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Posted on Feb 23, 2016 in Abuse, Shut Down | 2 comments

Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary Lori Ensign

Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary Lori Ensign

Lori Ensign Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary

In 2016 Safari’s Interactive Animals c/o Lori Ensign, is giving mis information to the press about the Big Cat Public Safety Act.  The piece had such ridiculous claims as to state that the law would require captive bred big cats to be turned loose or to be kept in concrete floored horse stalls.

As of 2016 we can find no records for USDA 73-C-0137 or any combination of her current or previous names, so it isn’t clear if she even has a USDA license any longer.

Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary is home to 27 big cats. Former keepers have warned for years that the practices there would lead to injuries, escapes and death. SIAS’ website is covered in the typically ignorant photos of the President, Lori Ensign bottle feeding tigers and walking them on leashes. That kind of irresponsible behavior can only lead to tragedy for humans as well as the animals when they pay the ultimate price.

USDA inspections show a continuing pattern of inadequate care and safety violations.


Broken Arrow Exotic Animal Sanctuary May Close This Summer


BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma – Safari’s Exotic Animal Sanctuary in could be closing to the public.

A court document says the United States Department of Agriculture will revoke the sanctuary’s license August 1, after finding a number of violations concerning animal welfare and care.

But Safari’s says it is voluntarily turning in its license, because the founder is retiring.

Safari’s, in Broken Arrow, is home to more than 250 animals.

The non-profit is run by volunteers, but founder, Lori Ensign, oversees the care of the animals.

But the USDA said the zoo has too many violations and they must revoke its operating license, meaning the park could close to the public by August.

A court document lists violations from 2003 to 2011. Violations include: shelters and fences in disrepair failure to control pests, food stored improperly, and fecal matter accumulation in some enclosures.

However, Safari’s says these are not the reasons for the license revocation. The operators of the sanctuary said they are voluntarily giving up the license because Ensign is retiring.

Safari’s volunteer, Frank Gaddy, said, “Lori Ensign, who founded the place, has MS. She was diagnosed in ‘95. She was supposed to be in a wheelchair by the end of that decade.”

Gaddy said it’s come to the point where one person can’t do it all.

He said Ensign is trying to put together the proper board of people to continue running the facility.

Gaddy admits the USDA’s demands became too much.

“It just built up over the years,” Gaddy said. “She realized she didn’t have the funding herself to keep it going and do the improvements that they want.”

Safari’s said they are constantly working on improvements and upgrades. For example, right now they said they are working on replacing older wooden cages with stronger steel beams and heavier-gauge chain link fences.

“Another is the monkey cages. They show up right after they eat and say there is food around. Animals do it, there is food around,” Gaddy said.

Gaddy also said what really matters is that, no matter who is in charge, both Ensign and the animals she loves be taken care of.

The USDA placed Safari’s on probation for two years.

The sanctuary hopes to have a board in place before the August deadline.


Even the most vocal of those who use big cats for cub petting displays, sad circus acts and back yard breeders agree that Lori Ensign’s Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary should be shut down or run by someone competent.

If Barbara Hoffmann, Joe A Schreibvogel, Felicia Frisco and Deborah Justice Cutrell think this place should be stopped by USDA that tells you how bad it is.

Safari’s Reopens After Deadly Liger Attack


Posted: Nov 29, 2008 5:33 PM EST

Safari’s Sanctuary opened on Saturday for the first time since a deadly liger attack.

Safari’s will be open again on Sunday at noon, but plans for beyond that are still up in the air.

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

WAGONER COUNTY — Safari’s Animal Sanctuary is back open to the public. It comes one month after a worker was killed by one of the exotic animals. Pete Getz was attacked and killed by Rocky the liger, that’s a cross between and lion and tiger. The owner of the Safari’s Animal Sanctuary said the decision to open was tough, but she says her mission is too important.

Dozens were there as soon as the gates opened. They came to see the lions and tigers, even Rocky the liger.

“So far, we love Safari’s and we love what they do to help rescue animals and give them a good home,” said Brianne Hill of Houston, Texas.

Rocky has been at Safari’s for 12 years. One month ago, he attacked volunteer worker, Pete Getz. The man was feeding Rocky, which is normally done by throwing food over the fence, but Safari’s owner Lori Ensign says Getz didn’t follow safety guidelines and went inside Rocky’s cage. She doesn’t know why.

“So, that day they cut corners or … I don’t know,” said Lori Ensign with Safari’s Sanctuary.

Ensign says the decision to re-open was not easy, but decided to do it believing it’s what Getz would have wanted.

“He would be rolling over if he thought that everything stopped,” said Lori Ensign with Safari’s Sanctuary.

Another motivation, she says, came when two different people called asking her opinion of getting a tiger as a pet for their children.

“I was like that proves that we have to keep pushing our mission. People should know, instinctively, that tigers aren’t good pets,” said Lori Ensign with Safari’s Sanctuary.

The News On 6 witnessed that mission first hand. The most dramatic came as workers were feeding another tiger. As one of the volunteers worked to distract the tiger, the other volunteer tended to her enclosure. And soon, the tiger had enough.

“She’s getting anxious. That’s why you don’t want one for a pet,” said Lori Ensign with Safari’s Sanctuary.

The tiger eventually goes to the back of her cage and nothing comes of it. Ensign hopes visitors learn from her animals about the dangers they present. She says the tragedy of a month ago hasn’t changed her focus, but has made her more determined to stress the importance of safety.

“We’ve just sat everybody down and said, ‘This is absolutely against protocol and it will never happen again,'” said Lori Ensign with Safari’s Sanctuary.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture told The News On 6 that Rocky’s fate is in the hands of state authorities. Ensign says she’s been told that Rocky will not be put down and be able to live out his life at Safari’s.

Safari’s will be open again on Sunday at noon, but plans for beyond that are still up in the air.

10/31/2008 Man Attacked By Big Cat Dies


Man Attacked By Big Cat Dies

Posted: Oct 31, 2008 7:44 AM EDT

The reported attack happened just before noon on Wednesday.

By Jeffrey Smith, News On 6

WAGONER COUNTY, OK — An animal handler who was attacked by a liger at a Broken Arrow animal sanctuary has died. Officials at Saint John hospital say Peter Getz passed away Thursday night.

Peter Getz died after getting mauled by a lion-tiger mix named Rocky that had been in his care for a year and a half. Even though Getz was an experienced big cat handler, zookeepers say interacting with the animals in any way has inherent risks.

The attack happened Wednesday afternoon during the daily feeding at Safari Sanctuary. But during Rocky’s daily feeding, Getz opened the gate to the enclosure.

The sanctuary’s owner says he entered the cage and that’s when Rocky grabbed hold of him and bit him on the neck and back.

Getz’s co-workers at the sanctuary say he was a careful, passionate animal handler who knew his stuff. The head vet knew Getz very well and he says Rocky never game him any trouble at all.

“Not at all. Rocky’s a 12-year-old, easy going, laid back, and Peter knew what he was doing. A really quality professional individual, who’s been in the business for quite a while,” said Dr. Dan Danner.

Danner says Rocky is a thousand pound animal and all it would take is a little overexcitement during feeding time to cause life-threatening injuries.

Getz interned at the Tulsa Zoo for nine months last year, zookeepers there say he was trained to never touch a wild cat.

The USDA is investigating the attack and the fate of Rocky is still unclear. The Safari Sanctuary remains voluntarily closed.


October 29, 2008 Broken Arrow, OK: Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary is home to 27 big cats. Former keepers have warned for years that the practices there of allowing contact with adult tigers would lead to injuries, escapes and death. SIAS’ website is covered in the typically ignorant photos of the President, Lori Ensign bottle feeding tigers and walking them on leashes. That kind of irresponsible behavior can only lead to tragedy for humans as well as the animals when they pay the ultimate price. Now the liger named Rocky may be killed for mauling to death a volunteer named Peter Getz who walked in the cage while feeding the cat a deer carcass. The mauling happened in the presence of more than 40 pre schoolers who were ushered away from the scene.

Safari’s Animal Sanctuary may close permanently

By: BOB BETHELL, Metro Editor
Updated 11/04/2008 09:23:24 AM CST
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BROKEN ARROW – Owner cites federal investigations, PETA intervention and “… lost spirit in dealing with the public” after volunteer was mauled to death Oct. 29 by a resident liger.

Safari’s Animal Sanctuary could permanently close its gates because a volunteer was mauled to death by a “big cat” last week.

Peter Getz, 32, a two-year volunteer, died at an area hospital two days after a liger (lion/tiger hybrid) named “Rocky” bit him on the upper torso and throat Oct. 29.

The victim and a safety assistant were feeding Rocky when the attack occurred.

Getz and the helper apparently did not follow established enclosure gate opening procedures, said Safari’s owner Lori Ensign.

A fundraiser for Getz’s family is set for Saturday at Emerald Falls Golf Club, 6500 S. 305th E. Ave.

Ensign said she and her entire staff were “saddened beyond words” by Getz’s death.

The sanctuary, 26881 E. 58th St., is being investigated by the Department of Agriculture, although Ensign said her operation mets all applicable federal standards at the time of the incident.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said the death indicated Safari’s may have violated the national Federal Wildlife Act.

“Due to the federal investigations, PETA and my lost spirit in dealing with the public,” Ensign told the Ledger, “Safari’s will probably not reopen.

“My family and I will just try to keep the animals alive privately and give up on the public portion. I hate saying this, hate giving in to politics … but politics will always win.”


Liger Attacks and Kills Handler

Animal Handler Dies After Attack

The reported attack happened just before noon on Wednesday.

Safari’s Animal Sanctuary

BROKEN ARROW, OK — A volunteer who was attacked by a large cat at an animal sanctuary east of Broken Arrow has died.

St. John Medical Center in Tulsa confirmed Friday morning, Peter Getz passed away from his injuries overnight.

Getz suffered wounds to his neck and upper torso after he was reportedly attacked by a liger during feeding time at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary at 26881 East 58th Street in Wagoner County.

The reported attack happened just before noon on Wednesday.

Safari’s says it is still trying to piece together what caused a large cat to turn on Getz.

Sanctuary officials say it appears Getz opened the animal’s pen during feeding which is a violation of the sanctuaries rules.

Federal wildlife officials are investigating.

Getz had worked for the Tulsa Zoo and had volunteered at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary for the past year and half.

Liger Attacks and Kills Handler

Posted: Oct 29, 2008 01:46 PM

Updated: Oct 30, 2008 07:39 AM

The incident happened as the children were walking by the cage. The incident happened as the children were walking by the cage. The attack occurred at Safaris Animal Sanctuary at 26881 East 58th Street in Wagoner County.
The attack occurred at Safaris Animal Sanctuary at 26881 East 58th Street in Wagoner County.

BROKEN ARROW, OK — A handler at a wild animal sanctuary east of Broken Arrow has been attacked by a large cat.

The attack occurred before noon Wednesday at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary at 26881 East 58th Street in Wagoner County.

A sheriff’s deputy at the sanctuary tells The News On 6, the handler was bitten in the upper torso and neck area.

The handler, identified as Peter Getz, was flown by medical helicopter to a Tulsa hospital and is currently listed in critical condition.

The sheriff’s deputy says a group of 40 Pre-K elementary Haskell school children were at the sanctuary at the time of the incident, but did not witness the attack. An adult sponsor saw the incident and pushed the children away from the scene.

The incident happened as the children were walking by the cage.

Liger injures worker animal sanctuary Broken Arrow

Published: October 29, 2008

BROKEN ARROW — A liger at a Wagoner County animal sanctuary attacked a volunteer late this morning, officials said.

