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Posted on Mar 16, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Jay Owenhouse

Illusionist Jay Owenhouse


Mr. Owenhouse, from Bozeman, Montana, is a prominent, award-winning illusionist who has owned and used tigers in his magic act for the past 25 years. He bills himself as “the authentic illusionist” and feels that live tigers are an integral part of his “authenticity.”

Owenhouse was mentored in tiger-keeping by Rick Glassey, a now-retired animal trainer who raised and trained big cats to “perform” in movies, magic shows, and even a Broadway musical. He trained the tigers for popular illusionist Doug Henning, who was a major inspiration for Owenhouse (and most modern illusionists). Henning was one of the first illusionists to incorporate tigers into magic shows. He once said, “If I produce a 450-pound Bengal tiger, it’s going to create a lot more wonder than if I produce a rabbit.” Incidentally, Henning’s tigers escaped backstage on multiple occasions.

According to this article, “once a Bengal tiger got loose backstage at NBC and chased [talk show host] Tom Snyder into the bathroom; another time, another tiger ate up 27 of Henning’s 30 prop animals.”

If I produce a 450-pound Bengal tiger, it’s going to create a lot more wonder than if I produce a rabbit.
Read more at:
Mr. Glassey no longer owns any big cats, and I couldn’t find any allegations of abuse attached to him.

Jay Owenhouse’s first tiger was a male named Sherekhan, who was obtained as a cub in 1996. You can see a video of Sherekhan here.

Although the video is from 1998, the “tiger appearing in the cage” act is still a major part of Owenhouse’s show. After Sherekhan passed away in 2010, Owenhouse obtained his current cats from Doc Antle’s T.I.G.E.R.S: a pair of 4-month old littermates named Shekinah and Sheena. Sheena is an orange tiger and Shekinah is promoted as a “Royal White Tiger” who “likes to travel” and “loves to hug.” In this article, Owenhouse admits: “I really wanted a white tiger for a while, but we waited because the genetics have weakened. An offspring of two white tigers has an 80 percent chance of being orange, because white isn’t albino, it’s a recessive genetic trait.” and

A lot of the advertising imagery Owenhouse uses focuses on the white tiger, which the magician claims is an ‘endangered species.’ Owenhouse’s official website claims: “Unfortunately there are only about 200 white tigers left in the world. White tigers are an Asian species which are found in the frozen tundra of the Soviet Far East and south to the humid jungles of Malaya.” In this news release, he talks about how “They haven’t seen a white tiger in the wild in 10 years. They discovered an isolated gene that’s started bringing them back.”

Does he know that’s not true, or is he just believing what Doc Antle tells him?

What sets Owenhouse apart from other illusionists is that he treats his tigers more like “pets” than props. Here’s the scary part: the tigers were raised and housed by Owenhouse and his family in their suburban home and backyard, in a residential area less than half a mile away from a middle school, until they weighed over two hundred pounds each.

When Owenhouse first got Shekinah and Sheena, he celebrated by making a Youtube video of him and his children parading the cubs through town on leashes in order to show them off.

That video eventually shows the same tigers, nearly full-grown, walking into Owenhouse’s kitchen and climbing into his bed for a bottle of milk, their standard “reward” for obeying commands (read this blog post for an explanation of why trainers bottlefeed adult big cats as an unnatural form of behavioral conditioning Other Youtube videos show the cubs exploring the well-manicured backyard with collars on, and, when large enough to hurt someone, romping in the snow just a wooden fence away from the neighbors.

Although Owenhouse tells people that his cats live at a “sanctuary” when not performing, they actually live in a 30 by 40-foot concrete and chain-link enclosure attached to an industrial park warehouse in Belgrade, MT, about a mile from a major airport and less than half a mile from another residential area. The location of the warehouse is a closely-guarded secret, but I was able to figure out roughly where it is after an article about an unrelated nearby business mentioned that a warehouse just north of that location is “used by a magician to store tigers.” I’ve attached a screenshot of where I think the tiger pen is.

From an animal care standpoint, Owenhouse is actually pretty good for a private owner. He has no USDA violations (license# 81-C-0031) and I could find no allegations of abuse other than the standard criticism for using tigers as magic props. He feeds his cats Nebraska brand feline diet, which is used by AZA zoos, and he regularly provides them with enrichment toys like Boomer Balls. The 1,200 sq. ft. warehouse enclosure he built for the tigers is partially outdoors and includes a den, a heated pool, and a fountain. Tigers don’t belong in a Montana warehouse, but a privately-owned tiger could do much worse. Here’s a video of the enclosure.

