it looked like they had been fed,” Cox said as he described scenes from the video.
Animals were also found to be living in cages and crates inside the camper where the couple slept.
“The smell in the camper was quite a bit strong. The ammonia was strong,” said Cox, who described the conditions of the 51 animals cramped inside.
Ms. Hoffman concerned her questioning with issues she believed existed in the process of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department’s execution of the search and seizure warrants.
She continually ventured into long sequences of questioning that were objected to by Gleason as being irrelevant to the trial. Lolling, who spoke for himself during questioning, also sought answers that were irrelevant to the proceedings from witnesses.
Other witnesses for the county included Deputy David McKnight and veterinarian Carol Hedges, who has had many of the animals in her clinic and kennel since the seizure.
“In general, the cages were dirty, they smelled bad and had to be repaired with tape pretty quickly,” Ms. Hedges said of the removal of the animals from the two semi-trailers and camper.
She also described the smell of the trailers as having a “very high urine-type smell and some other odors I could not identify. It was like a kennel that had not been cleaned in several days.”
Hedges also testified that among others, a miniature horse she treated for a serious case of pleural pneumonia died. An iguana was also found to have mouth rot and later died. Seventy percent of the dogs were found to have heartworms with another 70 percent cross-section having tapeworms and/or hookworms.
She attributed those issues to husbandry problems.
It was calculated during Hedges’ testimony that there had been 141 animals seized. Of those, 121 were smaller animals. The domestic cats were euthenized, due to rampant upper respiratory infections, and the ducks, chickens and turkeys were also euthenized as their origins were unknown, since Ms. Hoffman provided no documentation for them.
In all, 38 of the 121 died either from euthanasia or medical causes, leaving 83 animals still in question during the trial.
Ms. Hoffman was openly grief-stricken over all of the animals’ deaths, and expressed a desire to leave the courtroom as she choked back tears.
“I’m glad you’ve forgiven me for my mistakes,” Ms. Hoffman said to Parker about her lack of experience in conducting herself at court.
She proceeded to give a background of the events and said she was there to prove she was abused as well, many times detailing her arrest and time spent in jail.
“I intend to show I was severely abused through the process,” she said. Though the trial was not about her rights, she continued lines of questioning pertaining to the large cats, the search warrant and other events from the day of the seizure…” More
A hearing is set for 11 a.m. Thursday in Marion County in the animal cruelty case of Barbara Hoffman, 58, and Fred Lulling of Jefferson.
Marion County and state officials seized more than 50 wild, domestic and exotic animals from the couple’s property, 950 Lewis Chapel Road, last Wednesday after receiving a tip about them harboring large cats. Ms. Hoffman, a former circus queen, and Lulling, her business partner, was arrested for six counts of animal cruelty.
“This is a hearing to show (cause) for the JP (justice of the peace) to make a decision on the (disposition) of the animals,” said Caroline Wedding, president of the Humane Society of Marion County. She accompanied the sheriff’s department to last week’s seizure.
“We hope the county and Humane Society will be awarded custody,” she said.
Ms. Wedding said she will present in court a list of animals seized and the current medical conditions that were uncovered after the seizure.
She said one of the dogs, which she took to be groomed, is blind and at least partially deaf. She said the other dogs were basically using him as a urine pad.
“He was skin and bones and so matted,” Ms. Wedding said. “He’s on his way to being much better.” The Humane Society president said several nonprofit organizations and rescue groups are willing to take the animals if they are awarded to the county and the Humane Society…” More
Feb 2, 2010: The “Circus Superstar” with the Foul-Smelling Menagerie, Part 1
By John Nova Lomax
While Caroline Wedding has only been running the Marion County Humane Society for about three years, she has already been on plenty of animal-cruelty raids, and has helped find better homes for hundreds of dogs, cats and exotic birds. Still, she thinks it’s unlikely she will ever come across something like what she encountered last Wednesday, when she accompanied multiple East Texas law enforcement agencies on a raid that will go down in East Texas infamy.
“If you would have told me a few years ago that today I’d be feeding tigers, cougars, and leopards, I never would have believed you,” she tells Hair Balls.
And those are far from the only critters now in her charge. In all, 141 animals were seized when authorities from agencies ranging from everything from the Waskom Police Department Reserves to the Texas Animal Health Commission to the U.S Marshals Office converged on the rural compound of new-in-town former circus performer Barbara Hoffman…” More
Feb 2, 2010: Former circus performer, Edinburg resident faces animal cruelty charges
By JEREMY ROEBUCK
Barbara Hoffman vowed last year to pack up and leave Edinburg for a city more appreciative of her menagerie of wild cats and other exotic animals.
Jefferson, Texas — as it turns out — wasn’t that place.
Two weeks after the retired circus performer moved her 60-animal collection into the rural town on the state’s border with Louisiana, authorities seized them all and placed her and her business partner under arrest on charges of animal cruelty.
Now, the fate of six tigers, three black leopards, one cougar, a wallaby, a monkey, and a host of cats, dogs, lizards, turtles and horses lies in a courtroom again.
“It’d be fine if she got all of her licenses,” said Larry Nance, an investigator for the Marion County District Attorney’s Office. “But she just moved in here in the dead of night without the proper permits, and we’re not going to keep pushing this problem down the road.”
In January 2009, Edinburg city officials gave Hoffman, 58, and partner Fred Lulling until the end of the year to remove their animals from an 8-acre tract of land just outside of city limits.
The business partners had failed to register the animals with the city, state or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and they posed a danger to public safety, a city spokeswoman said at the time. The pair attempted to appeal that decision in court, but their lawsuit was thrown out after a judge found they had not filed it in a timely fashion.
But Hoffman — who toured in a traveling circus act for more than two decades — maintained she was more than capable of caring for such wild beasts and merely wanted to open an educational wildlife preserve for children and Winter Texans. She had previously kept them at the San Benito fairgrounds before Hurricane Dolly made the area unsafe, prompting her move to Hidalgo County…” More
Jan 28, 2010: Owner of exotic animals behind bars
By Courtney Lane
The owner of those exotic animals seized in Marion County is now behind bars herself. Barbara Hoffman is charged with numerous counts of animal cruelty.
In the meantime, the nearly 100 animals seized from her property Wednesday are recovering in county clinics.