Peter Getz, whose hometown and age were not immediately available, was airlifted to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa in critical condition, a Broken Arrow Fire Department spokesman said.

A hospital spokeswoman said Getz was admitted to the emergency room, but an updated status was not available this afternoon.

The attack occurred just before noon at Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary, 26881 E 58, east of Broken Arrow, Wagoner County sheriff’s deputy Eugene Smith said.

Getz was trying to feed the liger when it attacked him, leaving wounds on his chest and neck, Smith said.

A liger is a cross between a lion and a tiger. According to the sanctuary’s Web site, the liger is named Rocky.

Calls to the animal sanctuary went to voicemail without ringing. The voicemail message says “a volunteer had an injury. Due to the emotional strain of the situation, Safari’s will be closed until further notice.”

Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary is not a sanctuary, but rather, a part of the problem. Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary at 26881 E 58, east of Broken Arrow, Wagoner County, OK is home to 27 big cats. Former keepers have warned for years that the practices there would lead to injuries, escapes and death. SIAS’ website is covered in the typically ignorant photos of the President, Lori Ensign bottle feeding tigers and walking them on leashes. That kind of irresponsible behavior can only lead to tragedy for humans as well as the animals when they pay the ultimate price. See to see that this is no sanctuary.

Mauling puzzles BA wildlife refuge owner

By TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
10/30/2008 10:25 AM

BROKEN ARROW — Officials with a Broken Arrow wildlife refuge are at a loss to understand why an experienced animal handler who was mauled Wednesday by a big cat violated rules by opening a cage during feeding time.

Peter Getz, 32, a volunteer at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary, 26881 E. 58th St., was attacked shortly before noon Wednesday while attempting to feed a liger.

Getz, who suffered wounds to his neck, remained hospitalized Thursday morning at Saint John Medical Center in Tulsa in critical condition.

Lori Ensign, sanctuary owner and operator, said she’s trying to piece together what happened, but she knows the sanctuary’s strict policy against opening the animal pens during feedings was not followed.

“We try to have all the procedures in place, but for some reason, they weren’t followed this time. In all my years we’ve stressed that whatever you do you don’t open that gate,” said Ensign, who was away buying feed when the attack occurred.

Ensign said Getz, who is experienced and loves working with animals, has volunteered at the sanctuary for about a year and a half and worked previously at the Tulsa Zoo.

“This is just horrid,” Ensign said. “Peter is like a brother. He loves doing this, loves the carnivores — the bears, big cats

and snakes. We were thinking about turning the place over to him some day.”

She said she and others are working to set up a fund to help with Getz’s medical expenses, with more information to follow.

Other volunteers were with Getz during the feeding, per sanctuary rules.

“We always have three people for feedings as back-up,” Ensign said. “They were there and were able to help get him out. But they are still in shock right now and we don’t want to push them to find out why procedures were broken. We want to give them time.”

The liger, named Rocky, is a hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger.

Rocky’s fate will ultimately be determined by state wildlife officials, who will investigate the incident and decide whether the cat will be euthanized, Ensign said.

Ensign said the facility has a good safety record.

In 2000, two handlers at the sanctuary were bitten by a black bear, according to reports. The bear was later euthanized.

The sanctuary, a nonprofit wildlife refuge, houses about 200 animals, most of which were donated by private owners, according to the facility’s Web site. All staff members are volunteers.

The facility is licensed and regulated through the Oklahoma Wildlife Department and United States Department of Agriculture and is subject to the same rules as public zoos.

Handler attacked while feeding large cat

BROKEN ARROW – Peter Getz, 32, an employee of Safari’s Animal Sanctuary in Broken Arrow, remains in critical condition at a Tulsa hospital after being mauled by a liger, a hybrid of a lion and a tigress.

Authorities say Getz was feeding the big cat Wednesday when he was attacked and bitten on the neck.

After escaping the cage, Getz collapsed. Paramedics performed CPR on him and he was flown by helicopter to St. John Medical Center for treatment.

The refuge was immediately evacuated and locked down.

A group of students from Haskell was inside the sanctuary at the time of the attack but apparently did not see or hear anything that was going on.

A Ledger call to Safari’s owner Lori Ensign was answered automatically: “Due to the emotional strain from this injury, Safari’s will be closed until further notice. We will only be able to answer emergency calls at this time, so please keep us in your prayers.”

Liger Critically Injures Oklahoma Zoo Worker

Broken Arrow, OK (AHN) – A worker at an Oklahoma zoo was seriously injured after a liger, a cross between a lion and a tiger, attacked him Wednesday while feeding the animal.

Peter Getz of Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary in Broken Arrow was taken to the St. John Medical Center in Tulsa and remains in critical condition for injuries in the neck and chest, according to authorities.

Zoo officials have no comment but a recorded message from its telephone answering machine said a worker was injured and the safari is closed until further notice.

Worker attacked by tiger at animal sanctuary

By Don Bishop @ October 30, 2008 3:29 AM

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) – Authorities say a handler at a Wagoner County wild animal sanctuary suffered a puncture wound to the neck after a big cat attacked him during a feeding.

Thirty-two-year-old Peter Getz was bitten in the upper torso and the neck area at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary yesterday around noon. Getz was flown by medical helicopter to Saint John Medical Center, where he is listed in critical condition.

Sheriff’s Deputy James Suddath says Getz was able to escape the cage following the attack, then collapsed.

Initial reports said Getz was attacked by a tiger. KRMG reported that a lion-tiger mix (a “liger”) named Rocky attacked the handler.

Officials say a Haskell Public Schools class on a field trip at the sanctuary didn’t witness the attack and that the facility was evacuated and locked down after the incident.

Handler is mauled by big cat

Rocky the liger is shown at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary in Broken Arrow. Tulsa World file

By TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Last Modified: 10/30/2008 2:38 AM

The handler suffers a neck wound and is hospitalized in critical condition.

BROKEN ARROW — An animal handler at a wildlife refuge was mauled by a big cat during a feeding Wednesday.

The attack occurred shortly before noon at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary, 26881 E. 58th St., emergency responders said.

The handler, identified as Peter Getz, 32, was attacked by a liger, a hybrid of a lion and a tigress.

Getz, who suffered a puncture wound to his neck, was flown by helicopter to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, Fire Department officials said.

He was listed in critical condition Wednesday afternoon, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Deputy Fire Chief James Suddath said: “He was bitten on the neck during a feeding, but he was able to escape the cage. He collapsed after he got out.”

Paramedics performed CPR on Getz, Suddath said.

Wagoner County sheriff’s deputies also responded.

A deputy said a Haskell Public Schools class was on a field trip at the sanctuary but did not witness the attack.

The refuge was immediately evacuated and locked down, with the liger, named Rocky, and other animals remaining in their pens, officials said.

Sanctuary officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The sanctuary, a nonprofit wildlife refuge, houses about 200 animals, most of which were donated by private owners, according to its Web site.

All of its staff members are volunteers.

The refuge is licensed and regulated through the Oklahoma Wildlife Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is subject to the same rules as public zoos.

Officials said regulatory officials had been notified about the incident.

In 2000, two handlers at the sanctuary were bitten by a black bear.

Liger Attacks Handler At Safari’s

Broken Arrow – A handler at Safari’s wildlife sanctuary in Broken Arrow is in critical condition after being attacked by a liger.

Owner Lori Ensign says they aren’t sure why the cat attacked handler Peter Getz. The liger which is half tiger and half lion has been at the park for over 10 years.

Ensign says Gets was feeding the liger when he opened the cage door, something ensign says they never do for safety. Getz is in ICU at St. John Medical Center.

Ensign says they plan to set up a fund for Getz at Arvest Bank to help with medical expenses.

Volunteer critically injured by large cat at Broken Arrow sanctuary

A large cat mauled a volunteer at the Safari’s Sanctuary in Broken Arrow Wednesday morning.

The attack occurred at approximately 11:45 at the sanctuary, located at 26881 East 58th Street in the Wagoner County portion of Broken Arrow.

Lori Ensign, operator of the sanctuary, told 2NEWS HD that the incident involved one of the sanctuary’s most well-known and popular animals, “Rocky.”

“Rocky” is a cross between a lion and a tiger, a hybrid referred to as a “liger.”

Ensign said that the accident occurred during a feeding.

A LifeFlight helicopter transported the volunteer, a 32-year-old man, to St. John Medical Center.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available. Video of Rocky the liger being fed by guests Video of Rocky the liger being fed by guests w/ owner’s narration

Liger injures worker at animal sanctuary in Broken Arrow

Comments Comment on this article5
Published: October 29, 2008

BROKEN ARROW — A liger at a Wagoner County animal sanctuary attacked a volunteer late this morning, officials said.

Rocky the liger, shown in this undated file photo, attacked a volunteer at a Wagoner County wildlife sanctuary Wednesday, officials said. Photo provided by The Tulsa World

Peter Getz, whose hometown and age were not immediately available, was airlifted to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa in critical condition, a Broken Arrow Fire Department spokesman said.

A hospital spokeswoman said Getz was admitted to the emergency room, but an updated status was not available this afternoon.

The attack occurred just before noon at Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary, 26881 E 58, east of Broken Arrow, Wagoner County sheriff’s deputy Eugene Smith said.

Getz was trying to feed the liger when it attacked him, leaving wounds on his chest and neck, Smith said.

A liger is a cross between a lion and a tiger. According to the sanctuary’s Web site, the liger is named Rocky.
Calls to the animal sanctuary went to voicemail without ringing. The voicemail message says “a volunteer had an injury. Due to the emotional strain of the situation, Safari’s will be closed until further notice.”

Worker attacked by tiger at animal sanctuary

Associated Press – October 29, 2008 9:05 PM ET

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) – Authorities say a handler at a Wagoner County wild animal sanctuary suffered a puncture wound to the neck after a big cat attacked him during a feeding today.

Thirty-2-year-old Peter Getz was bitten in the upper torso and the neck area at Safari’s Animal Sanctuary and flown by medical helicopter to St. John Medical Center, where he is listed in critical condition.

Sheriff’s Deputy James Suddath says Getz was able to escape the cage following the attack, then collapsed.

Initial reports said Getz was attacked by a tiger. The Tulsa World reported that a lion-tiger mix named Rocky attacked the handler.

Officials say a Haskell Public Schools class on a field trip at the sanctuary didn’t witness the attack and that the facility was evacuated and locked down after the incident.

Information from: The Tulsa World, and KOTV-TV,

Big cat injures Wagoner sanctuary volunteer

Published: October 30, 2008

BROKEN ARROW — A 1,000-pound cat attacked a volunteer Wednesday at a Wagoner County animal sanctuary, officials said. The cat was identified as a liger, which is a cross between a male lion and a female tiger.
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Peter Getz, 32, of Stillwater was airlifted to St. John Medical Center in Tulsa in critical condition with wounds to his chest and neck, a Broken Arrow Fire Department spokesman said. A hospital spokeswoman would not release his condition.

The attack occurred just before noon at Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary, 26881 E 58, east of Broken Arrow, Wagoner County sheriff’s Deputy Eugene Smith said. Getz was trying to feed the liger when it attacked.

Calls to the animal sanctuary went to voicemail Wednesday. The message says “a volunteer had an injury. Due to the emotional strain of the situation, Safari’s will be closed until further notice.” The sanctuary did not return a call seeking comment.

The liger, named Rocky, weighed an estimated 1,000 pounds, according to an undated video from Tulsa television station KOTV-6 posted on the sanctuary’s Web site.

In 2003, a bear cub attacked a handler’s arms and legs at Safari’s Interactive Animal Sanctuary.

