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Posted on Sep 25, 2010 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Great Cats of Indiana Robert Craig Laura Proper

Great Cats of Indiana Robert Craig Laura Proper

Great Cats of Indiana Robert Craig Laura Proper

 

Great Cats owner faces loss of license

DNR says legal process under way

 

The owner of the Great Cats of Indiana now faces permanent revocation of his state permits, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources official said last week.

 

Dan Dulin, spokesman for the DNR, said owner Rob Craig didn’t contest the seizure of the animals.

 

“They are still at the location in Clay County,” Dulin said.

 

Linnea Petercheff, operations staff specialist with the DNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, said the state was working to terminate Craig’s permits and licenses.

 

“We are currently in the legal process of having them permanently revoked,” she said.

 

In May, the state received reports of malnourished animals and inadequate caging at the sanctuary for abused, unwanted, abandoned and displaced big cats along U.S. 24 near Idaville. When officers visited, they found animals with visible rib cages, hip bones and vertebrae. Conservation officers took all of the facility’s animals — four tigers, a lion, a bobcat and a mountain lion.

 

This was the second time in recent years the DNR had removed animals from Great Cats. In 2011, four other cats were removed for permit violations, and Craig voluntarily gave investigators more animals than they came for then, state officials said. Dulin said Craig did not appeal the 2011 decision.

 

Petercheff said not much more can be said until the process is completed.

 

“I can’t provide any more details at this time until the order is signed by all parties,” she said.

 

July 9, 2012

by Jason M. Rodriguez

Pharos-Tribune

 

http://pharostribune.com/local/x694484732/Great-Cats-owner-faces-loss-of-license

 

Finally Shut Down More Than 4 Years After Abuses Are Reported to USDA

Indiana officers seize tigers, lions, other big cats

 

Statement as issued Tuesday by Indiana conservation officers:

 

Indiana Conservation Officers on Tuesday took possession of four tigers, plus a lion, bobcat and mountain lion that were housed at a licensed facility in White County, pending an administrative review of alleged violations of state laws.

 

The animals were taken from a facility known as Great Cats of Indiana in Idaville after a Conservation Officer conducted a wild animal permit inspection at the facility.

 

The facility’s director, Rob Craig of Idaville, has permits from the DNR to possess the animals, but the inspection by ICO Cpl. Todd Pekny found violations of laws governing those permits.

 

The seven animals were transferred to another facility licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

The White County Sheriff’s Department and White County Animal Control assisted with Tuesday’s operation.

 

http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20120529/BLOGS01/120529524/1196/FEAT18

 

More than 25 horrible photos of the conditions at

Great Cats of Indiana

Formerly known as Cougar Valley Farms, Inc. and owned by Robert B. Craig and Laura Proper at 10471 E. Highway 24  Idaville, IN 47950

USDA revoked their license in Feb. 2010 http://911animalabuse.com/images/USDAViolations/2010GreatCatsofIndianaRevokedLicense.pdf

 

2 Tigers Escape Great Cats of Indiana

 

Monticello, Indiana

It’s unclear where they were trying to go but two tigers managed to get lose from a wildlife preserve in Northwest Indiana.

The owner managed to shoot and kill one of them before they got off the property but neighbors say this incident is just too close for comfort.

They told Fox59 Reporter Kara Brooks they have a lot of concerns about this place where exotic animals are kept, especially after they heard gun shots.

Fox59 got an up close look at the facility Wednesday. More than 25 exotic animals live on the property called “The Great Cats of Indiana” located off State Road 24 near Monticello.

“It’s not very well kept anymore and with the weeds so high I don’t feel safe as safe as I did because if something is out, you can’t see it and it could be right in my back yard,” said next-door neighbor Margaret Haskell.

10/2/2010 two Bengal tigers escaped from their cages.

“He {the owner} is guessing that maybe the two tigers had been wrestling, playing and just hit the corner just right to pop the board,” said conservation officer Bill Hinshaw.

Officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said the tigers never got passed the 10 foot high perimeter fence that surrounds the animal cages but the owner feared they would because they were acting aggressive.

“They were kind of jumping up on the fence,” said Hinshaw.

So he shot them, killing one and injuring the other. That brought some relief to Margaret who lives next door because she had no idea.

“Tigers can leap over fences and up into trees,” she said.