“All the big cats are in climate controlled, secured area,” said Caroline Wedding, with the Marion County Humane Society. “This cold weather coming in this weekend, they’re going to be happy babies…we want their lives to be heaven.”
To free them from the filth, Marion County investigators had to cut through the rusted, corroded locks.
“That’s just proof that these animals have been left out in the weather forever…their feet are sore due to the fact that they’re always on their wet floors, due to standing in their own urine,” said Larry Nance, with the Marion County D.A.’s Office.
Now, their cages are clean. Though a temporary home, Marion County says their behavior is improving instantly.
“They’re all just what I call purring…they just lay around and push their feet against you [in a] real playful mood,” said Nance.
Ironically, their owner, Hoffman, is now also behind bars and under a suicide watch. She used to be an animal trainer with her late husband, but records uncover a trail of trouble since his death.
Before moving to Marion County, Hoffman was kicked out of Edinburg, Texas for the same thing: not registering the wild animals. Investigators say she was also denied a USDA license and began hoarding.
“When you’ve got 50 small animals in a camper trailer that smells like 18 years of rotting urine, you’re not taking care of your animals,” said William Gleason, the Marion County District Attorney.
For some of those smaller, domestic cats, it is already too late. Plagued with diseases, some are being euthanized. But, for most, like Hoffman’s prized monkey, it is a fresh start, and, hopefully, a happy ending…” More & video
Jan 28, 2010: Animal menagerie seized; Couple faces 6 cruelty charges
By Robin Y. Richardson
Marion County’s Sheriff’s Office arrested Barbara Hoffman, 58, and Fred Lulling of Jefferson for six counts of animal cruelty Wednesday after seizing more than 50 animals from their home.
“We have a warrant to seize the animals and a warrant to search the premises,” said Marion County District Attorney Bill Gleason, adding they were also searching for any carcasses….” More
Jan 27, 2010: Wild animals rescued from poor living conditions
By Courtney Lane
Tuesday, we told you about wild animals discovered in Marion County living in horrific conditions. The District Attorney’s Office served Barbara Hoffman with a search and seizure warrant Wednesday and we were right there alongside them.
We arrived in Chopper 7 at the area where all the animals were being kept in filthy, cramped conditions. Once we landed, we searched the perimeter with the Marion County D.A.’s office, discovering foul, filthy conditions.
“I’m an ex-circus superstar,” said Hoffman. “This is what we look like when we’re not performing.”
In the trailer were huge snakes, birds without wings, domestic cats caged and even a wallaby. The stench was so strong, you could hardly breathe.
“If you haven’t got a strong stomach you’ll probably lose it,” said Larry Nance. “I mean, the ammonia is so strong it just burns your nose when you walk in. The filth and the smell and then you look at these cats in these cages. They’re not let out to use the restroom at any time.”…” More & video
Researched and written by Howard Baskin JD, MBA, Advisory Board Chairman of Big Cat Rescue
Joe Schreibvogel says that he and his parents started G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Park in memory of a brother who loved animals.
On December 10, 2010 Joe wrote on Facebook
“…another employee quit today without so much as a phone call. …all I get is a text message that reads… My brother (g.w.) would be ashamed of what I have become”
If Joe’s brother was indeed a lover of animals, this is likely to be an understatement.
As detailed below, Joe has become one of the most notorious breeders and exploiters of tiger cubs in the world.
Joe Schreibvogel is also known individually as:
And doing business as:
5 Continent Productions
Garold Wayne Interactive Zoo
G.W. Exotic Animal Foundation
G.W. Exotic Animal Park
G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Foundation
G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Park
Big Cat Rescue Entertainment Group
Mystical Magic of the Endangered
Tigers in Need
Welch’s Entertainment Group
Welch’s Tiger Experience
Welch’s Great Cat Adventure
ABUSE OF TIGER CUBS
Joe Schreibvogel operates a roadside zoo in Oklahoma with 1400 animals, including over 150 tigers, on sixteen acres, that has a history of serious animal abuse (see below). He generates revenue by constantly breeding tiger cubs, ripping them from their mothers shortly after birth, and abusing them by carting them around from mall to mall charging people to pet them alongside a magic show he performs. USDA rules prohibit using the cubs for this purpose after they reach 12 weeks old. When he can no longer use them to make money, he “donates” (or by some reports sells) them, or brings to his zoo. In most cases these animals will at best spend their entire lives in small, prison-like cells. Current USDA regulations permit keeping an adult tiger in a cage smaller than a parking spot. Many of his cats are sent to places with a history of animal abuse violations.
What is life like for these poor cubs dragged around from mall to mall for the early weeks of their lives? Videos of the mall exhibit reveal what they endure.
In the video below, you can see that the cub has diarrhea. Witnesses report this was true of at least three of the cubs. Instead of taking the cubs off display, the attendant follows the cub with a rag. First Beth Corley wipes the floor, then she wipes the cub’s bottom with the same rag. The cub’s bottom is likely raw and sore from the diarrhea. You can hear the cub scream. You can see the video under “Sick Cubs at Mall” below.
Malls who allow Joe to exhibit are supporting this abuse. If venues would not allow acts like this, the breeding and suffering would stop. Fortunately, more and more responsible venues are making the right decision. For instance, after a cub display at one of their stores, Petsmart recently issued a policy that there would be no exotic animal displays at their U.S. and Canada stores. In doing so they showed that they truly care about animals.
Joe claims that he has to breed cubs and take them out on the traveling show in order to support the animals at his zoo. He acknowledges that this is wrong when he says in a Facebook post that he does not want to do this but is “forced to” in order to make money to support the animals at the zoo. Joe is only forced to do this as a result of his own bad decisions and lack of caring for animals.
Joe’s latest argument to justify his rampant breeding (which he calls “selective”) is that he is doing a public service because by supplying a cub to every zoo and exhibitor who wants a tiger, he is putting out of business the “back yard breeders.” This is a little bit like John Dillinger claiming he was doing public service by putting other bank robbers out of business because he had robbed all the banks. It does not matter who is breeding tigers to make money from cubs and then discarding them to a life of misery. It is just wrong.
The fact is that real sanctuaries all around the country are able to support their rescue and animal care work without adding to the problem by breeding and without abusing animals to make money. They do that by operating facilities that have excellent animal care that donors appreciate and want to support. They also do that by being financially responsible and not taking in more animals than they can support.