Liger Attacks Handler

40 children were present at the facility when attack occurred

If this doesn’t come through with the photos and the link to the video, go to

and make sure you watch the news report about this attack. I’m upset that it ends saying that they’re not sure what will happen to the liger. Once again, human error may result in an innocent animal’s death.

Also, go to .org/  and click on the picture of Rocky the Liger to see a long story Newson6 filmed about him before the attack occurred.


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Posted on Jan 3, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Shut Down | 0 comments

Kirby VanBurch

Kirby VanBurch

Kirby Van Burch Theatre

7812 Cozy Cove Branson, MO 65616  USDA #43-C-0320

USDA USDA sues Kirby VanBurch for exhibiting without a license in 2015


When the USDA inspectors returned June 30, 2011 Charlie the tiger was not on the census.  So, where is Charlie the white tiger?

Failed USDA Inspection Dated 2011 Jun 22  Click for full report.  Summary:  The inspector said that veterinary care at this facility is inadequate.  A female tiger named Princess and another named Precious were lame and had lesions on their pads. Immediate vet attention was demanded.  At this time Kirby Van Burch had 3 tigers, 2 leopards and no lion.

Failed USDA Inspection Dated 2011 May 20  Click for full report.  Summary:  Charlie the white tiger is lame on his left rear leg, thin and has a dull coat.  He has trouble getting up or walking.  He has lesions on at least three of his feet.  This same lameness was observed by USDA inspectors during annual inspections in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 5 times in 2011.  At no time in Charlie’s adult life has a vet examined his condition other than to just look at him.  For his entire life, Charlie and all of the cats at Kirby Van Burch Theatre have been kept on concrete.  At the time of this inspection Kirby Van Burch was given a Notice of Intent to Confiscate if he did not take some action and improve the cats’ diets.

Failed USDA Inspection Dated 2011 May 19  Click for full report.  Summary:  See above, for details.  This report only goes on to add that the only treatment given the tiger were a foot bath in epsom salts, which was ordered on the 13th but did not occur until the 17th (if then).

Failed USDA Inspection Dated 2011 May 6  Click for full report.  Summary:  Leopards Blackie and Bambi suffer hair loss, dull coats and limping and no evidence of any vet care to help them.  Stripey the tiger suffers obesity, dull coat and limping and was thought by USDA inspectors to not be getting a proper diet, proper vet care nor proper flooring as all of the cats are being kept on concrete.  Stripey is reported to have had cataracts since he was a cub.  Despite their poor conditions and suspected self mutilation from frustration or illness the inspector notes that the cats were still being used in the act.  At this time Kirby Van Burch had 4 tigers, 2 leopards and a lion.


Branson Entertainer Will Stand Trial For Felony Tax Evasion

Bambi and Kirby VanBurch are facing 3 counts of felony tax evasion

A Branson entertainer charged with felony tax evasion waived his preliminary hearing yesterday (11-17-11) and has been bound over for trial.

Magician Kirby VanBurch and his ex wife Bambi are facing three counts of tax evasion for allegedly failing to pay sales, withholding and consumer use taxes from June through September of 2009, the same year the couple were divorced.

Stone County assistant prosecutor Dayrell Scrivner, who has been appointed special prosecutor in the case says, “The state has been talking with them, and with their attorneys, basically giving them an opportunity to produce some kind of explanation. They were trying to make sure it was not an oversight.”

This isn’t the first time Kirby VanBurch has been in trouble with the law. In 2005, he was placed on five years probation after pleading guilty to drunk driving and assaulting a Branson police officer .

The VanBurch’s, who could each face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, are due back in court on December 5th.


Kirby and Bambi VanBurch charged with 3 counts of felony tax evasion

FORSYTH — Local performers Kirby VanBurch and Bambi VanBurch have been charged in Taney County court with three counts each of felony tax evasion linked to a five-month period in 2009.

The charges against the pair are unclassified felonies. If convicted of all three counts, either would face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, according to state statutes.

The probable cause statement filed by Missouri Department of Revenue investigators shows the VanBurches are accused of failing to pay sales, withholding and consumer use taxes from June through September, typically peak tourism months.

Court dockets in the case show that it was filed May 12, and summonses were issued May 31.

Taney County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell said he will not represent the state in the case, because of a “perceived conflict of interest” due to some work he had done while in private practice.

Instead, the case has been assigned to Dayrell Scrivner, an assistant prosecuting attorney for Stone County.

Reached for comment about the cases last week, Scrivner said the amount of money in question was “large,” but would not go into specifics.

“We’re still working on the figures,” Scrivner said. “But it is a substantial amount of money.”

When asked if the incident might have been an oversight, he said, “They’ve been charged with it being intentional. All businesses have to pay these taxes. They’ve been in business long enough to know that.”

He said he was not aware of any other times during the VanBurches’ history that they were accused of tax evasion.

Scrivner said the criminal charges were not filed earlier because Department of Revenue representatives have been trying to deal with the matter in other ways.

“The state has been talking with them, and with their attorneys, basically giving them an opportunity to produce some kind of explanation,” he said. “They were trying to make sure it was not an oversight.”

Reached by phone Monday, Bambi VanBurch directed questions to their lawyer, who had not responded to a request for comment by press time.

Court records show that the VanBurches, formerly a married couple, filed for divorce at the end of August in 2009. The dissolution of marriage was finalized the following year.

Bambi VanBurch also began a solo career in 2009, performing in Branson and touring the country. She has returned to the “Kirby VanBurch Show” this season.

Arraignments for both defendants are set for July 7 at 9 a.m. at the Taney County Judicial Center.


Branson Entertainers Due Back In Court Next Month, Charged With Tax Evasion






By: Monte Schisler, News Director
Posted: Thursday, June 16, 2011


Branson Entertainers Kirby VanBurch and ex-wife Bambi VanBurch, who still share a stage together at a theatre on Highway 2-48, are due back in Taney County court next month for arraignment, charged with three counts of felony tax evasion. The charges stem from a 5-month period in the summer of 2009. If convicted on all charges, the pair face a maximum of 15 years in prison. But Stone County Assistant Proseuctor Dayrell Scrivner, assigned to the case after the Taney County prosecutor cited a conflict of interest, told the case might never end up in court:




USDA Charges animal exhibitor under AWA
San Antonio, TX (US)

Also known as: Illusion Management, Inc., Kirby VanBurch Magic Show

Previous Location: San Antonio, TX (US)

Read more: Animal Abuse Profile: Kirby VanBurch – San Antonio, TX | Pet-Abuse.Com Animal Cruelty Database

Incident Date: Sunday, Aug 31, 2003
County: Bexar

Disposition: USDA Citation

Persons of Interest:
» Kirby VanBurch
» Terrell Diamond

In September 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture charged animal exhibitors Kirby VanBurch and Terrell Diamond, doing business as Illusion Management, Inc. and the Kirby VanBurch Magic Show in Fair Oaks and San Antonio, Texas, with violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Chester A. Gipson, deputy administrator for animal care with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said that investigators found at least 75 separate violations of the regulations including operating without a license and failure to establish and maintain programs of adequate veterinary care.


  • USDA – September 29, 2003

Read more: Animal Abuse: USDA Charges animal exhibitor under AWA – San Antonio, TX | Pet-Abuse.Com Animal Cruelty Database

Reviews of the Kirby Van Burch Theatre

I have to say not wourth my time same old thing ever year cant wait till Darren opens to see some new stuff for a change. and not have to smell the tigers bad oder when you walk threw the door. very disapointed for what it cost, not worth it. The production very poor and dancers not together at all. also it would be great if kirby could remimber his lines concedering he has been saying the same ones for years same jokes same tricks enough said.  -Kansas


Saw Kirby about 10 years ago and he was awesome. Just saw him again May 2009 and was truly disappointed. No kidding, people left the show during intermission and didn’t return. My husband and I would have but we paid around 80.00 to see it so we decided to stay. The MC tries to guilt you into buying stuffed animals for about 10 minutes before the show and during intermission. The live animals during the show are only present for a split second. If you want to really see them you have to pay $10.00 for a backstage tour after the show. Kirby seemed tired and bored, there were “technical difficulties”, etc. He also tries to be funny by saying “shut up kid” when a kid says something from the audience. Wasn’t funny to me.  – Missouri


This Kirby and Bambi show was recommended by Branson The billboards and advertisement make you think it will be a wonderful show..but..first they announced that Bambi would not be there. Second they spend 30 minutes selling you items like $50 stuffed tigers and $20 stuffed tigers which you can get autographed by Kirby after the show…but..then after the show they tell you Kirby had prior arrangements which they forgot so you cannot get them autographed. As for the real white tiger..don’t blink because it is only on the stage for a few seconds. He did do some magic tricks which my grandaughter enjoyed..but I will not go to this show nor will I recommend it to anyone. – Oklahoma

Don’t make the same mistake we did. This show is awful. The magic was like something out of a book. Kirby sucks like the vacuum he gets his name from. Bambi hops around like a deer in the Forrest. The show was completely based on making money and everything was overpriced. Our first impression was not good when we walked into the musty smelling stuffy theatre. The show is not based around the animals and don’t get your hopes up about the inflatable helicopter at the end of the show. The choreography was off. Kirby doesn’t interact with the audience and when he does speak he sounds like Michael Jackson. We were truly amazed… at how horrible it was. Please take our word for it, you’re better off spending your money saving wildlife rather than supporting the maltreated animals in glass cages. – Kansas City




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Posted on Jan 3, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Shut Down | 0 comments

Casey Ludwig Lakeside Zoo

After years of USDA violations Casey Ludwig lost his USDA license in 2012 for the Lakeside Zoo but still had to be sued by USDA again in 2015 for exhibiting without a license.


Click on the USDA violations below to see why this license has been suspended.

















15811 Highway 32, Mountain, WI 54149 (USDA No. 35-C-0290)

License issues threaten Lakewood Zoo


TOWN OF RIVERVIEW – An Oconto County zoo has been shut down indefinitely.

The Lakewood Zoo is known for offering visitors a chance to experience exotic animals.

But problems getting federal permits led local officials to revoke the zoo’s county permit.

It was a unanimous vote by the board of adjustments to take away the zoo’s conditional use permit.

That permit allows owner Casey Ludwig to operate the facility which opened in 2008.

The Lakewood Zoo is home to bears, lions and tigers.

But this winter, the attraction isn’t just closed for the season. It’s shut down indefinitely.

“I’ll make a motion that we revoke the conditional use permit until we get to see the USDA permit then he can apply for a new hearing,” said Oconto County board of adjustments member Darrel Pagel.

Oconto County officials agreed Wednesday to take away owner Casey Ludwig’s county permit to operate the zoo. They said that’s because Ludwig must also have the appropriate state and federal permits. Reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture presented at the meeting show he does not.

“Mr. Ludwig has not maintained a DNR permit for captive wild animals or a USDA permit for a federal permit or license for exhibition of these animals at a zoo,” said Oconto County Zoning Director Pat Virtues.

Ludwig faces five misdemeanor charges which stem from possession of bears the DNR said Ludwig needed a permit to exhibit. He has since gotten the permit, but has yet to obtain a USDA permit. Ludwig missed the December first renewal date.

“We do not intend to open the zoo until we have a USDA license in play. I’m only asking the board to somehow delay this until we get a USDA license,” said Ludwig.

A USDA spokesman says Ludwig’s application for a new federal license has been denied. Ludwig has asked for a hearing on the matter, and there is an administrative proceeding pending before a USDA administrative law judge.

Federal officials are also currently investigating several non-compliance issues at the zoo.