This website has several “behind the scenes” photos of Owenhouse and his tiger enclosures.

In the magic show, the tigers “appear” and “disappear” in tiny cages on-stage. After the illusion, the cage of Shekinah, the white tiger, is opened, the tiger comes out and is rewarded with a bottle of milk, and Owenhouse walks her around the stage with nothing more than a leash and collar for “restraint” (more on this later). Owenhouse brags about his tiger care and reassures his audience that only reward-based training is used. The tigers are transported in a “climate controlled trailer” to 10 performances each month (the animals don’t tour during the summer). Owenhouse brings his tigers to other events on rare occasions. In 2013, he brought one of his tigers on-stage at Montana State University’s freshmen convocation as a tribute to Life of Pi. I’ve also heard reports that when the cats were cubs, Owenhouse brought them to his daughter’s school and allowed the students to pet them.

Although Mr. Owenhouse seems to love his tigers and treats them well, the way he handles them is often extremely reckless. This local news interview shows him engaging in lots of dangerous and irresponsible behavior that’s often seen with complacent pet owners who are convinced that their big cats have “love” or “respect” for them.

Owenhouse claims that the tigers “like to be loved,” and that “we have a wonderful relationship with them, they’re family for us.” He claims that he’s “careful” with his animals, but the news segment includes a clip of his teenage son play-wrestling with the 250-pound tigers. The boy nonchalantly explains that the tigers view him “like a sibling” and that “when it comes to interacting with them, they’re a lot more rough and play as if I’m a tiger.” Lots of people have been injured or killed by tigers that were “just playing.” What’s even more shocking is that he invites the newscaster into the tiger’s enclosure and lets her feed a nearly full-grown, completely unrestrained tiger from a baby bottle.

In a 2014 review of one of Owenhouse’s magic shows, the reporter writes: “He let the tiger out of a cage and only had her on a small leash. I was nervous, until Owenhouse explained that his family raised both tigers and in their backyard.” “Walking” an unrestrained tiger across the stage with nothing but a handheld chain leash is a regular part of Owenhouse’s shows. Not only does this stunt put the safety of the audience at risk, but his “explanation” for it perpetuates the totally false idea that raising a big cat from a cub makes it “safe,” and that it’s OK for tigers to live in backyards.

Like most entertainers who use big cats, Jay Owenhouse portrays himself as a “conservation advocate” and believes that his show helps to “spread awareness” about threats facing wild tigers. But, although a few of Owenhouse’s “facts” about tigers are generally correct, many of them only fuel the myths that drive the exploitation of these animals. He tells people that white tigers are an endangered species that people are breeding for “conservation,” and has stated that “the only threat to wild tigers is poaching” (while ignoring habitat destruction, human conflict, and other issues).

In this article, he claims that tigers “tend to bond to one or two people and also become very loyal if they’re treated with respect and dignity,” perpetuating the dangerous misconception that big cats are made “tame” if hand-raised. And, according to this article,! one of the ways Owenhouse “educates” people about tigers is by showing a video montage of him and his family raising tigers in their home at every performance. That sends a completely wrong message that does nothing to teach people about wildlife — one reviewer compared it to little more than a “show and tell” about Owenhouse’s pets.

At every show, more expensive VIP tickets are offered, which entitle the holder to a backstage meet and greet with the illusionist and one of his tigers. Owenhouse claims that the proceeds from these VIP tickets are donated to “help save wild tigers and cheetahs,” and although part of that money allegedly goes to the Corbett Foundation (which is a legitimate conservation charity), the other part of the “donations” go to Doc Antle’s deceptively-named and completely bogus “Rare Species Fund,” which many news outlets mistakenly report as “an animal sanctuary in India.”

According to this article, “because of Owenhouse’s love for animals, he partnered with the Rare Species Fund as Ambassadors to help spread the word.”

Owenhouse’s methods of raising and handling tigers often put himself, his family, and the public at risk, his partnership with Doc Antle doesn’t help true conservation, and his attempts at “education” by showing off his pets often undermine the message he is trying to send.

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Posted on Mar 11, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 13 comments

Black Jaguar White Tiger

Black Jaguar White Tiger

How can anyone be a follower of Eddie Serio when they see him kick a small cat and mock the cat’s worried owner in this video?