The fact that true sanctuaries all of over the country do support their animals without tormenting innocent cubs proves that it can be done. If Joe cannot do the right thing for the animals, he should not be collecting them. If real sanctuaries around the county are capable of doing this, why can’t Joe?
Joe’s website says his zoo was started in 1999 as a way to honor his deceased brother, who reportedly loved animals. Joe could have done exactly that. He could have built a real sanctuary by taking in animals and giving them the kind of care that would have touched the hearts of donors who would have supported him like other real sanctuaries have done. He says on his website that in 2005 he “grew away from the word ‘Sanctuary’ … because everyone wanted to dictate how you run a business as a sanctuary, but no one wanted to help pay the bills.”
Regarding having others “dictate”, yes, to be a real sanctuary, you have to meet certain standards of animal care. The animal abuse documented in USDA violations from 2000 to 2004, discussed below, shows he never was a sanctuary. He could have invested time in learning the skills needed to run a true sanctuary, including how to run the financial side of a nonprofit. He could have built a place that would have been a true tribute to a deceased animal lover. He did not.
Young Children Bitten at GW Park
Before going into the details about Joe’s exploitation and lies, below are three videos taken in September 2011 by visitors to GW Park. According to a USDA Fact Sheet, cubs under 8 weeks old should not be petted because their immune systems have not sufficiently developed to prevent disease. Separately, USDA guidance forbids petting cubs over 12 weeks of age because they are dangerous. (See 2010 in the Palazzo case upholding USDA position established in 2004).
In these three short videos you see GWPark employees blatantly violating these USDA policies and endangering the cubs and the public. In the videos the handlers acknowledge that the cubs are 14, 15, 16, 19 or 20 weeks old. In one video you hear the handlers laughing about a child being bitten by one of the overage cubs and being taken in to see under age cubs to appease the family. Remarkably, just one week later, with a handler lying by saying “we have never had an incident,” the video shows a young child jumped on and bitten by a 20 week old cub. After that, even though in both videos the handlers talk about the smaller cubs having weak immune systems which makes public contact dangerous for them, the park manager brings out a tiny two week old cub to appease the crowd. He allows two and three people to grope at the cub at a time. He only stops when the poor cub, who is so young that its eyes are not even open yet, starts squealing loudly and desperately tries to climb away to avoid the petting.
As a practical matter, USDA inspectors are never going to see the animals mistreated or see animals that are too young or too old being used this way. The inspectors do not do undercover work, they announce themselves on arrival. An individual who worked at GW Park tells us that when the inspector arrives, someone at the park announces “USDA on the property” and some individuals are assigned to delay the inspectors while others run around filling water bowls and stop any behavior that could result in citation. As you watch the tiny cub squealing in discomfort and fear in the third video, knowing that each of the hands you see groping at him is a threat to his infant weak immune system, and as you hear the handlers in the first video chuckle about a child being bitten, and as you see Schreibvogel in the video at the top of this page strike a tiny cub with a pole and say “just pop ‘em in the ass,” ask yourself if you think Joe Schreibvogel is someone who loves animals. Does someone who loves animals torment tiny cubs to make money? And if you are a venue that permits his traveling exhibit to set up in your mall or fair, aside from the potential liability, is this kind of treatment of animals what you want to support?
Underage Cubs Used to Appease Crowd After Child Bitten
Sick Cubs at Mall
Joe Schreibvogel Exposed by Inside Edition
HISTORY OF ANIMAL ABUSE
Instead of creating a sanctuary, Joe created a facility that in its early years, 2000 – 2004, was cited repeatedly by USDA for serious violations of the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act. USDA has limited enforcement resources. They can only take a few animal abusers to court, so they reserve that for only the most blatant cases. Typically they will issue citations for years, giving the licensee every opportunity to correct the out of compliance conditions before they consider filing a lawsuit. After years of citations they finally sued Joe. In April 2005 the agency filed a 20-page complaint against Joe with numerous charges, including the following:
* Failure to provide adequate veterinary care
* Failure to handle animals so that there was minimal risk of harm to the animal and to the public
* An incident in which a tiger escaped from his enclosure and attacked and seriously wounded a camel
* Transportation of 15 tigers and lions in a manner that allowed urine, feces, or both to contaminate the animals caged below
* Lack of potable water for 18 lions, 23 tigers, 15 bears, 20 cougars, three leopards, and a pig
* Lack of employees present to provide care to 80 large, dangerous cats
* Lack of knowledge by employees about how often the animals were fed
* Filthy, wet, unsafe, and dilapidated enclosures
* Failure to handle animals in a manner that does not cause trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort
* Failure to provide animals with minimum space
In January 2006 he consented to a $25,000 fine and a probation period. Based on inspections since, hopefully conditions have improved. But, for over five years before USDA forced changes, the animals Joe “rescued” were subjected to the horrible conditions USDA cited.
In September 2009 USDA issued a warning notice for alleged violations of the AWA handling requirements stemming from separate incidents that occurred in 2007 and 2008, one involving a customer injured by a lion cub.
On September 13, 2011 Schreibvogel was cited by USDA for failing to provide veterinary care to two animals.
On December 1, 2011 Schreibvogel was cited by USDA for improper handling related to an incident in September 2011 at GW Park where young boy was injured by a tiger cub.
23 CUBS DIED AT GW PARK
Schreibvogel is currently under investigation by USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs and separately for other possible violations of the AWA. The cubs died between April 2009 and May 2010 according to what Joe’s people reported to the FDA. Any responsible facility would have done necropsies on the initial deaths. Joe finally did necropsies on one or two of the last cubs to die and called in FDA to test the formula. The necropsies indicated curdled milk formula in the stomachs of the cubs. So, Joe insists that the cubs were killed by “bad formula.” But, the FDA testing of the samples Joe provided and of samples from the manufacturer found nothing wrong with the formula. This formula must be stored, handled, mixed and administered properly. Since FDA found nothing wrong with the formula itself, if the cubs did die from the formula, the most logical conclusion is that it was because Joe’s staff did not do one or more of these activities properly.