“Some of the concerns that are noted in there deal with vet care of the animals where it talks about a male lion has multiple open wounds on his face and a veterinarian has not been contacted regarding the injuries,” said Virtues.

Ludwig said that was ridiculous – noting it was a small scratch and the veterinarian was called immediately. Neighbors raised their own concerns about security at the zoo.

“One day we drove up and we had one of his animals standing right in our yard staring right at us, and it looked like it was going to charge us,” said Julie Lopez.

Ludwig said the animal was a harmless pot-bellied pig.

As far as the outcome of the vote, Ludwig said he wasn’t surprised.

“It was really what I expected. I totally understand what they’re wanting to do,” Ludwig said.

The permit revocation becomes official next week.

Updated: Thursday, 23 Feb 2012, 12:20 PM CST

Published : Wednesday, 22 Feb 2012, 12:32 PM CST


Laura Smith, FOX 11 News



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Posted on Nov 22, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Shut Down | 0 comments

Karl and Kayla Mitchell All Acting Animals AKA Big Cat Encounters

Karl and Kayla Mitchell All Acting Animals AKA Big Cat Encounters

Karla and Kayla Mitchell


Animal Protection Groups and Sanctuaries Challenge Zoning Permit for Pahrump Tiger Exhibitor

Pahrump, NV. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the nation’s premier legal advocacy organization for animals, was joined by PETA, and three reputable big cat sanctuaries, Lions, Tigers, & Bears (“LT&B”), and Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue, in appealing the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission’s (RPC) issuance of a conditional use permit to Kayla Mitchell to keep ten tigers.

On November 12, the RPC voted 4-3 to issue the permit to Kayla Mitchell despite her role in the ongoing illegal exhibition of big cats and improper interstate transport of tigers without a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) license on behalf of Big Cat Encounters, a business that makes tigers available for direct contact and other exhibition in exchange for a fee. The groups argue that permit issuance to Kayla Mitchell is improper given that her husband, Karl Mitchell, their business, Big Cat Encounters, and their landlord, Ray “Flagman” Mielzinski, are currently under a Nye County District Court order to remove the tigers from Pahrump. The Mitchells refused to comply with the court’s order, issued following the county’s revocation of Karl Mitchell’s permit due to his violation of its conditions—including illegal exhibition of tigers without a USDA license.

ALDF, PETA, LT&B, Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue have offered to rehome the big cats to reputable sanctuaries.


Two of Mitchell’s cats were sent to Big Cat Rescue back in the 1990’s.  Founder, Carole Baskin said, “Two of the worst cases of physical abuse I have ever seen came from Karl Mitchell.  Back in the 90s we rescued a black leopard, named Shaquille (photo at right) and a cougar named Darla from him.  When they arrived their faces were bloodied beyond recognition.  Darla’s injuries resulted in a fungal infection of the brain that later killed her.  Shaquille’s eyes constantly teared from the malformed healing of his skull.  When my late husband called Karl to ask what had happened to them, he said Karl told him that he had to take a baseball bat to them and that’s why he didn’t want them any more.”

Big Cat Rescue’s policy for the last 18 years has been that if they take a cat it must either be a government confiscation or the owner must agree to never possess another cat.

“The Mitchells have played fast and loose with the law for long enough,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Instead of acting in the best interest of the cats they use as entertainment props, they continue to defy federal laws and a local court order meant to keep the animals and community safe. ALDF is calling upon Nye County Commissioners to reject the Mitchells’ latest attempt to circumvent the law, and overturn the permit that the RPC improperly issued.”

Nevada is one of six states (NV, AL, NC, SC, WI, IN) that currently does not regulate the private ownership of inherently dangerous animals. ALDF, PETA, LT&B, Keepers of the Wild, and Big Cat Rescue all advocate against the use of big cats for pets or entertainment, and have worked with localities in Nevada that aim to institute basic public safety and animal welfare measures.

Copies of the appeal are available upon request.


About ALDF

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, ALDF files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit

About PETA

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), founded in 1980, is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than three million members and supporters. The organization’s mission statement provides that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or exploit in any way. For more information, please

About Lions, Tigers, & Bears

Lions Tigers & Bears is a no kill, no breed, no sell rescue and educational facility that allows the big cats and bears in its care the opportunity to live out their lives with dignity in safe, species-appropriate habitats. The sanctuary, located on 96 acres outside of San Diego, Calif., is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), which recently awarded the Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence to LT&B Founder and Director, Bobbi Brink. For more information, please visit,

About Keepers of the Wild

Keepers of the Wild, located approximately two hours east of Las Vegas in Valentine, Ariz., provides life-long care for more than 140 exotic and indigenous wild animals who were rescued, surrendered by an owner, or rehomed by other animal welfare agencies. The sanctuary is engaged in public education and collaborates with several organizations to help pass legislation aimed at curtailing the use of exotic animals in traveling circuses and exhibits. Keepers of the Wild has been the recipient of numerous commendations and awards from animal welfare groups and government agencies, including the Nevada Wildlife Federation and the Arizona Attorneys’ & Sheriffs’ Association. For more information, please visit

About Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue, located in Tampa, Fla., is a GFAS-accredited sanctuary for tigers, lions, and other exotic cats who have been rescued or confiscated from owners who can no longer care for them. Big Cat Rescue has emerged as a leading national voice in advocating for state and federal legislation to end the exploitation of big cats for entertainment and use as pets. The sanctuary pursues its vision of ending the exploitation of captive exotic animals and promoting legitimate species conservation by providing lifelong care to big cats and public education. For more information, please

Sept 5, 2015

Karl Mitchell Given Till 9/1/15 to Remove All Tigers

The notorious Karl Mitchell was back in court this past week, and has not complied with the court’s previous order to remove the tigers he is illegally keeping and exhibiting (his USDA license was permanently revoked in 2001 but he has continued to sell tiger encounters and disregard USDA cease and desist orders). He was given another week, and is facing incarceration if he does not comply by next week’s court appearance. His latest defense is that the tigers are therapy animals for his PTSD.

By Selwyn Harris

Karl Mitchell has been given until Sept. 10, 2015 to remove the animals or face jail time.

The nearly five-year dispute between Nye County and Karl Mitchell, owner and operator of Big Cat Encounters Ranch, reached a new landmark Tuesday during a hearing before Fifth District Court Judge Kim Wanker to determine whether Mitchell can legally keep his 10 tigers on the property belonging to longtime Pahrump resident Ray “The Flagman” Mielzynski.

Wanker ruled in favor of the county and ordered Mitchell to remove the animals, per county ordinance.

If the tigers are not removed by the time both men return to court in September, they face contempt of court charges, punishable by up to 25 days in jail and a fine.

Mitchell did not mince words when talking about the decision.

“I’m not disappointed, I expected it,” said Mitchell, who added the judge just followed what the county wanted her to do. “She’s afraid of controversy. She claims to read everything, but if she read everything, she wouldn’t have made the decision that she made.”

Mitchell, who is black, also said he knows why he’s being targeted by county officials regarding his tigers.

“Racial hatred and animus is behind all of this,” he said. “I’ve been trying to be a good man, but I’m continually picked at and probed. People need to understand that there are four other facilities in town that are not required to have conditional use permits. There’s one facility one mile from here and they have cats but they are not required to have a conditional use permit.”

Mitchell noted that the acreage his tigers call home, at present, will not see development anytime soon.

“These lots that surround our 20-acre parcel are unbuildable, and will never see any development until a developer puts a half million dollars’ worth of infrastructure to bring water out,” he said. “Nobody’s going to buy a $3,000 lot and spend a half million dollars to get water to it. The fact that it’s unbuildable means that it should be taken out of the planning district and nothing’s going to happen here. There’s been no action here since the 1970’s.”

There appears to be at least two opportunities for Mitchell’s tigers to remain on the property before they’re scheduled to return to court.

Mielzynski said the county commissioners could ease some of the zoning restrictions for the land.

“All the commissioners have to do is say just take that out of the Regional Planning Commission,” he said. “There are a lot of parts of Pahrump that are not under them. Amargosa and Tonopah is not under the Regional Planning Commission and this property happens to be right on the edge of it.”

Mielzynski also he believes the judge was in error when she issued the ruling.

He supported his statement by suggesting that local laws and ordinances should not supersede federal laws.

“They are saying that local ordinances somehow trump federal law and it was actually brought out that maybe this should be discussed in federal court,” he said.

Mitchell noted that he’ll sit down and talk with county officials to somehow reach an agreement that would result in a favorable compromise for both parties.

“I’m having a meeting with county officials and talk about the protocols involved on removing this property from the planning department,” he said. “By removing it from the planning department, it takes away the onus of us having to have a conditional use permit, which we were exempted from in the first place.”

If both sides do not reach an amicable arrangement, Mitchell said he will remain defiant, for the safety of his tigers.

He noted animals suffer unnecessary stress when tranquilized and moved from familiar surroundings.

“I’m not moving them,” he said. “That’s pretty much it. I’m not going to tranquilize my tigers and move them someplace else to satisfy some paper-shuffling a-hole in the planning department.”

Under Wanker’s ruling, all of the tigers must be removed from the property by the time the two defendants are scheduled to appear back before the judge in September.

An additional element of the case the defendants said, is the literal definition of the facility.

Mielzynski said if Big Cat Encounters Ranch was a non-profit agency, the issue would not be an issue.

“It is only because of this technicality that supposedly we’re not a sanctuary,” he said. “We do not have a 501 3 C nonprofit status and that was part of the definition of a sanctuary, so we are not a sanctuary.”

Additionally, a new designation for the land could also help save the tigers.

“If this land was de-annexed by the county commissioners, this whole issue would be moot,” Mielzynski said. “Even though the property is zoned for tigers, we wouldn’t have to get a conditional use permit.”

Mitchell, meanwhile, said local officials should take the time to learn about a federal law that supports his position.

“The Endangered Species Act states in part, that government will take no action to disturb existing and thriving populations of endangered species,” he said. “That is a direct quote from federal law. To try to disturb us over a minor zoning infraction, is ludicrous.”

Mitchell also said local animal control officials assured him the issue does not fall under the auspices of Nye County Animal Control.

“Animal Control is not involved in any of this and will not be involved in any of this,” he said. “They will say that it’s the planning department who are creating this big problem. This piece of property is an isolated piece of property.”

When reached for comment on Thursday, Nye County Emergency Services Director Vance Payne issued a brief statement on the matter.

“We have neither training nor facilities to address big cats,” he stated in an email.

Mielzynski said it was a single complaint from a local resident that put the issue on the county’s radar.

“When the commissioners approved this back in 2007, they made it complaint-driven which means you can have the cats and other large animals as long as nobody complains, so you won’t need a conditional use permit,” he said. “There are four other big cat places here that do not have this conditional use permit because nobody complained about them.”



Karl Mitchell has hit a legal roadblock in his desire to keep tigers in their current location in Pahrump.

By Mark Waite
Pahrump Valley Times  November 29, 2014

Mitchell of Big Cat Encounters was ordered to remove tigers from the property of Ray “The Flagman” Mielzynski at 6061 N. Woodchips Drive under an order issued by District Court Judge Kimberly Wanker last week.

Wanker granted an order of summary judgment requested by Nye County, which filed suit against Mitchell, Mielzynski and Big Cat Encounters in January. But Mitchell, who was originally denied a conditional use permit required to house his tigers in a rural homestead zone by the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission back in 2012, said there won’t be a roundup of his big cats any time soon. He plans an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

“At this point there’s nothing going on,” Mitchell said. “The judge did side with the county but we think she’s in error. She even said she could be in error and she stayed the action on this until it’s appealed to the state.”