DNR officers claim residents were never in danger. They say the owner has a permit that allows him to have all of the animals. In case you’re wondering, this place isn’t open to the public.

DNR officers say from what they can tell, the owner of the animals hasn’t done anything wrong and has no violations.

See the video here  http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-monticello-tigers-escape-100610,0,6534199.story

Two years ago, we heard of the efforts of Diane Gustafson, an ordinary citizen trying to shut down a horrible place housing exotics in Indiana.  Nothing has been done by authorities.  This week, 2 of their tigers escaped and were shot and yet it didn’t even warrant making the news…..until now.  Seeing the video shot from the outside is bad enough.  See for yourself why she was fighting so hard to get someone, somewhere to pay attention and do something for these animals:

http://www.fox59.com/news/wxin-monticello-tigers-escape-100610,0,6534199.story

Diane’s letter 2 years ago:

“The following letter has been sent to the US and Indiana senators and reps, the Secretary of Agriculture, the USDA Inspector General, and many animal welfare organizations. The concern is,if/when this pseudo sanctuary is shut down, the animals all have new, safe homes to go to. This will expedite the USDA’s decision as this will alleviate one problem as to where to put the animals.Two sanctuaries (Big Cat Rescue in FL. and Wildlife Animal Sanctuary in AZ.) have stepped up to the plate to say they will take some of the animals.”

Other sanctuaries will have to step up and do the same…..

 

I am writing to you today to report a horrific site called “Great Cats of Indiana Sanctuary and Rescue Facility” located at 10471 E. U.S. Hwy. 24 – Idaville, IN. 47960 (ph> 574/943-3412 – URL> www.greatcatsofindiana.org). This establishment does not meet the standards of either an animal sanctuary nor a rescue facility as outlined by The Association of Sanctuaries.

 

They house approximately 3 male, and 2 female lions (one of the males, we were told, is a Barbary Lion from the Barbary Coast of Africa and one of an extinct breed of lion), 12 tigers, 7 cougars, 1 leopard, 3 bears, a pack ofwolves, a bobcat and several llamas and donkeys. The conditions these animals are left to live in were deplorable. All in cages, some smaller than others, some animals grouped in with too many others for the space. The black leopard, one of the cats left with very little shade, paced frantically back and forth on a plank, never once acknowledging our presence. Most cages are covered in feces, urine, and some even had rotted meat, swarming with flies, that had been left from previous feedings. One that stood out specifically is home to 2 adult lions; it had the rotting remains of a pig, a mere 10 feet from where the lions were trying to sleep. All of the animals are filthy and matted to some degree. Most were sleeping in their feces, some out in the hot sun with no shade. Some had reservoirs filled with water so that the animals could keep cool. However, the water was dirty and in some cases red with rust, or who knows what. Within one tiger enclosure, the concrete floor was partially flooded with standing water that had been sitting so long it was filled with bright green algae. When we asked about it, the young guide indicated that the drain was plugged and that the water was just like it was in the cat’s natural habitat. Every enclosure was made of rotting broken wood with peeling paint, cracked and broken concrete foundations, as well as rust covered metal caging.

The teenage tour guide told us that the owners of this 12-year-old facility perform all of their own veterinary work because the closest veterinarian to assist them was in Michigan City, which is an hour and forty-five minutes away. Fact: The Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine is approximately 35 miles from this facility and contains some of the best minds in veterinary medicine.

I found out later that the USDA has had an ongoing investigation into this facility for the past SIX YEARS, and that monetary fines have been brought against the owner. I have obtained a copy of the USDA Formal Complaint that was filed in August 2007, which contains most of what I have expressed and much more. The transgressions in this complaint date back to 2002. I cannot see where anything else has been done since. Why has a hearing not been set? Why have these animals been forced to suffer any longer? Why have they not been removed from this facility? This facility should have been shut down immediately after the 30-day period. Why hasn’t anyone stepped in to remove these animals from such a caustic situation?