Between February and June 2006, a PETA investigator working at GW Exotics kept a log documenting a pattern of abuse. These included animals seriously injured from fighting, food dishes teeming with maggots, hungry animals who went without food, animals who were abused and beaten by staff. For instance, here are two examples from http://www.peta.org/features/gw-the-animals.aspx:
JULIE, THE THREE-LEGGED LION
On his first day on the job, PETA’s investigator met Julie, a three-legged lioness, who had a bloody, raw, and gaping hole where her right front leg used to be. Julie had been attacked by two tigers who literally chewed and tore her leg off and then ate it. The remaining stump of her leg had to be amputated and when she pulled out the stitches, Julie’s open wound went untreated.Though she moaned and whimpered for days, she was given nothing for pain. Julie languished in a small and barren indoor cage on a concrete floor with nothing more than a small towel for comfort. Although she was bred and born at the zoo, [J1] tells people that he “rescued” Julie and that she was injured before coming to the zoo.
‘THE VEGAS TIGERS’
GW’s Holiday 2005 newsletter reported that the Fercos Bros., a Siegfried & Roy wannabe magic act in Las Vegas, gave the park two male tigers who had “outgrown” the stage. Two days after PETA’s investigator started working at the park, the “Vegas tigers,” as they were called, were killed by lethal injection because staff decided they were “mean.”
Reportedly, the tigers’ teeth were cut out, and one was decapitated and his head given to the veterinarian’s husband to be mounted. When the Fercos came to visit the tigers in June, they were told that the cats were killed when lightning struck their cage during a storm.
Below is a video by the investigator showing a dying horse left suffering, workers beating animals with tools, and a worker explaining how they forge the feeding log to say animals were fed that were not because USDA had no way to prove otherwise.
According to one report “PETA activists took their recordings to law enforcement, but no charges were filed after authorities said no criminal activity occurred in the videos they viewed. Federal agents inspected the park twice after the videos were released and found no violations. Schreibvogel claimed the PETA videos took out of context what was going on, but did admit he had fired four of the employees featured in the investigation.” Although authorities decided not to file criminal charges, it is hard to imagine the behavior in this video not being animal abuse no matter what the “context.”
Allowing animals to suffer horrible conditions for years until USDA forced him to correct them clearly contradicts Joe’s claim to be a lover of animals. His current argument that he should be allowed to abuse cubs and subject a steady stream of them to lifelong misery in order to support those he has collected raises further doubts. He accepts animals from places known for animal abuse without regard for the fact that these places continue to operate and abuse more animals. Is that a rescuer, or someone just building the “world’s largest” big cat zoo to satisfy his ego?
IS JOE A PERSON OF CHARACTER AND PROFESSIONALISM?
To get an insight into Joe’s character, let’s look at a few examples of his behavior.
Photos of PETA and BCR effigies being killed. One of his responses to criticism from PETA and BIG CAT RESCUE was to post photos on his Facebook page showing figures labeled PETA and BCR with guns to their heads, hangman’s nooses around their necks, and a bow and arrow pointed at them.
If you are a manager of a mall reading this, is this the kind of person you want to be associated with?
Photo shooting polar bear cub. One mall executive found out how professional Joe is when his company decided they did not want to be associated with Joe’s abuse. Joe, using one of his “stage names” Aarron Alex, accused the management company online of “supporting the killing of animals” and posted a photo with his proposed boycott of their properties showing a polar bear plush toy with a handgun to its head and the title “If Mama Don’t Want It Don’t Nobody Want It.”
If you were a mall owner or manager, is this the kind of vendor you want?
Registering URLs in Name of Dead Person. Another rather bizarre behavior is that in recent years Joe has been in the habit of registering new internet URL’s using the name Brian Rhyne, who the GW website said died in 2001. What kind of person uses a dead man’s name to register their websites? Recently Joe has been changing some of these, perhaps as a result of this strange behavior being commented upon online.
Crude, sexually oriented comments and lies. Joe and a small band of cronies, most of whom are people who support subjecting exotic animals to the unsuitable condition of being pets, constantly post blatant lies, sometimes sexually oriented, about his critics. Some of the Facebook identities making these comments are fake identities set up by Joe or this group. For instance, it is hard to imagine that his Facebook supporter “Carole Backsins” is anything more than a shallow and childish alteration of the name of Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue.
JOE’S MULTIPLE COMPANY NAMES AND PERSONAL NAMES
What about all those company names listed at the top of this page? One of the most basic principles in marketing is to develop a consistent brand image. The problem for Joe is that his brand is tainted by his animal abuse, so he keeps making up new names. He really went to town in 2010 adding at least four of the names listed above.
He says he uses different names to avoid the “animal activists.” Joe is not fooling any of the people who fight to protect animals and want him to stop abusing the cubs. They find him no matter what entity name he uses. The only people he can fool this way are the members of the public. One individual, Aaron Wissner, whose posts indicate he simply was concerned at what he saw at a mall and wanted to find out who “Tigers in Need” was, spent what had to be hours researching. Some of his information came from prior versions of this page, but much he obtained elsewhere. A URL to his research appears at the bottom of this page.
Joe’s Names. In addition to using his own name, Joe has performed his magic act using Joe Exotic, Aarron Alex, and Cody Ryan. Cody Ryan frequently performs as a duo with a man named Aaron Stone. Joe posts disparaging remarks about his critics under both his own name and Aarron Alex, and Aaron Stone has shown up with similar comments as a “volunteer” on at least one post.
Joe’s Accomplices. Joe has two accomplices in the subterfuge of his entity “name game.” One is Beth Corley. Joe has one USDA license. Beth Corley has her own license, registered at the same address as Joe’s, i.e. the G.W. Animal Park address. The other accomplice is Vicky Welch, spelled with a “y” in news reports, but with an “i” when Joe uses her name to register URL’s for the new names he makes up for the magic act and cub display. She travels with the show and has been referred to in the press as “road manager and animal caretaker” for Awakening Productions.
Are they all interconnected? It would take too long to give details on each here. We have built an excel spreadsheet sorting out his maze. Some names are registered as Trade Names of G.W. Exotics. Others are separate corporations. And still others are not registered at all with the Oklahoma Secretary of State nor show up on the IRS.gov site as nonprofits even though they claim to be.
Just for example, let’s look at one person and one entity.