The defendants claimed the property was an animal sanctuary before the passage of the county zoning ordinance in 2007 and thus is grandfathered into the regulations.

“Since 1994 it was a private animal sanctuary and that’s the usage issue,” Mitchell said. “I believe the Supreme Court will find if it was used for that purpose for all that time, then it’s grandfathered usage.”

He said Mielzynski’s brother built an animal sanctuary which continued after his death. Mitchell said the location, at the far north end of Pahrump about a mile away from the nearest home, lies on a county wildlife corridor. Mielzynski got his nickname by standing out on the highway waving the flag, he also is a keen court watcher and ran for sheriff numerous times.

Nye County Animal Control Officer Vance Payne said he could find no evidence an animal sanctuary existed there before zoning took effect. He said it was a county zoning issue and wasn’t in charge of the removal.

The judge’s order, issued Nov. 18, said no special condition animals existed on the property before the passage of zoning June 20, 2007. The defendants didn’t have a conditional use permit for the animals and failed to comply with requests to voluntarily abate the nuisance.

“The matters admitted at hearing clearly supports the fact that no establishment owned or operated by a licensed profit or non-profit organization existed on or at the property known as 6061 N. Woodchips prior to the adoption by Nye County of the comprehensive rezoning map in June 2007,” the judge ruled. “There is no genuine issue of material fact regarding the existence of an animal sanctuary as defined in Nye County Code … or special conditions animals existing on or at the real property prior to 2007.”

She adds Nye County Code states any use of the property contrary to the provisions of the zoning ordinance shall be declared unlawful and a public nuisance.

In a general statement on planning, Wanker wrote, “Continued violation of the Nye County Code is unlawful and interferes with the power and authority of Nye County to regulate the long-range financial impact of the application of particular land to particular kinds of development, to preserve the relative suitability of the land for appropriate development, to ensure the protection of existing neighborhoods and communities and to promote the health and the general welfare of all residents of Nye County.”

Mitchell blamed animal rights groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for pursuing the case.

“It’s the animal rights people who don’t live in this town, don’t live in this state. They really don’t have a dog in this fight,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he could move out of the Pahrump Regional Planning District and have his tigers and still live in Nye County legally. He said there are now 11 tigers, including a “liger,” a cross between a tiger and a lion, by Christmas that could increase to 15.

“Which is another contention. Well if it’s legal in other areas of the county without a conditional use permit, then what is this all about?” Mitchell asked. The matter should be about the usage of the land, not the person, he said, adding, “it’s been turned into a personal vendetta by the county versus the usage of the land.”

Mitchell has a long history in Pahrump. He operated Big Cat Encounters at another location when he was contracted as Nye County animal control officer in 2000. But it lasted only a year, before there were criminal charges over everything from theft to animal cruelty. The charges were dismissed but Mitchell eventually served time for stealing a vehicle belonging to a member of Big Cat Encounters. While in prison, his animals were transferred to an animal sanctuary in Texas.

The RPC deadlocked 3-3 when Mitchell first applied for a conditional use permit to house his tigers at the Flagman’s property in June 2012. The RPC was told to vote again on the permit to break the tie in August, 2012 and voted 4-1 to deny it. Nye County Commissioners then reversed the RPC decision by a 3-2 vote in October 2012, allowing him to house the tigers, when Mitchell presented 583 signatures in favor, some people from as far away as New Zealand, Greece and Brazil.

PETA countered that Mitchell had a history of violating federal and local laws, and of animal neglect and cruelty. PETA claimed his permit to exhibit tigers was permanently revoked. Mitchell has claimed his property is private, not a zoo. But his website asked for donations to see the animals.

In February 2013, the RPC voted to revoke Mitchell’s conditional use permit, because he allegedly exhibited tigers on the property in violation of his county permit. Mitchell said he allowed a photo shoot with the tigers for a friend. The permit comes with a condition that required Mitchell to comply with all federal, state, county and town regulations.

This time Nye County Commissioners in April 2013 voted 3-2 to uphold the RPC decision revoking the conditional use permit. Commissioners Frank Carbone and Donna Cox voted against the motion.

Mitchell appealed to district court. Both Mitchell and Mielzynski appeared in court representing themselves during a hearing on the summary judgment petition Oct. 16, attorney Jonathon Nelson appeared on behalf of Big Cat Encounters.

June 27, 2014 is Nye County Hearing Date.

8 News NOW

A Pahrump exotic animal owner still vows to defy federal law in his fight to keep several tigers on his property.

The I-Team has followed tiger owner Karl Mitchell for more than a decade. Mitchell is openly defiant of federal law. His exotic animal exhibitors license was revoked 13 years ago, but Mitchell shows no signs of giving up his fight.

He still loves to exhibit his tigers at his Pahrump ranch. His website shows a parade of celebrities and Hollywood starlets taking pictures with the big cats. The going rate, according to his customers, is a “donation” of $750 for two people to visit the tigers. It was 2012, the last time an 8 News NOW camera was inside the ranch.

Mitchell approached the I-Team, last month, in Pahrump and talked about his tigers.

“I have tons of famous folks come out to visit me in Pahrump. People who are internationally known and nationally known. They’re my friends because I’ve got 40 years in the film business,” Mitchell said. “If they show up to take a picture and their pictures go out in People magazine, it’s to promote the town of Pahrump. It’s only to do positive and good things. There’s nothing negative that comes from it other than a few haters that think that you shouldn’t touch a tiger.”

Those who don’t support Mitchell include federal government officials. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has fined Mitchell nearly $100,000. The fine has never been paid.

The fine came after years of Mitchell continuing to show off his tigers, despite a federal court order.

“Karl Mitchell’s license to exhibit animals was permanently revoked in part because of his abusive training techniques including withholding water as a training practice with the tigers he exploits and uses for his entertainment business,” said Carnie Anne Nasser, an attorney for PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Nye County’s district attorney sued Mitchell and the ranch land owner, who is sheriff’s candidate Ray “The Flagman” Mielzynski, for running the tiger ranch without a county permit.

Mitchell would only agree to talk with the I-Team if the interview was not recorded. He says his rights to own tigers in Pahrump are grandfathered because of how long he’s been in the town. He also refers to himself as a private animal owner. His company, Big Cat Encounters, is listed as a non-profit corporation.

A judge determined there were unsafe conditions and government inspectors are concerned about the safety of people visiting the tigers. Mitchell believes the government is overstepping its bounds and the federal laws don’t apply to him.

Last legislative session, state Senator Michael Roberson, a Republican, wrote a bill that would allow county commissioners to create criminal penalties for people keeping exotic animals as pets. It passed the state senate overwhelmingly, but failed to come up for a vote in the assembly before deadline.

Nye County’s civil court lawsuit against Mitchell is scheduled for June 27.


Bad News for Karl Mitchell, Good News for Big Cats as Appeal Falls Flat

Pahrump, Nev. — After receiving information from PETA, Big Cat Rescuers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Nye County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) today upheld the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission’s (RPC) February 13 unanimous vote to revoke notorious animal abuser Karl Mitchell’s conditional use permit (CUP) to keep exotic animals in the jurisdiction. Mitchell, who owns a disgraceful tiger menagerie called Big Cat Encounters and had appealed the RPC’s permit revocation, has been exhibiting big cats, even though he has not held the requisite USDA license since his was permanently revoked in 2001. These violations of federal law mean that Mitchell should never have been issued a CUP by the county.

“Karl Mitchell’s days of terrorizing big cats in Nye County are numbered,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “PETA thanks the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners for making clear that animal abuse and defiance of the law will not stand.”

In February 2012, PETA called on the USDA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to file criminal charges against Mitchell for exhibiting tigers and transporting them across state lines without a license. The federal investigations are still pending.

Over the years, Mitchell has been cited repeatedly by the USDA for a litany of Animal Welfare Act violations. They include—but are not limited to—failing to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, living conditions, and palatable food and water; cruelly withholding water as a training technique; and continuing to exhibit big cats illegally. He has also been slapped with three cease-and-desist orders—which he failed to comply with—and more than $100,000 in fines.

April 16, 2013  For more information, please visit Contact:  David Perle 202-483-7382


Animal Intervention Show


Karl Mitchell was featured on Animal Intervention in the fall of 2012 thumbing his nose at USDA and proclaiming that federal laws don’t apply to him.

That landed him back in court in Nye County where they are considering the fact that his failure to maintain a USDA license is cause for revocation of his permit to keep dangerous carnivores in his back yard.  Read the USDA’s letter to Nye County and stay up to date on the pending hearing in February.

Karl Mitchell All Acting Animals AKA Big Cat Encounters

Karl Mitchell All Acting Animals AKA Big Cat Encounters

Despite Pahrump’s long-held reputation as a haven for oddballs, hermits, malcontents and rugged individualists, I will say this for the folks who live there — they most certainly are a forgive-and-forget kind of crowd. Especially the “forget” part.It is astonishing, even by Nye County standards, that elected officials and government regulators could pretend to know little or nothing about the violent and tortured history of infamous animal trainer Karl Mitchell. Mitchell is the human equivalent of the herpes virus. He keeps resurfacing, a crusty canker sore that scabs over but never really goes away.

Now he’s back. To be honest, I can’t imagine why he would even bother to ask Nye County for permission to set up an exotic animal sanctuary. Mitchell has shown contempt for government authority and law enforcement for decades. He’s been arrested, fined, shut down, thrown into prison, exposed by media, hounded by animal-welfare agencies and organizations — and none of it has mattered to him one bit. No matter what an entity like Nye County decides regarding his sanctuary, he will do exactly what he wants and thumb his nose at everyone.

If the name Karl Mitchell sort of rings a bell, allow me to reintroduce him. I’ve been reporting on his outrageous exploitation of exotic animals since the mid-1990s. Back then, a Las Vegas animal-lover named Linda Faso told me about what she said was Mitchell’s inhumane treatment of numerous animals, including big cats, at a ramshackle compound in Pahrump. I checked it out and found despicable conditions for several tigers and other cats, including endangered species crammed into tiny cages, eating rotten food, tormented by flies and piles of feces and deprived of water in the brutal heat of summer. Inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued 45 citations for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Mitchell never missed a beat. In 2001, the USDA formally revoked his license to exhibit exotic animals, but Mitchell declared himself to be beyond the regulatory reach of USDA and continued to operate, charging visitors to see his animals, advertising them for use in film and photo shoots, squeezing every last dime he could get out of the magnificent animals. In 2010, a federal hearing officer ruled that Mitchell is not, in fact, above the law and fined him a whopping $68,000, which was added to a $27,000 fine assessed in 2001.

Oh, but his sordid history goes back much further. He’s been arrested at least a dozen times in Nevada and California, including a bust in California for trying to flatten two Fish and Game officers who suspected he was dealing in black-market exotic animals. California officials described Mitchell as a “threat to both animals and humans.”

In the weeks leading up to Mitchell’s appearance before the Nye County Commission, various officials in Pahrump have made statements that are simply jaw-dropping in their ignorance. Animal-control officials say they have no record of problems with Mitchell’s treatment of his critters, and the Planning Commission gave its preliminary approval to an exotic animal compound that would be home to eight tigers, a liger and other animals, saying they don’t see how it could pose a danger to anyone. Oh, really?

His previous Pahrump compounds scared the crap out of everyone who lived within a mile of his place. In 2002, Mitchell shot and killed one of his tigers because it got out. In 2004, his then-girlfriend had one of her fingers bitten off by one of Mitchell’s cats. Although he has no permits of any kind for exhibiting his animals, Mitchell has continued to charge $500 for an hour of close contact with his cats. His website still advertises the opportunity to “swim with tigers” or “romp with baby tigers.” He even refers to his place as a “unique tourist destination,” and his web page is packed with photos of dim-bulb celebrities who have lent their names and faces to promoting his pathetic paean to animal exploitation, including the likes of Paris Hilton and Megan Fox.