 

The federal Animal Welfare Act sets forth only minimum requirements for animal care, and for the most part, only addresses basic husbandry issues. For example, according to the AWA, animals must be fed, watered, and sheltered yet space requirements only mandate that the animals be able to make “normal postural changes” (i.e. allow them enough room to stand up, lie down, and turn around). There is no requirement for grass, greenery or other natural vegetation. There are no requirements for the animals to be “let out” of their cages for exercise or to relieve themselves. Even the requirement for water is open to interpretation: “water must be provided as often as necessary for the health and comfort of the animal.” You may find that the cages are tiny, the animals look hot and dispirited, or that the animals are displaying stereotypic behavior, but none of these conditions are specifically against the law. Even when exhibitors are consistently found non-compliant during inspections, they are typically allowed time to make “improvements.” Great Cats is a classic example. Getting “real” sanctions imposed on animal abusers is exceedingly difficult. Even when horrific abuses are caught on tape it doesn’t mean an abuser will face meaningful repercussions or have their license revoked. The laws that govern these sanctuaries need to be revised.

 

Not only should Robert Craig (owner of the facility) have his license revoked by the USDA, the entire facility needs to be destroyed to ensure he does not obtain more animals and start over again with another roadside zoo. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources also needs to be contacted to guarantee he does not obtain a second license thru them.

 

I implore you to look into this as soon as possible and hopefully come up with a better resolution than sitting and waiting for our court system to take action. These animals don’t deserve this, and anyone who turns a blind eye to this should be ashamed.

 

My contact information is:

 

Mrs. Diane Gustafson

bigcatangel@ ymail.com

I have pictures of the facility, USDA inspection reports, a copy of the USDA Formal Complaint, and a copy of Sanctuary Standards as set forth by The Association of Sanctuaries for your review upon request.

 

Please assist in this matter as possible so these animals can start living healthy lives.

Respectfully,
Diane G

 

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

USDA report HERE

Sign a petition to USDA to end the abuse now HERE

For the Love of the Animals

For as long as I can remember I have loved all of the big cats. Their grace and beauty mesmerized me. I especially love lions, and I am fascinated by their pride structure. I am so entranced by them that when I found “Great Cats of Indiana Sanctuary and Rescue Facility” online, I was intrigued. This facility is located in Idaville, IN., a little over an hour from my home. I would be able to see big cats that were rescued from abusive situations. It would be nice to see them happy and well cared for to live out their days. What I found could not be farther from the truth.  See more pictures of Great Cats of Indiana.

Great Cats of IndianaGreat Cats of Indiana looks like a roadside zoo posing as a sanctuary. The have approximately 3 male, and 2 female lions (one of the males, we were told, is a Barbary Lion from the Barbary Coast of Africa and one of an extinct breed of lion), 12 tigers, 7 cougars, 1 leopard, 3 bears, a pack of wolves, a bobcat and several alpacas and donkeys. The conditions these animals are left to live in were deplorable. All in cages, some smaller than others, some animals grouped in with too many others for the space. The black leopard, one of the cats left with very little shade, paced frantically back and forth on a plank, never once acknowledging our presence.

Most cages are covered in feces, urine, and some even had rotted meat, swarming with flies, that had been left from previous feedings. One that stood out specifically is home to 2 adult lions; it had the rotting remains of a pig, a mere 10 feet from where the lions were trying to sleep. All of the animals are filthy and matted to some degree. Most were sleeping in their feces, some out in the hot sun with no shade. Some had reservoirs filled with water so that the animals could keep cool. However, the water was dirty and in some cases red with rust, or who knows what. Within one tiger enclosure, the concrete floor was partially flooded with standing water that had been sitting so long it was filled with bright green algae. When we asked about it, the young guide indicated that the drain was plugged and that the water was just like it was in the cat’s natural habitat. Every enclosure was made of rotting broken wood with peeling paint, cracked and broken concrete foundations, as well as rust covered metal caging.

When I left the facility, I stopped by the cage of the Barbary Lion named Chucky. His cage is nothing more than a metal box with an open front to it. He is kept apart from the other lions, and his howls echo through his enclosure. I knelt down in front of his cage, and spoke to him: “I am so sorry, baby…I am so very sorry….”. I cry now as I write this as I did when I said it to him. I vowed then to try my best to get these animals a better life.

Great Cats of IndianaWhen I returned home, I immediately got on my computer and typed out what exactly I saw there. I didn’t want to forget a single detail. I didn’t know until much later the impact my letter would have. I sent this letter first to all of our Indiana and U.S. senators and representatives, and our governor. I also sent it to the mayors of all of the surrounding cities. Since Idaville is a township, there is no governing body but White County.