Beth Corley. As mentioned, Beth has a USDA license registered at Joe’s address. Beth is referred to in an online news story posted by Joe as “Director” of Big Cat Rescue Entertainment. She is referred to by a reporter for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, IN as “Beth Corley, a worker with Big Cat Rescue” (failing to include the “Entertainment”). A report in The Telegraph on the exhibit at the Alton Square Mall in Alton, IL in July 2010 refers to “Beth Corley, co-founder of Welch’s Entertainment.” The Fremont Tribune from Fremont, NE on 1-28-10 refers to “Corley’s Exotics, run by Beth Corley of G.W. Exotic Animal Park.”
Tigers In Need. Now, let’s take one entity, or one name since it does not actually appear to be an entity, “Tigers In Need”. As of this writing, we could not find it registered as a Trade Name nor as a separate Corporation, so it appears to be just a made up name. One advantage, assuming that is intentional, is that it is difficult to know who “owns” it. Below is a list of some of the ways in which Tiger In Need is connected to the other entities and accomplice names:
1) The URL tigersinneed.org was registered 1/30/10. Before 7/29/10 the WHOIS report showed Registrant Name was “Tigers in need” and Registrant Email was Joe_Exotic@Yahoo.com. On 7-29-10 the registration was changed to show Registrant Name as Vicki Welch and Registrant Email left blank.
2) The tigersinneed.org website has a description that clearly is GW Park. It refers to being started in 1999 in Southern Oklahoma and having over 150 big cats. It says “Please note that we are a non-profit organization and are not affiliated with any other company”, when it clearly is the same facility as the GW Exotic zoo.
3) The “Contact Us” link at tigersinneed.org brings up “Florida Office 813-361-9611”, the same phone being used by Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.
4) The “Guestbook” link at tigersinneed.org contains comments from visitors to the Alton Mall in July. The Alton, IL newspaper, The Telegraph, reporting on the show at the mall, refers to the cats being “just a few of the 150 or so from the Tigers In Need refuge in Wynnewood, Okla. Welch’s Entertainment holds the tours…to raise money for Tigers In Need.” It quotes “Beth Corley, co-founder of Welch’s Entertainment.”
5) The Davis County Clipper 7-27-10 in Bountiful, UT refers to Welch’s Tiger Experience also being called Tigers in Need.
6) An event notice on the East Town Mall website was titled Tigers in Need formally (sic – formerly) Awakening Productions.
What kind of person creates a maze of entities like this, and for what legitimate purpose?
Joe and his employee Bobbi Corona have a total disregard for the truth that is remarkable. He says and writes whatever nonsense he decides to make up. PeTA identified statements about his breeding and selling that they show to be false at http://www.peta.org/features/gw-exotic-animal-trade.aspx
Here are some examples where Joe misleads or issues totally false statements:
Tigers In Need Nonprofit and Not Affiliated. His many names and entities and the deception that they foist on the public are discussed above. A number of his entities, like Tigers In Need, have claimed on their websites, literature and press reports to be “nonprofit.” They do not show up as registered trade names of a nonprofit, nor on the IRS site under their own names. G.W. Exotic Animal Park is a nonprofit, so maybe Joe thinks that any name he wants to call it by becomes a nonprofit, even when he is denying that the name is associated with GW. The other deception is the idea that these are not related. Tigers In Need, which clearly is just another name for the GW Animal Park, has on its website at this writing “we… are not affiliated with any other company”, an obviously false statement. Then, in his depositions in our lawsuit, he did an about face and says that G.W. Exotic Animal Park, Tigers in Need and Big Cat Rescue Entertainment are all the same. He claims he never intended to file Big Cat Rescue Entertainment as a separate company, it should have been a d/b/a. This is in spite of the fact that he first registered it as a d/b/a, then redrew that registration and filed it as a separate corporation.
Howard Baskin cub display video. Howard Baskin, husband of Carole Baskin from Big Cat Rescue, went undercover at a tiger cub exhibit to get video showing the cubs’ distress and the exhibitor’s lies. He then made a video explaining in detail why these exhibits are abusive and provided details about the particular exhibitor involved and the poor conditions at her facility. The video included the video clip at the top of this page showing Joe’s cubs with diarrhea. You can see the 6 minute video at http://www.bigcatrescue.org/video/00389.htm
What did Joe do? He issued a “press release” on PRLog claiming that Carole does not know that “her husband has been going behind her back to either pet or play with a baby tiger cub.” He quoted the owner of the exhibit, someone who says Joe “donated” a cub to her, as saying “Maybe this is how he gets his kicks since he cant (sic) get them at home…” So, Joe, Howard Baskin goes behind his wife’s back to pet tiger cubs, then makes a video and has her post it on the Big Cat Rescue website. Pretty darn sneaky of him. Surely she will never know. Does a truthful person of character post a press release like this?
Joe claims he is no longer the one displaying the cubs. This one is a gem. Joe recently started saying that people concerned about the abuse in the cub exhibit should leave him alone and are lying if they associate him with it because the cub exhibit is under the USDA license of another person. In a Facebook post 11/4/10 Joe says “I DON’T USE CUBS (his caps) anylonger (sic), all I do is Magic shows.”
Let’s think about that one. The USDA licensee is now not Joe. It is Beth Corley. But her license is registered at the same address as his and she has historically travelled with the show. Her connections to his various entities are detailed above. The proceeds of the show are still advertised as going to Tigers In Need, basically just another made up name for Joe’s GW Exotics Animal Park as shown above. So the show still benefits Joe’s zoo. But since the cubs are technically registered under his co-worker’s license Joe has nothing to do with the cubs show? Sure, Joe.
Breeding “A Select Few”. Joe says he breeds “a select few.” Were the 23 cubs that died mid 2010 a select few? He is constantly breeding to supply his road show. He can be heard in the PeTA video yelling at the cats to breed because he needed cubs for the road show.
Laws restricting private ownership cause abandonment. The GW Exotic website “About” page claims the laws banning private exotic animal ownership are the cause of the abandonment of exotics that Joe has to rescue. This is utter nonsense. New bans typically grandfather in private owners. But more importantly, it is private ownership that causes the abandonment. If private ownership were banned nationwide, which it should be like it is in many states and many other nations, there would be NO abandonment because no private owners would have them!