But here’s the topper. Hase everyone in Nye forgotten that Mitchell was hired as their head animal-control officer, and how that ended? Despite all of his problems and arrests, he got the job in 2000. Mitchell was arrested three times in one month while running animal control, was accused of stealing $40,000 worth of checks and was sent to prison for two years for stealing a vehicle from the county. I mean, does any of this sort of ring a bell, folks?

“I am always appalled whenever Karl Mitchell has anything with a heartbeat, because of his history of neglect and abuse,” says animal activist Linda Faso, who is once again asking animal groups to focus on Mitchell.

It boils down to this. Tigers and lions do not belong in tiny cages in a hot, dusty compound for the amusement of visitors just because Karl Mitchell can’t figure out any other way to make a living. Tigers and humans should not swim together, and if you think these wild animals can be trained to be perfectly safe, have a chat with Roy Horn. It is furthermore disgraceful to treat exotics this way, whether it’s tigers in Pahrump or elephants in a circus.

Mitchell was denied his conditional use permit because the commission deadlocked 3-3. How he could get three votes is befuddling, but it happened. He can appeal the vote in 30 days, though, the reality is, Mitchell doesn’t think he needs permission from Nye or anyone.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at



Exotic animal owner applies for new tiger sanctuary permit


The Nye County Planning Department is recommending approval of Karl Mitchell’s request for a conditional use permit for an animal sanctuary for tigers at 6061 N. Woodchips Rd., which is up for consideration at the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission meeting today.

The planning department said the Nye County Code allows special conditions for animals and animal sanctuaries in a rural homestead zone with minimum 4.5 acre lots. The property owner is Ray “The Flagman” Mielzynski, the parcel is 20 acres.

The planning department report said Nye County Animal Control inspected the premises and found the property to be secure.

Raymond and Rose Leach, of Phoenix, feel the sanctuary would have a negative impact on their vacant property down the street. They referred to the highly publicized incident last year where an exotic animal owner in Ohio committed suicide and let his wild animals run loose.

Walter Jervis, a property owner at 6101 N. Alanjay Ave., within the 300 foot notification area of the application, said: “does this imply that my property will be within an area that is now considered dangerous to children or pets? Will there be special provisions made to sequester the animals within the permit area that includes special fencing and noise abatement requirements? How does this affect the saleability of my property?”

Patsy Junker of Mesquite, who owns property at 5920 Acacia Ave., said the facility would depreciate her property so badly she could never sell it or live there.

The county zoning code requires animal sanctuaries to comply with all federal, state and county regulations; requires all animals to be treated in a humane manner; allows code compliance officers to enter the property when they have reason to believe the conditional use permit has been violated; requires the animals to be registered with Nye County Animal Control; requires permits from the Nevada Division of Wildlife or U.S. Department of Agriculture to be kept on file at the animal control office; and requires annual inspections by a national or regional organization or Nye County Animal Control.

The special conditions of approval require the sanctuary won’t be open to the public, with no exhibiting of animals on the premises. If that’s the case, Mitchell may want to update his Internet site for Big Cat Encounters. It advertises a “once in a lifetime, one-on-one personal encounter with one of the planet’s most powerful, precious and dangerous species.”

The advertisement was for Mitchell’s last compound with five acres of grassland on the south side of Pahrump. He listed eight tigers and a liger, a cross between a lion and tiger. The ad says visitors can pet the tigers, swim with them and romp with the baby tigers, who Mitchell said are as playful as kittens. He requested $500 donations for one person to interact with one of the tigers for an hour and $250 each for additional persons.

Mitchell was fined twice by the USDA for exhibiting animals without a license, in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, for $27,500 in May 2001 and $68,625 in September 2010. During the later hearing, Administrative Law Judge Victor Palmer fined Mitchell for exhibiting tigers without sufficient space and barriers and refusing to allow his facilities to be inspected. The judge said Mitchell failed on 12 occasions to obey two cease and desist orders previously entered against him.

Mitchell claimed his Big Cat Encounters, which he described as an animal rescue organization, was exempt as a non-profit corporation. The federal judge disagreed and said they were being shown for compensation.

Mitchell has shown his baby tigers to everyone from attendees at a Pahrump Valley Chamber of Commerce function in February 2009 to a celebrity Paris Hilton reality show that June.

In December 2009 the RPC denied Mitchell a permit to keep seven Bengal tigers on Manse Road, in front of 90 people in the crowd.

If tonight’s meeting is a repeat of that RPC meeting, this last appearance featured supporters who talked about the unique experience of posing with tigers and workers who say they’ve never been injured. They were countered by neighbors who were afraid of their safety. Mitchell was criticized for inadequate fencing at that meeting, the RPC also received a petition with 87 signatures from Escapees Co-op RV Park opposing the conditional use permit.

In September 2010, Mitchell ended up in Pahrump Justice Court fighting eviction from a property on Homestead Road, just north of Terrible’s Lakeside Casino filed by Desert World Realty.

Still further back in history, Mitchell won a contract to operate the county animal control department in October 2000 after animal advocates were afraid the contract would go to an out-of-town company, Dewey Animal Care Center. But county commissioners repealed the contract eight months later, after Mitchell was arrested three times in one month.

Nine charges were dismissed against him, involving theft of animals and possession of a controlled substance. But Mitchell was eventually convicted in the theft of a GMC Suburban and accusations he stole $40,000 in three checks after he stopped operating the county animal control program. He served over two years in prison from July 2004 to September 2006.

While in prison, his exotic animals were seized and taken to an animal sanctuary in Texas.

Posted on13 June 2012.

By Mark Waite


Fined $68,625.00 by USDA in 2010


All Acting Animals (Mitchell, Karl) 
USDA License #88-C-0076
6941 Oakridge Rd., Pahrump, NV 89048

All Acting Animals has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has filed formal charges against All Acting Animals for chronic, serious violations that include failure to provide animals with drinking water, failure to provide wholesome, uncontaminated food, failure to provide shelter from the elements, failure to provide adequate space, and failure to maintain enclosures and for threatening and harassing USDA officials. The USDA has cited All Acting Animals for failure to provide veterinary care and for filthy and unsanitary conditions. Karl Mitchell has been arrested numerous times and charged with burglary, carrying loaded guns in public, assault, felony stalking, auto theft, and evading arrest. The California Fish and Game Department considers Mitchell a danger to both people and animals. Contact PETA for documentation.

Animals in 2010 inventory: 12 tigers, 2 ligers, a lion, a kangaroo, and a camel according to news reports and Mitchell’s statements.

July 8, 2011:  Karl Mitchell is still openly advertising on his website bigcatencounters that he will let anyone with pet a tiger for $500.00 per person per hour.  “Children welcome,” he claims.

September 17, 2010: Mitchell was ordered to leave the property by Justice of the Peace Gus Sullivan from Beatty as the result of an eviction proceeding in which he had failed to pay rent since June.

September 9, 2010:  Despite losing his USDA license, Karl Mitchell has been caught by USDA exhibiting in 2004, 2008, and 2009.  A federal judge finally fined him $68,625.00 and yet again issued a third cease and desist order demanding that he quit exhibiting big cats.

February 5, 2001: According to a KLAS-TV Las Vegas, Nevada, news report covering Mitchell’s controversial hiring as head of Nye County Animal Control, “California Fish and Game  has seized animals from Mitchell, denied him permits for others, and characterized him as ‘a dangerous person and a serious liability to any person or animal he’s involved with.’  [Mitchell has been arrested for] burglary, carrying loaded guns in public, [and] assault. In Nye County, he was busted a dozen times in just six years, for, among other things, pointing a loaded gun at a person and trying to intimidate witnesses. In a 1996 interview, Mitchell’s then-wife  said he started beating her shortly after they were married. The last time, he sent her to a hospital with broken ribs. Mitchell was busted in Clark County for felony stalking of his estranged wife.”

The newscast also stated that Clark County officials reported Mitchell had sewn shut a snake’s mouth using a needle and thread-and no anesthesia-to keep the animal’s mouth closed during use on a movie set.

January 18, 2001: The USDA filed charges against All Acting Animals for violating the Animal Welfare Act .  USDA investigators found that on several occasions, Mitchell had interfered with, threatened, abused, and harassed USDA officials in the performance of their duties. In addition, investigators have documented that Mitchell has failed to:

· allow officials access to his facilities, animals, and records
· maintain required records
· maintain enclosures
· adequately store supplies of food so as to protect them from deterioration or spoilage
· provide sufficient shade to protect animals from direct sunlight
· provide shelter from inclement weather
· house animals in outdoor facilities with a proper perimeter fence
· construct perimeter fencing that restricts the entrance of other animals
· provide animals with sufficient space in which to make normal postural and social adjustments
· provide food that was wholesome, palatable, and free of contamination
· provide animals with water as often as necessary for the health and comfort of the animal
· maintain an effective program for the control of pests
· properly clean and repair premises

September 14, 2000: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to correct previously identified violations of not providing adequate shelter from the elements, failure to repair enclosures and fences, and poor housekeeping.  The inspector discussed watering regulations after Mitchell stated that he withholds water as a training technique . This practice may lead to dehydration and cause serious damage to internal organs.  The USDA inspection team requested and received an escort from the Nye County sheriff’s office.

July 24, 2000: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to correct previously identified violations of not providing adequate shelter from the elements, failure to provide minimum space, failure to provide animals with drinking water, filthy conditions, and failure to repair enclosures and fences .  The inspector wrote, “Animals appeared crowded and unable to receive the exercise required for healthy young animals. . Several enclosures had a buildup of old, soiled, and damp straw bedding. . [A]ccess to residence was repeatedly denied by licensee, Karl Mitchell. When asked if animals were in the house, he stated that there were ‘no cats in the house that we want to see.'”

All Acting Animals was also cited for giving a kangaroo drinking water that was “totally fouled, red in color, and opaque.” The kangaroo enclosure had a buildup of fecal material and soiled straw. A young camel had no ventilated shade to provide relief from heat. All Acting Animals was cited for failure to provide wholesome, palatable, and uncontaminated food and failure to maintain records of acquisition and disposition.  The inspector also noted that Mitchell was instructed to remove a sign identifying the facility as a “USDA Government Facility.”  The USDA inspection team requested and received an escort from the Nye County sheriff’s office.

June 29, 2000: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to correct a previously identified violation of refusing access to the premises . The inspector wrote, “Mr. Mitchell denied access to his facility for an inspection on June 29, 2000. He did not provide a reason for not allowing us to inspect. He refused to sign the inspection report and walked away.”

May 16, 2000: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to correct a previously identified violation of not providing animals with adequate shelter from the elements .
A lion named Nala was not provided minimum space. The inspector wrote, ” Enclosure has inadequate space as evidenced by poor coat condition and abnormal behavior patterns (i.e., stereotypic pacing) .”  The facility was cited for failure to provide animals with water. The inspector wrote, ” When released, [a tiger cub named Valentino] drank thirstily for several minutes .”  The USDA cited All Acting Animals for filthy conditions. The inspector found enclosures with a buildup of fecal material and old, soiled, and damp straw bedding.  All Acting Animals was also cited for failure to provide access to records, enclosures in disrepair, and improper food storage.

April 11, 2000: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to correct previously identified violations of not providing animals with adequate shelter from the elements and direct sunlight as well as for poor housekeeping .  All Acting Animals was also cited for unsanitary conditions and inadequate pest control.