Here is a great article from 2016

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

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

This is another well considered article that exposes the lies:

Yahoo Celebrity News understands why it’s wrong:

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

Artemis Grey calls out Eddie Serio when he tries to act like he’s answering the questions people have, but really isn’t

Black Jaguar White Tiger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a good list of articles about #BJWT

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Posted on Mar 10, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

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

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

fair sign A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

Fair Exhibit A Walk On The Wild Side

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


Fairground tiger exhibit A Walk On The Wild Side

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

Geoffroy Cat A Walk On The Wild Side

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

Selling Photos with Cubs:

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

cub petting ad on website A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

Cub with open sore A Walk On The Wild Side

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

photo cub with injured nose A Walk On The Wild Side

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

tiny lynx cub petting A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

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

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

Struggling cub on news A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

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

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

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

Deliberately misleading “education”:

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

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

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

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

Animal Welfare Concerns:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Cheryl Jones walking tiger A Walk On The Wild Side

Cheryl Jones walking tiger A Walk On The Wild Side

A Walk On The Wild Side Weapons

A Walk On The Wild Side Weapons

injured lion on leash A Walk On The Wild Side

Injured lion on leash A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hostility towards critics:

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

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

Pro Circus A Walk On The Wild Side

facebook3 A Walk On The Wild Side

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

mocking critics online A Walk On The Wild Side

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

admitting theyre not a sanctuary A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

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

Connections with roadside zoos and the pet trade:

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

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

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



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Posted on Jan 15, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Hernando Primate Sanctuary

Hernando Primate Sanctuary

Hernando Primate Sanctuary is a privately owned pseudo-sanctuary in Brooksville, Florida, owned and operated by Ann Kelly and her husband Kerry in their 10-acre backyard. Hernando Primate is a registered Florida nonprofit and is licensed to house exotic animals that have been seized by the state, but it has more in common with a backyard zoo than a true rescue. They do a lot of things that a true sanctuary would never do. Their monkeys are trained to do tricks on command,

their animals are treated like pets, taken to community events for “animal interactions”, and allowed to breed, and guests to the “sanctuary” are often encouraged to have direct contact with the animals, even potentially dangerous ones like adult big cats and chimpanzees. Hernando Primate is “accredited” by the ZAA and affiliated with the Feline Conservation Federation, the USZA, and UAPPEAL, all networking organizations for private exotics owners and breeders.

As you noted, Hernando Primate just got a new USDA exhibitor’s license. According to the ZAA factsheet, their previous one, 58-C-0970, was cited for filthy cages, enclosures in disrepair, unsanitary food storage, housing together incompatible species, an unsafe lion enclosure, failure to have an environmental enrichment plan for a newly acquired chimpanzee, and having only one inexperienced employee to care for all the animals at the facility” between 2011 and 2013. In 2014, this license was canceled.

As of 2011, the last time their website was online, Hernando Primate claimed to have one cougar (Nikita), one serval (Reggie), two lions (male Masai and female Mchumba), and a tiger (Kali).  I know that they have at least 3 tigers today, and guests have reported seeing a lynx there as well.

At least some of the animals at Hernando were purchased by Kelly from dealers, breeders, or other owners, and not particularly good ones, either. In 2013, James Casey, an abusive chimpanzee breeder, was caught by wildlife law enforcement in Brooksville attempting to sell 3 chimpanzees to Kelly and her “sanctuary,” even though he had his USDA permit revoked for “improper care” of his chimps and Kelly already had more animals than her facility’s permit allowed. Casey had been cited by the USDA for living in a squalid, feces-filled travel trailer with his chimps, and had admitted to punching them and throwing scalding hot tea on them as punishment for “misbehaving.” Part of Casey’s own nose has been bitten off by one of his primates, and he was the man who bred and sold a chimp named Travis to Charla Nash, who later needed a face transplant after her pet mauled her. Ironically, the chimpanzees in this case were seized by law enforcement and eventually “re-homed” at Hernando Primate.