The steady increase in legislation banning private ownership represents recognition by our society that private ownership leads to massive abuse. Social values evolve. It took decades to ban slavery in England and for women to win the right to vote in America. Those ideas started out as “radical”, held by a small minority. Gradually more and more people understood and agreed until they became a part of our value system that we take for granted today. The same trend is happening with private ownership of exotics. Gradually more and more people are realizing that this simply leads to widespread abuse of these animals. The best evidence of this is the accelerating trend in state laws. Just since 2005 eight more states have passed some level of ban.
GW Exotic is “Accredited”. Joe says he is “accredited”. He is accredited by United States Zoological Association. Tis is an organization Joe himself created in August 2008. The Registered Agent for USZA in the Oklahoma Secretary of State records is Joe Schreibogel. When he set up the USZA.us website, he used his email address, but listed the Registered Agent as Brian Rhyne, a man who Joe’s own website said died in 2001. In one fax Joe claims USZA has “nearly 2 million supporters,” another blatant lie.
What kind of organization is it? The USZA website has a page where people can list exotic animals they want to give away, sell or buy. On 11/7/10 the section listing cats for sale offered “baby white tigers” with the notation “great breed stock”. The sellers are only listed by a code. This code for this seller was “600 OK”. As in Oklahoma. Most likely Joe.
Joe refers to his park as a zoo. The recognized accrediting body in the zoo industry is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Joe is not accredited by AZA. Being accredited implies having been reviewed by some independent organization and found to have met certain standards. Forming your own entity to accredit yourself does not qualify as “accredited.”
People Magazine cover. On his Facebook page for “Joe Exotic” Joe shows “Cody Ryan” ( aka Joe) and Aaron Stone on the cover of People Magazine for “September 2010”, giving the impression they were actually on that cover. They were not.
Joe is Police Chief. On Examiner.com Joe says he “is a former police chief of the Colony Tx…”.
Since The Colony was formed, it has had 6 Chiefs of Police:
Jim Beltran August 1977 to May 1978
John Steinseck July 1978 to September 1979
Nick Ristagno Jan 1980 to April 1990
Ted Gibson December 1990 to February 1992
Bruce Stewart December 1992 to September 1995
Joe Clark April 1996 to Present
Other places Joe mentions being an officer, then Chief, of Eastvale, TX, a small town of about 500 people that years later merged into The Colony.
Disparagement of Big Cat Rescue. Joe has become almost obsessed with disparaging Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue. He set up a website for this purpose. The “About” section contains the obvious lie that the site is written by “a group of independent reporters.” Sure, Joe.
In March 2010 he visited Big Cat Rescue as a tour guest, took photos, then captioned them with ridiculous lies. In September 2010 he visited again, this time taking a video of the tour. He made nonsensical comments into the microphone during the tour, including childish insults about the hard working volunteers he saw, then added captions with false statements like he did with his photos. He then flew low over the sanctuary for an extended period of time in a helicopter stressing the cats (not the act of someone who loves animals.)
A few examples of his false statements:
1) He questions the guide’s reference to Big Cat Rescue being accredited with a caption asking by whom. As he knows, the accreditation is by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries whose board is composed of members to the largest animal protection organizations.
2) He claims Carole is getting rich from the sanctuary. Carole has worked for 17 years without any salary or other compensation. In fact she donated the land, some investment properties, and made substantial cash donations. After 9/11 when tourism stopped and donations diminished she was selling her car and personal household belongings to pay for food for the cats.
3) He makes sarcastic, ridiculous comments about cage sizes and cleanliness that anyone who visits would realize are total nonsense. For instance, he shows a small portion of a cage and presents it as the entire cage. Or, he shows a structure made of small logs we built just for the cat’s entertainment and claims it is the den and the cat does not have proper shelter, when in fact the real den is nearby and Joe knows it.
Joe, using his alias Aarron Alex, misused the Care2 Petition site to post his photos and start a petition. Martha Hoffman, a person who had visited Big Cat Rescue a number of times, took the time to write to Care2 documenting the false statements. The last sentence of her first paragraph pretty much says it all:
“I am writing in regard to the BCR sanctuary and the accusations lodged by Aarron Alex. My husband and I are residents of Florida, living on the east coast. We have on numerous occasions visited the BCR participating in the different tours offered. Therefore we have walked the premises at different hours and NEVER have we seen anything in the context of what Mr. Aarron Alex has presented. He purposely distorts every single picture.”
To read the full text of her post where she explains the distortions in detail click here.
Finally, one of Joe’s more absurd posts implies that USDA does not do anything about his bogus complaints because “word has it that she (Carole) has a USDA person living on her property.” Sure Joe – and do Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa share a house with the mysterious “USDA person?”
Joe clearly does not have the slightest concern about whether what he says or writes is true. He makes up whatever he thinks will serve his purpose. The strange part is that he makes statements that are so obviously and outrageously not true. He does not even TRY to keep within the bounds of something that would make sense and be believable, except perhaps to his exotic animal owner following.
LACK OF FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY
Credible nonprofits display their financials to proudly show that they are good shepherds of their donors’ contributions. At this writing, none of Joe’s related entities have financial information on their websites. Some of the entities were formed too recently to have filed the required nonprofit IRS form 990, and the G.W. Exotics 990 for 2009 does not yet appear on Guidestar, so the only financial information available is GW Exotic’s 2008 Form 990.
For revenue, the 2008 Form 990 shows $501k in donations and $9k in sales of inventory. Expenses were $447k, with only $3k in salaries and only $48k in animal feed. If food was donated, it is supposed to be recorded as a “noncash” donation and included in the contribution number. So they spent $34/year per animal for food. This is not possible. And salaries of only $3k? Something does not add up. Meantime, Beth Corley is quoted in the press as saying it takes $60k/month to care for their 156 tigers, or $720k/year. They may have had fewer tigers in 2008, but what about the 1200+ other animals?
The 990 shows G.W. Exotic owning about $400k in Land, Buildings, and Equipment. But, this does not include the 16 acres the park sits on. According to county records, Joe owns that personally.
Joe says he displays the cubs to make money to support the park. He recently reported making a record $23,697 in five days. Imagine how many people had to handle these poor cubs in those five days to generate that. Think about how you would feel if that were a human baby. Is it really so much different for a tiger cub that at that age should be spending long hours sleeping just like a human baby?