January 20, 2000: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to have a responsible person available for inspection. The inspector noted, “Unauthorized public would have easy and immediate access to enclosures housing large exotic felids. . [I]nspector observed enclosures in disrepair and without adequate shelter.”

December 7, 1999: All Acting Animals was cited for failure to provide veterinary care to a lion with a weak and wobbly gait , failure to have a current veterinary care program, failure to maintain records of acquisition and disposition, failure to secure enclosures to prevent unauthorized access, improperly constructed enclosures, failure to provide shelter from the elements, inadequate perimeter fencing, failure to provide a veterinarian-approved diet, and poor housekeeping.

January 7, 1999: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to have a local veterinarian and failure to provide minimum space to a tiger named Diva.

September 9, 1998: AWA Docket No. 97-0028.  Decision and Order filed September 9, 1998.  in re: KARL MITCHELL d/b/a ALL ACTING ANIMALS.  Cease and Desist Order – Civil Penalty – Filing License Application and PVC Form Falsely Purporting to be Signed by Applicant and Veterinarian.  Chief Administrative LawJudge Victor W. Palmer found that Respondent violated the Animal Welfare Act and a regulation issued pursuant thereto by submitting a license application and a Program of Veterinary Care form (PVC) which were purportedly signed by the applicant for the license and the veterinarian who completed the PVC form, which instead had been signed by the Respondent. Chief Judge Palmer imposed a $750.00 civil penalty and a cease and desist order. In determining the penalty, Chief Judge Palmer noted that the violation did not endanger the welfare of animals and was unlikely to recur.  Donald A. Tracy, for Complainant.  Benjamin Zvenia, Las Vegas, NV, for Respondent.  Decision and Order issued by Victor IV Palmer. Chief Administrative Law Judge.  For the reasons hereinafter stated, an order is being issued requiring Respondent to cease and desist from violating the Act and the regulations and assessing a civil penalty of $750.00.

June 30, 1998: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to correct the previously identified violations of not properly disposing of food and animal waste and poor housekeeping .
All Acting Animals was also cited for using soiled bedding material, enclosures in need of repair, and a cluttered food preparation area.

May 13, 1996: All Acting Animals was cited by the USDA for giving animals contaminated drinking water in dirty receptacles, filthy enclosures littered with several days of feces and food waste , failure to adequately train employees, failure to make transport enclosures, program of veterinary care, and acquisition and disposition records available for inspection, inadequate pest control, and grounds and food storage area scattered with trash.

August 3, 1993: The USDA sent certified mail to All Acting Animals cautioning the facility that its repeated failure to construct a perimeter fence could result in legal action.

August 1, 1993: According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal , Mitchell acquired two “liger” (tiger and lion crossbreed) cubs from Jordan Circus after they were born on the road. Mitchell claimed that the cubs make “good pets.”

July 13, 1993: The USDA cited All Acting Animals for failure to correct a previously identified violation of not constructing a perimeter fence . The facility was also cited for improper fencing and fencing in disrepair, algae buildup in the tigers’ water receptacle, and poor housekeeping.

July 11, 1990: According to the Las Vegas Sun , Karl Mitchell stored a 5-year-old tiger in a garage for nearly three months. Mitchell was asked to remove the tiger when he failed to provide proof of insurance to the owner of the garage. The tiger was relocated to a bookmobile.

June 24, 1985: The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, “Following a wild chase, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies booked Karl Mitchell, 33, for investigation of evading arrest, assault against an officer, auto theft, possession of a concealed weapon, damaging a state vehicle, and possessing a tiger without a permit.” 

Check for yourself to see if they meet the sanctuary standards for an accredited animal refuge.


Mitchell faces USDA fine, eviction

Posted on 24 September 2010 By MARK WAITE

Shaquille the Leopard Was Beaten in the Face by Mitchell

Shaquille the Leopard Was Beaten in the Face by Mitchell

Pahrump exotic animal owner Karl Mitchell, owner of Big Cat Encounters, has been battling the law on the federal and local level recently.

Last month, Victor Palmer, an administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, slapped $68,625 in fines and a cease and desist order on Mitchell for exhibiting his animals in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

Now Mitchell is fighting eviction in Pahrump Justice Court at his latest home on Homestead Road, just north of Terrible’s Lakeside Casino.

Palmer’s order, following a hearing in Las Vegas in April, fined Mitchell for exhibiting tigers for compensation without a license, exhibiting the tigers to the public without sufficient space and barriers for the public and refusing to allow his facilities to be inspected by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service APHIS.

The judge said Mitchell also failed on 12 occasions to obey two cease and desist orders previously entered against him by the Secretary of Agriculture.

The USDA revoked Mitchell’s Animal Welfare Act license in 2001, and levied a $16,775 penalty following a cease and desist order. Mitchell continued to violate the order, exhibiting tigers in 2004, 2008 and 2009, the USDA said, including a tiger brought to a Paris Hilton reality show in June 2009. People were allowed to pet the tigers tethered to a chain for a fee, but it wasn’t separated by a barrier.

Mitchell claimed Big Cat Encounters, as an animal rescue organization, was exempt as a non-profit corporation. The federal judge disagreed, saying the exhibition of his animals to the public was for compensation.

The judge cited a case involving The International Siberian Tiger Foundation, which illustrated the dangers of allowing the public to come in close proximity to tigers, even when they are declawed, chained and controlled by two trainers. In that case numerous people were bitten, one person required 50 stitches.

On this third cease and desist order against Mitchell, it includes for the first time his organization, Big Cat Encounters. But the judge fined Mitchell half of the maximum penalty for handling violations, since no one was hurt. He also assessed half the penalty for failing to allow an inspection of his facilities, since there was no evidence of mistreatment of the animals.

A sentence of $1,500 was levied for each of the 12 occasions when Mitchell failed to obey previous cease and desist orders.

USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said Mitchell has yet to pay the fine. Mitchell appealed the decision Sept. 9; the Pahrump Valley Times filed a U.S. Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of his appeal.

In an e-mail response, Mitchell said: “The USDA was seeking $1.5 million in fines. So the government overreached by 98 percent. The rest is up for appeal. The USDA has not replied, so we shall see.”

Nye County has also been dealing with Mitchell.

In December, Mitchell was denied a conditional use permit to keep seven Bengal tigers at his sanctuary on Manse Road by the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission.

Neighbor Gene Lovas, in a letter to the editor, said he was startled after Thanksgiving 2009 to find the most dangerous animals on the planet were being kept in his neighborhood. Doug Howard, president of Escapees Co-op RV Park, presented petitions with 87 signatures opposing the permit.

Desert World Realty filed an affidavit to evict Mitchell from his latest residence on Homestead Road Aug. 27.

According to justice court minutes, the landlord testified at a Sept. 13 hearing Mitchell signed a six-month lease Feb. 5 and was given a $5,000 credit to fix up the property. Mitchell also agreed to get a conditional use permit allowing him to keep his big cats on the property, but failed to do so. The landlord also complained Mitchell hasn’t paid rent since June 1.

The Nye County Code Compliance Department has an open case on Mitchell’s Homestead Road property.

Mitchell was ordered to leave the property by Sept. 17 by visiting Justice of the Peace Gus Sullivan from Beatty, according to court minutes.

Mitchell filed a motion to stay the eviction Sept. 17, pending a hearing last Monday, the minutes state.

During the latest hearing on Monday, Mitchell told Pahrump Justice of the Peace Kent Jasperson he didn’t have the money to move numerous big cats, but will be receiving money for the airing of a television program within 30 days.

“Mr. Mitchell stated he has located a place to rent but does not have the money to move unless the landlord returns the $8,700 owed for the repairs,” the court minutes state.

Exotic animal owners Zuzana Kukol and Scott Shoemaker, 1211 Arnold Ct., who have drawn praise from officials for their elaborate shelters housing lions and tigers on the northwest side of Pahrump, complained to Nye County Commissioners Tuesday about a rezoning that will bring a new road close to their cages.

The commission approved a zone change of 80 acres from an RE-2 zone to RE-1 at 4751 W. Adkisson Street and a tentative map application to subdivide it into 50 residential lots and 10 open space lots for the Sunset Valley Subdivision.

The Pahrump Regional Planning Commission recommended approval Aug. 11, on the grounds the project complied with the Pahrump master plan. Previously, a landowner was given a conditional use permit to house up to 12 exotic animals on this property in March 2009, but the RPC cancelled it on June 9, 2010.

A special condition was imposed by the RPC to require the developer to disclose to any lot buyer there are special condition animals in close proximity to the subdivision.

Mitchell to appear of Animal Planet TV

Exotic animal owner Karl Mitchell will be featured on one of the episodes of a five-part series on The Animal Planet television network entitled “Fatal Attractions.”

The series debuts at 9 p.m. Oct. 8. A description of the series on The Animal Planet website states the series shares cautionary tales of people who live with wild, exotic animals, despite the often deadly consequences.

The advance on the series states Mitchell, a Vietnam veteran and professional exotic, wild animal trainer for years no longer considered it just his job, but began interacting with tigers on an intensely personal level.

“They’re deadly, yes,” Mitchell said. “But they keep me going.”

Mitchell told the network the tigers help relieve him from the anxiety he still suffers from serving in combat in the Vietnam War.

The series includes a woman who brought a lion and tiger cub to her Harlem apartment and was nearly killed. A 74-year-old woman who was killed by her collection of bears is profiled.

(If you saw the Fatal Attractions piece, then you saw Karl Mitchell punching the big cats in the nose to subdue them.)


Karl Mitchell / All Acting Animals big cats go to San Antonio

By Angie Wagner


1:37 p.m. March 2, 2005


PAHRUMP, Nev. – Down a quiet gravel road lined by homes, six tigers and two leopards live amid the roosters and cats in a small back yard. They are hungry and dirty, and their owner can no longer care for them.

Carol Asvestas is tired of seeing the same scene played out across the country. Big cats are taken in as pets or kept in so-called sanctuaries, but then are neglected by owners who become overwhelmed.

Many big cats, like the ones here, will end up with Asvestas at her San Antonio , Texas , Wild Animal Orphanage.

Animal protection groups want private ownership of big cats outlawed. They say that with an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 large cats kept as pets in the United States , the problem is out of control.

Just last week, authorities shot and killed a 425-pound tiger that had been roaming the hills near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Los Angeles . Where it came from and who owned it is unknown.

State laws vary on owning exotic animals such as tigers, wolves and alligators. Just 14 ban private ownership altogether; eight have a partial ban on some species, 13 states regulate exotic animals and 15 states, including Nevada, have no regulations of many exotic animals, according to the Animal Protection Institute.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires licenses for exhibitors, dealers and researchers, but not private owners keeping a big cat as a pet.

“It’s a huge public safety risk that is 100 percent preventable,” said Dr. Kim Haddad, a veterinarian and manager of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition, made up of more than 20 animal protection groups, sanctuaries and zoos.

“The solution is so easy. You just cannot have these animals as pets.”

Sure, tiger cubs are cute and cuddly. But when they reach 600 pounds and eat 20 pounds of meat a day, owners often find themselves in over their heads. And it’s often Asvestas who comes in to help.

Such was the case in Pahrump, a dusty desert town near the California border, where a woman decided she couldn’t care for her back yard tigers and leopards anymore. One pet leopard was quarantined after it bit off the tip of the woman’s finger last week.

Asvestas and the International Fund for Animal Welfare organized a rescue mission Tuesday, at the owner’s request. She and helpers tranquilized, then loaded the skinny and mangy cats one by one into a trailer for the trip to Texas . There, they will be among 700 animals, 200 of them big cats. In the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson on Wednesday, the group collected two tigers, three lions and four wolves from another private owner.