According to this 2009 article (which can’t seem to decide if the facility is a “rescue” or a “zoo”),  Reggie the serval lived in Kelly’s house as a kitten until he started jumping on the refrigerator, when he was moved to an outdoor enclosure. The article also says that the “sanctuary” hosts barbecues and has a bounce house for kids to play in, and that the female lioness was pregnant, which made Kelly “excited.” This brings me to my next point:

I strongly suspect that they tend to obtain new cats by “rescuing” them from breeders as young cubs,

or that they simply allow nature to take its course if two intact cats are housed together. When they do have cubs, they are more than willing to allow the public to feed and play with them as long as it’s feasible — in 2010, their website encouraged visitors to come and “feed the baby tiger his bottle.” Incidentally, that same tiger still lives at Hernando, and is still being fed bottles of kitten milk replacer by guests. There’s a rather disturbing Youtube video of this. (As a side note, it’s possible that the primates are also allowed to breed, as their old website mentions the fact that volunteers are needed to care for “newborns.”)

Hernando Primate is big on allowing visitors to have direct contact with their animals and advertised “once in a lifetime animal encounters” on their webpage. Unfortunately, some of these encounters come at the expense of public safety. Here’s a photo of a guest cuddling with a fully-mature chimpanzee, and here are several photos of guests allowing adult tigers to lick their hands through the chain-link fence.  Ann actually encourages these dangerous stunts.

In this video, we see two clearly agitated tigers frantically pacing back and forth along the fence separating them, seemingly out of frustration (the orange tiger is male and the white one is female). One of the visitors talks about how “we all got to bottlefeed him when he was little,” to which Ann responds: “He’d probably love to have a bottle right now, too.” Then, Ann proceeds to instruct the children to place their hands on the cage of the still-agitated white tiger so that she’ll come and lick their hands. Mom reassures the understandably reluctant kids that “he can’t get you through the fence” — tell that to this poor guy, who had his thumb bitten off just by accidentally leaning against a tiger enclosure at another Florida pseudo-sanctuary.  At the end of the video, a little boy puts his hand in front of another white tiger, who tries to lick and paw at him as if he were a toy. Thankfully, the boy got to feel the tiger’s whiskers without getting hurt — this time. I honestly do not understand why parents think that allowing their children to be licked by tigers in someone’s backyard is a safe or amusing family activity — in virtually every big cat mauling involving children, the parents were reassured by the owner that the animal is “safe.”
4 years ago, Hernando Primate brought their lemurs and monkeys to a Home Depot parking lot in dog crates so they could provide exotic animal interactions for a community event — not something a sanctuary does. They also advertised a 4th of July party at their facility, where visitors could donate $10 to play “tug of war” with the tigers and engage in other animal interactions.

This Facebook album includes several photos of the cats at Hernando Primate, including Ann Kelly and her visitors petting Reggie the serval. The uploader of the album refers to the animals as Ann’s “pets”, which probably isn’t too far off the mark. Some of the tiger enclosures don’t look too bad for a private facility, but, as mentioned earlier, there sometimes doesn’t appear to be anything between the visitors and the cats but a single layer of chainlink fence (note the fingers in the cage.) I don’t think that’s legal. This Facebook album shows more cat enclosures,and so does this video slideshow.

Unfortunately,  this male lion seems to have a sore or a patch of fur missing on both sides of his face (but perhaps it’s just age — that particular cat is 17 years old). This album contains not-so-pretty pictures of  tigers crammed in a small indoor holding area, and this one shows a whole bunch of irresponsible and dangerous “interactions,” including a tiger licking and pawing at a guest’s arm and an adult chimpanzee wearing a leash and a diaper and “kissing” people on the face with bared teeth.

In short, while this pseudo-sanctuary isn’t malicious, it’s definitely irresponsible, and an accident waiting to happen.

I also discovered that a new business called Florida Exotic Feathers has recently been founded by Ann Kelly at the same address as Hernando Primate. This could be an aviary/exotic bird interaction business, but the name sounds more to me like it’s a bird breeding operation. If so, what is it doing at a “sanctuary?”

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Posted on Jan 13, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Wild Animal Safari

Wild Animal Safari

Quote from a handout regarding the exotic problem in MO:

“Wild Animal Safari advertises bear cubs and baboons for sale in Animal Finders’ Guide and has been cited by the USDA for failure to provide veterinary care to sick animals, failure to provide adequate shelter to big cats and primates during cold winter weather, filthy and unsanitary conditions, inadequate drainage in enclosures, unsafe handling, and feeding big cats a nutritionally deficient diet.”


“April 27, 2014/St. Louis, Missouri: Eighteen students were nipped on the face and/or hands by a bear cub who was part of a petting zoo that was brought onto the campus of Washington University by Cindy’s Zoo. A decision to kill the bear cub so the animal could be tested for rabies was ultimately reversed.” (Bear cub originated from Wild Animal Safari)

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