COMMENTS AND RESEARCH BY OTHERS
Others have either done homework on Joe or posted comments that provide additional information.
PeTA. PeTA’s webite is referenced above. It mentions documents in which Joe has made false statements. It also provides a list of the other disreputable exotic animal breeders, exhibitors, etc. with whom Joe deals in his rescuing and placing of animals. See http://www.peta.org/features/gw.aspx Joe repeatedly refers to this undercover work as “faked” or a “frame job,” which is absolutely absurd.
Joe Schreibvogel is one of the best examples in the nation of why private ownership of big cats should be banned. He has a history of abuse, breeds big cats adding to the number that live a miserable life in small cages, breeds and takes in more than he can financially support, and justifies the current abuse by saying he needs to do it to make money to support the other animals. He shows himself to be totally devoid of integrity and professionalism with his inappropriate photos depicting violence against his critics and by constantly posting material online that he knows is devoid of any semblance of truth.
Venues who host exhibits like this and the public who “pay to play” don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. We hope the information on this page helps. The best way to stop this form of abuse is to have venues and the public understand what really happens to these animals and choose not to support the misery Joe and those like him create.
Joe prefers to be a zoo rather than a sanctuary. Two individuals who say they know Joe say he has told them his goal is to be the “world’s largest” animal facility. But he could make a different choice. If Joe took all the time he spends online ranting untruths about those who object to his abuse of these cubs and devoted it to trying to learn the skills necessary to operate a real sanctuary, and if he focused on having a number of animals that he could reasonably support instead of being “the world’s largest”, he might be able to support his animals without having to abuse some to do it. No one who runs a real sanctuary will tell you it is easy, and Joe might not be able to do it. But that is not a reason to let him continue to breed and abuse generation after generation of innocent cubs.
PAGES REFERRED TO ABOVE
Marsha Hoffman letter to Care2 re Aarron Alex Petition disparaging Big Cat Rescue
I am writing in regard to the BCR sanctuary and the accusations lodged by Aarron Alex.My husband and I are residents of Florida, living on the east coast. We have on numerous occasions visited the BCR participating in the different tours offered. Therefore we have walked the premises at different hours and NEVER have we seen anything in the context of what Mr. Aarron Alex has presented. He purposely distorts every single picture.
First, I would like to address the various tours / money making claim. To the credit of the BCR their tours are considerably smaller than those of other sanctuaries we have visited. Total number of people for day tours is 20 people. This is done so as not to upset the animals. The price of their tours are very much in line with other sanctuaries .. in some cases less. Public is NOT permitted to wander around outside of the tour as in other sanctuaries. While the tours do provide income, that money is used for the benefit of the inhabitants and the wonderful education provided by BCR in regard to exotic animals. I don’t understand this complaint. Seems to me they are just reaching for something that isn’t there to try to discredit this sanctuary especially because they charge for their zoo. BCR, like every other sanctuary, need income to provide for the care of the animals. He complains that Carole Baskin did not do the tour – as they are done by volunteers. Ms. Baskin has a sanctuary to run that is why she has volunteers do the tours.
Further Ms.Baskin’s only concern/interest is that of the welfare of the animals. The BCR is a true sanctuary. Animals are not exploited, do not do tricks, are not handled by the public etc .. which is in complete contrast to the “sanctuary” zoo Mr. Aarron Alex is associated with. See -http://www.gwpark.org/e – BCR on the other hand, is a quiet, peaceful place for animals to live out their lives as close to their natural habitats as possible.
As far as the pictures go I am appalled at the distortions. Pictures were taken of the animals close up and do not show full enclosures. Yes, several of the enclosures are round, but what Alex neglected to say is how large they are .. ranging from actually one full acre to smaller ones for smaller cats. Pictures of cats resting on rocks, or sitting in a hut/cave are close ups and do not show the background.
Examples of distortion and lies ..
1 – Cat sitting in small cage with water dish … This is the feeding cage. Every animal has it’s own cage to go to when their food is distributed. As a matter of fact, if one is at the BCR a half hour or so, before feeding, due to the schedule one would see animals sitting patiently in their feeding cage waiting for the feeding. Animals are given any necessary medications and carefully observed while in these small cages. Also it is at this time that keepers clean out the enclosures.
2 – Wild feral cats roaming around. This is absolutely not true. The domestic cats are all friendly felines who come up to people during tours for belly rubs, ears to be scratched and the treats the various volunteers/staff carry with them. I have never seen a feral cat in the area. If you look at the cat Alex has taken a picture of, you will see a very healthy animal, well groomed and certainly well fed. All domestic cats are taken for their shots and cared for/loved every bit as well as the big cats.
3 – Dead trees …. each year different organizations/stores donate unsold Christmas trees – this is simply to add variety to the enclosures and make them more jungle like. These trees bring new smells for the animals and offer something new to investigate.
4 – Poop in enclosures. We have never ever seen unclean enclosures. The staff is constantly cleaning and maintaining the enclosures. Again a factor for the small feeding cages. These cages lock while the animal is feeding and gives the staff ample time to maintain healthy clean enclosures. See point #1.
5 – There is a picture of a tiger lying by the side of the enclosure, but if you look closely, you will see green grass in the background and a pond. This is the “round” enclosure Alex speaks about ………however, he neglects to say it is one acre in size and has a pond for the tigers to swim in.
6 – Black big cat on a rock …. this is where the animal goes to sun himself – the entire rest of the enclosure is conveniently cut out of the picture. There are trees to climb, grass to roll in and a den to hide in ……..not in the picture though.
7 – He portrays huts/dens as horrible small caves where the animals huddle in. These dens or huts are usually in the middle of an enclosure and true to natural habitats of cats where they sleep, have their cubs and spend a good deal of their time. Once again he has conveniently eliminated the large area that house these huts/dens.
8 – There is a tiger lying down on it’s back, with all four legs in the air and belly exposed. What Alex evidently does not understand is that cats, wild or domestic will only take this position if they are truly secure and content. This position makes a cat very vulnerable to attack from a predator. Obviously this tiger is full of trust and totally comfortable in its surroundings.
9 – Three legged Serval. Desiree was rescued from the side of a road in AZ that way. Aarron Alex tries to make the reader believe that this happened to the Serval while it was at BCR ……..a bold faced lie!