Animal groups cite numerous incidents of big cats getting loose or harming someone.

– A 600-pound tiger belonging to a former Tarzan actor escaped in Florida and sent authorities on a 26-hour hunt before the tiger was shot and killed last July. The state does not monitor the keeping of exotic animals as pets.

– A 10-year-old boy at a relative’s house in North Carolina was killed by a tiger that pulled him inside its cage in December 2003. The next month, a tiger mauled a 14-year-old girl taking pictures in a tiger’s cage at her father’s farm. There is no state law about owning exotic animals.

– In April 2003, authorities found 58 dead tiger cubs stuffed into freezers, 30 dead adult tigers, and two alligators in a bathtub at a California home. California has one of the strictest exotic pet laws in the nation, but critics say enforcement is a problem.

– Pet owner Antoine Yates was bitten on the leg in 2003 by the pet tiger he kept in his New York apartment, a building where children also lived. New York now bans possession of many wild animals, though it doesn’t apply to current owners.

The popularity of owning big cats prompted Congress to pass a law in 2003 that makes it illegal to sell or ship lions, tigers and other big cats across state lines without permits. But animal welfare groups want an outright ban, saying the 5,000 to 7,000 privately owned tigers probably exceed the total number in the wild.

“It is an odd phenomenon where people are setting up, essentially, personal zoos,” said Chris Cutter, spokesman for the IFAW. “For some people, it’s a status thing.”

The call for an end to private ownership is not unanimous. Patti Strand, president of the National Animal Interest Alliance, said her organization supports regulation of exotic pet owners, but said people who can handle the animals should be able to have them.

“There is a growing body of animal groups that do nothing but exploit rather than try to solve problems because there are fund-raising dollars to be made by the sensationalism that goes along with that,’ she said.

The tigers in Pahrump, kept in cages behind a tan-colored trailer home, were part of a defunct animal sanctuary, said Steven A. Benson, who identified himself as a board member.

“There’s just too many cats to take care of,” Benson said. “It’s overwhelming.”

Animal groups say many big cat owners set up as a nonprofit sanctuary as a front to get money and really aren’t capable of caring for the animals.

“You have a lot of facilities out there who call themselves sanctuaries or rescue facilities,” Haddad said. “For the most part, a lot of these people, these animals are their pets and they keep collecting them.”

Big cats kept and bred in captivity can never be released in the wild because their fear of man is gone, and often their genetics are upset through inbreeding. As long as animals are kept in back yards, Asvestas will likely keep getting calls.

“I get tired,” she said. “I can’t take them all. We just turned down five animals last week.”

EDITOR’S NOTE – Angie Wagner is the AP’s Western regional writer, based in Las Vegas .



Big Cat Rescue Note:

Shaquille, the black leopard and Dara, the cougar were rescued from Karl Mitchell many years ago.  They had been beaten unmercifully and Dara (who is gone now) had a brain infection from the severity of her blows to the skull.  For years when we would tell people about Shaq’s story people would ask, “Why can’t someone shut him down!”  It wasn’t until the owner was sent to jail for stealing a car that anything could be done to save the animals.


March 4, 2005

Exotic animals in town rescued




Norma Lagutchik of Animal Sanctuary of the United States helps Chuck Tay and Trey Alecio (not pictured) carry a sedated tiger to a trailer designed to transport the big cats from the far western Pahrump compound of Karl Mitchell, now imprisoned on theft charges.

Karl Mitchell, the former Pahrump and Amargosa Valley animal control contractor, might still be in the pen but the tigers and leopards he kept for years at a compound in extreme western Pahrump were freed Tuesday, in a sense, when members of the Animal Sanctuary of the United States arrived to haul off six tigers and two leopards to the Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio.

According to Josephine Martell, Sandy Allman contacted the group last week and asked for assistance. Martell said the exotic cats were living in deplorable conditions.

Martell, a captive wild animal specialist with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said Allman, who last week had the tip of her index finger bit off by a leopard, had tried in vain to care for the tigers, but “she was barely hanging on. The animals hadn’t seen a vet in more than a year. They were covered in feces and had urine burns … the conditions were just really filthy.”

One of Allman’s neighbors called the newspaper Tuesday to say he was happy the cats were being taken away, but fretted over the large number of dogs still on the property. “They are all in bad shape,” said the man, who spoke on condition his name not be used. “They’ve been hauling stuff to the dump for days now, but that place is in bad shape. What are they going to do about the dogs?” Allman is Mitchell’s former partner.

Mitchell is one of Nye County ‘s more controversial characters. He is now in prison following a theft conviction last year related to a Suburban he failed to return to the dealership after its lease expired and he awaits sentencing on additional theft charges after he cashed three checks totaling more than $40,000. The checks were mistakenly sent to Mitchell after Nye County Commissioners terminated his animal control contract in 2000.

In 2001 the United States Department of Agriculture revoked Mitchell’s All Acting Animals license to own exotic cats after it was determined he didn’t provide minimal care per federal standards.

Where they are going is going to seem like heaven. According to Martell the Wild Animal Orphanage will treat and “immediately vet” the cats, they will be put on a diet and will see a veterinarian regularly. “It’s a big, natural habitat,” Martell said of the orphanage. “There will be no contact with humans, and they’ll be neutered so no breeding, but they will be able to live out their lives in peace.”

Martell said the no breeding rule is included in sanctuary standards, and is used to spot illegitimate sanctuaries that would exploit the animals for profit.

“After getting the tigers and leopards from All Acting Animals some much-needed veterinary care, I greatly look forward to releasing them in to spacious, naturalistic enclosures,” stated Carol Asvestas , executive director of the Wild Animal Orphanage.

Martell said the group was at Betty Honn’s Animal Adoption Ltd. in Henderson on Wednesday to rescue eight tigers, three lions, two leopards, four wolves, and four monkeys. The taking was necessary, said Martell, in light of Honn’s death and the subsequent insolvency of her sanctuary.

The leopard that bit Allman last week remains penned up on the Pahrump property. It is in quarantine.

To: National Desk

Contact: Chris Cutter, 508-737-4623 or , Kerry Branon, 508-744-2068 or , both of the International Fund for Animal Welfare

YARMOUTH PORT , Mass. , March 1 / U.S. Newswire/ — Thirteen big cats and their neighbors will be safer thanks to the help of IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – Over the next two days, an IFAW-funded sanctuary, the Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) is moving three lions, two leopards, four wolves and eight tigers from two separate homes near Las Vegas to a suitable sanctuary in Texas .

“Keeping lions and tigers as pets is a growing phenomenon that is causing a huge public safety and animal welfare issue,” said IFAW’s Josephine Martell, “It’s a bad idea for animals and people.”

The number of Americans keeping tigers and other big cats as pets continues to grow. IFAW estimates that there are 10,000 tigers being kept as pets in the U.S. , double the amount left living in the wild in the entire world. Since 1990, tigers have killed 11 people and injured 60 others. Just last week, a tiger escaped and was roaming the neighborhoods of Ventura County , near Los Angeles before it was shot and killed by authorities.

“Many of the animals are living in filthy conditions. They are malnourished, without water and standing in their own excrement in cages that are too small,” WAO’s Carole Asvestas said. “With IFAW’s help, we will provide them with the care and facilities they deserve.”

Across the country, legislators have realized that private ownership of dangerous animals is a national public safety threat. State legislation is currently being considered across the country including Washington , Maryland , Arkansas , Iowa , Ohio and Missouri . Although the passage of the Captive Wildlife Safety Act outlawed the selling and shipping of big cats across state lines without permit, there is no federal ban against owning a tiger, lion or another big cat as a pet.


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Posted on Nov 15, 2014 in Abuse, News Feed, Shut Down | 0 comments

SA Zooworld in Bexar County Texas Reports Loose Tigers

Tiger owner, animals evaluated after second call for help

by James Muñoz Posted on November 23, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Though the Tuesday alert about loose tigers was a false alarm, authorities decided to take a closer look at the owner who made the calls.

Tuesday morning around 9:21 a.m. Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies received a call saying their were three escaped tigers at the home in the 27000 block of O’Krent.

The owner had called a friend saying he needed help, and that friend in turn, called in the deputies.

San Antonio Zoo officials rushed to the scene, along with a member of their shoot team.

Nearby Timberwood Park Elementary School went on lockdown as a preventative  measure. But, it was all for naught.

After a thorough search of the property, deputies found all three cats securely confined in their cages.

They did find a hole in the fencing, a result of an earlier accident.

“Well, there was never anything to fear because the cats are always in the cages and he was thinking he had more cats than he did,” said SAZooworld’s Sidney Lanier. “He was looking at stuffed animals and thought they were real.”

But, then late on Tuesday, authorities went back out to the home after the owner placed a second call.

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking into three tigers kept at SA Zooworld in north Bexar County.

Inspectors want to make sure the owner, who has a license to house the three tigers, can properly care for the big cats.

Friends say the owner is in the hospital being evaluated. They are concerned about his overall health.

They are also concerned about the three large tigers. Early Wednesday morning an inspector with the USDA visited the home.

Bexar County sheriff’s deputies were also on site. Sources close to the situation say the inspector documented several concerns.

But, that full inspection won’t be made available to the public for about a month. In the meantime, the vice president of SA Zooworld is taking care of the wild animals and says, as always, the tigers are properly secured.

Kens 5 has learned the USDA inspector thought the tigers were a little thin. One has an issue with his front leg, and of course the fence around the entire property still has a gaping hole.

The owner is licensed to exhibit the tigers and may have to make some improvements to maintain that license.–134419653.html

BEXAR COUNTY — Bexar County deputies are saying false alarm after investigating a report of loose tigers in north Bexar County that prompted the lockdown of a nearby elementary school.

Deputy Chief Dale Bennett said three tigers were reported loose at a home in the 27000 block of O’Kent drive around 9:21 a.m.

He said the homeowner does own large exotic cats, but that all three cats were found inside their cages when deputies arrived.

The property is registered as SA Zooworld. The owner has reportedly worked with wild animals for 40 years and has rescued a number lions, rigers, leopards and mountain lions. According to the sheriff’s department, he is only permitted to have three large cats on the property.

The sheriff’s office was alerted after the owner called a friend, saying he needed help. Fearing the cats were loose, deputies said that person then called authorities. San Antonio Zoo officials said they sent three workers — a member of their shoot team, a veterinarian and a member of their living collections department — after the sheriff’s office contacted them for help in recapturing the tigers.

Nearby Timberwood Park Elementary School, of the Comal ISD, was locked down Tuesday morning per the request of the sheriff’s office.

Sgt. Valentine Saucedo said deputies thoroughly searched the property but found nothing. “We’ve pretty much concluded our search as far as we’ve determined,” he said. “We’ve gone all over the whole property. We’ve walked it. We’ve driven and we’ve driven around it. We’ve gone looking, checking in all the trees to make sure they didn’t climb up there.”

Deputies said the owner of the tigers appeared confused. Late Tuesday Bexar County authorities were back out at the home after saying they received a second call from the owner.  They will be conducting an evaluation on the man before closing the books on this case.


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Posted on Nov 15, 2014 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Shut Down | 0 comments

Barbara Hoffmann TopCatsRoar and Fred Lulling

Barbara Hoffmann TopCatsRoar and Fred Lulling

Barbara Hoffmann and Fred Lulling


Fred Lulling

Fred Lulling

Mar 12, 2010: Animals given to humane society

By Terri Richardson

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.

Fred Lulling

Fred Lulling

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

KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Feb 3, 2010: Hearing set in animal seizure

By Robin Y. Richardson

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


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


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