I would like to invite you to visit http://www.bigcatrescue.org/videos and view the various videos they have about their sanctuary. You will see how it disputes everything presented by this man. Then go to …http://www.911animalabuse.com/00abusers/GWExotics.htm. Quite a contrast. In Aarron Alex’s write up which accompanies the petition he has the audacity to accuse the BCR of exploiting animals for money when his so called “sanctuary” does exactly that. BCR is not a show place – instead it is a true sanctuary for animals to live out their lives in dignity and peace. Enclosures are not done in glittering, elaborate circus like manner – instead they are done in a calm, tranquil, soothing way to exemplify the natural habitat of each animal.
I respectfully request that you remove this petition due to the untruths, deceptions and blatant distortions. Mr. Aarron Alex obviously went to there for the sole purpose of causing trouble. He knew exactly what he was doing and wanted to accomplish. Please don’t be a party to this sort of dishonesty.
According to a brochure for the “fund”, the ESCF’s registration number for the Solicitations of Contributions Act is CH23363.
If you go to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ “Gift Giver” website, looking up this registration number reveals that it’s officially registered to Dade City’s Wild Things, and the “statement of purpose” is: “care, upkeep, feeding of animals and conservation through ESCF.”
Furthermore, GuideStar’s nonprofit report for Stearns’ Zoological Rescue and Rehab Center shows the exact same financial data, suggesting that Dade City’s Wild Things and the ESCF are one and the same. It also mentions that, despite being required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ, “this organization’s exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years.”
You may be able to get more detailed public records by calling the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-435-7352 and using the ESCF’s Solicitation of Contributions Act registration number to ask for them.
So, it appears that the ESCF is another name for Dade City’s Wild Things. But what does the “fund” supposedly do? We were particularly struck by the official mission statement for the ESCF, which can be found on its website. The statement reads (emphasis ours):
“We strive to promote breeding and conservation through the use of educational interactive programs. We hope to increase public awareness of the importance of conservation and to emphasize the dangers of habitat destruction.”
It’s your standard exploiter’s “education” excuse. This fund appears to be set up so that Dade City’s Wild Things can “donate” to themselves while apparently tricking their supporters into thinking they’ve actually helped save wild cats.We would be extremely surprised if any money from this “fund” actually ends up leavingDade City’s Wild Things.
And now, for the proof (or at least pretty decent evidence):
On the current home page for the “fund”, there is what we believe to be a very deceptive interactive map proudly displaying “organizations we support”. It features the legitimate conservation organizations that the Stearns used to claim supported them. This page seems to be deliberately set up to fool people into thinking that financial donations will be sent to these groups, when, in all likelihood, “support” used in the context of the website only means “approval”.
Furthermore, if you go on the official Facebook page for the fund, you’ll find zero posts about the “organization” actually doing anything (as of Nov 2, 2014) – it’s just animal-related news stories, poorly-written “expert press releases” about how churning out big cat cubs for private ownership somehow “saves” them, and posts from DCWT about their latest moneymaking schemes.
The closest thing to a relevant post was this informational graphic about what their “fund” supposedly does. Looking at this image, we found it very suspicious that DCWT actually wrote that text – in everything else they’ve published, it’s been made abundantly clear that they struggle to spell simple words. A quick Google search of the text revealed that it was copied word-for-word from the Feline Conservation Federation, a group of private exotic c! at owners and roadside zoos (of which the Stearns are members) who believe that the private breeding of cats aids conservation.
It is pretty disturbing that the “president” of the Feline Conservation Federation is an exotics breeder and broker who proudly brags in his official profile about having “…transported animals all over the USA and to and from over 20 different foreign countries, dealing with facilities from all venues: research facilities, domestic and international zoos, private breeders, pet owners, entertainers, and exhibitors.”
ESCF’s “mission statement” about captive breeding and education used to justify the “re-homing” (probably meaning sale) of white tigers from Dade City’s Wild Things to other “zoos” on this Facebook album. The fact that they specifically mentioned their Endangered Species Conservation Fund suggests that this is the kind of thing their “fund” supports – their own business.
Kathy Stearns has been responding to negative Yelp reviews by claiming that “We donate a percentage of our proceeds to endangered species conservation fund that goes to help wild animals, like the Florida Panther program here in our great state of Florida.”
Unfortunately, there is no way to verify this… unless we obtain their public records (which may prove disappointing, since they haven’t been submitted since 2012, and even then, the preliminary report on the Gift Giver’s Guide shows that they put all of their profits toward “administrative costs” which hides what they’re actually doing with the money).
Is what the Endangered Species Conservation Fund, via Dade City’s Wild Things, doing illegal?
“No charitable organization shall knowingly allow any of its officers, directors, trustees, or employees to solicit contributions on behalf of such charitable organization if such officer, director, trustee, or employee has, regardless of adjudication, been convicted of… pled nolo contendere to… or has been incarcerated within the last 10 years as a result of having previously been convicted of… any crime within the last 10 years involving fraud.“
– Knowingly submit false or misleading information to the state.
– Make misrepresentations or misleading statements to the effect that any other person or organization sponsors or endorses such solicitation, approves of its purpose, or is connected therewith, when that person or organization has not given written consent to the use of its name.
– Misrepresent or mislead anyone by any manner, means, practice, or device whatsoever to believe that the organization on whose behalf the solicitation is being conducted is a charitable organization or sponsor, or that any of the proceeds of the solicitation will be used for charitable or sponsor purposes, if that is not the fact.
– Fail to identify his or her professional relationship to the person for whom the solicitation is being made.
And according to chapter 496, section 417 of the 2012 Florida Statutes, “Any person who willfully and knowingly violates (these fundraising rules) commits a felony of the third degree.”
Other parts of chapter 496 state that “the department may conduct an investigation of any person or organization whenever there is an appearance, either upon complaint or otherwise, that a violation has been committed or is about to be committed.
The Bottom Line: We think the Endangered Species Conservation Fund is a sham.
The Maple Lane Wildlife Farm is Amish owned and that is about all one needs to know; because it has been our experience that every wild animal facility we know of, that is Amish owned, has been a miserable looking place.
This photo was taken in 2014 at Maple Lane Wildlife Farm.