After that, I would spend time everyday sending out my letter to whomever I thought should read it. I ‘Googled’ Great Cats of Indiana to see what I could find. Anyone who had anything posted about this site received my letter.  I contacted some of the animal sanctuaries. All of the animal organizations such as the WWF, WSPCA, the Humane Society, and the ASPCA were contacted. The Secretary of Agriculture, the Monticello Board of Tourism (city next to Idaville), and even the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine received a letter from me. For the next few weeks, I would try to find more and more people that should read this letter, including all of the Indianapolis and Chicago newspapers and television stations.

One of the first recipients to respond to me was Carole Baskin at Big Cat Rescue. She provided me with some invaluable information such as www.sanctuarystandards.com so I could see for myself how a sanctuary should be operating. She has been and continues to be a tremendous help to me in my crusade. She also told me getting the media involved was crucial. The politicians don’t like to be seen as apathetic.  After that, I then started receiving e-mails from other people I had sent it to expressing their concern. There are many out there that would like to help, but whose hands are tied.

A research assistant at CBS Chicago who was very interested in my story contacted me. He would continue to research for pertinent information until the story was shut down by CBS production because Great Cats of Indiana is not in the Chicago “market”. He passed on all of the information he had obtained to production at CBS Indianapolis. I have written them and still wait to be contacted. Needless to say this was incredibly upsetting as I thought this would have been the media break I needed.

A couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from a woman named Bridget Gross, Legislative Assistant to Senator Samuel Smith Jr. and Senator Jean Breaux. She told me she had received my letter and said she wanted to personally tell me she would be looking into this matter. Later, Bridget provided me with a copy of a USDA Formal Complaint that had been filed against Great Cats of Indiana in August 2007 with transgressions dating back six years. She now told me this was a federal matter because the owner had obtained his license through the USDA, not the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources.

In other words this once helpful woman was now washing her hands of the matter. This became evident in later letters of response I would receive from our senators telling me they have passed on my letter to the Secretary of Agriculture. No one at any level of government office in the state of Indiana would hear my plea. Not even the White County Prosecutor’s office, or the Indiana State Board of Health would return my e-mails. This became quite disheartening, but I continued to send my letter and write whomever I thought might make a difference.

Great Cats of IndianaAt this point, a woman from a small Indianapolis paper contacted me. She was interested in the story and asked for all of the information I could provide. She later on spoke with the USDA Prosecuting Attorney who filed the formal complaint. She told me that a motion to go to hearing on this case was filed in October 2007. Apparently there are only three Administrative Law Judges, and one of them had been in Iraq for the past year. Now he has returned, but their docket is incredibly long. Since the animals at Great Cats of Indiana were not in any “immediate danger”, this case was towards the bottom of this docket. She told me the attorney was very upset by this, but could do nothing to expedite the hearing.

One of my many contacts, Jonathan Kraft (Keepers of the Wild), told me he has had a hand in several take downs of these pseudo sanctuaries. He was a wealth of information, and continues to be just that. One of the things he told me is that the USDA is slow to terminate these facilities because they do not want to incur the cost of housing these animals. Hearing this, I now knew what my next move would be. I needed to find homes for the animals.

I started researching animal sanctuaries and rescue facilities, and then contacting them to see if they could take at least a couple of the animals. Once again, the first to step up to the plate was Carole at Big Cat Rescue. After she told me they would take some of the cats, I was able to insert that statement into my letter to other sanctuaries. One by one, I had sanctuaries contacting me telling me they would take some of the animals. I even found someone to take in the alpacas and donkeys. I was elated! I spoke with Jonathan at Keepers of the Wild about this and he told me I had leaped a great hurdle, since most sanctuaries will tell you they are full. This proved to me that my story had touched many hearts.

At this point, there is not much I can do to accelerate the U.S. legal system, so I turn to changing our laws. The federal Animal Welfare Act sets forth only minimum requirements for animal care, and for the most part, only addresses basic husbandry issues. For example, according to the AWA, animals must be fed, watered, and sheltered yet space requirements only mandate that the animals be able to make “normal postural changes” (i.e. allow them enough room to stand up, lie down, and turn around).

There is no requirement for grass, greenery or other natural vegetation. There are no requirements for the animals to be “let out” of their cages for exercise or to relieve themselves. Even the requirement for water is open to interpretation: “water must be provided as often as necessary for the health and comfort of the animal.” You may find that the cages are tiny, the animals look hot and dispirited, or that the animals are displaying stereotypic behavior, but none of these conditions are specifically against the law. Even when exhibitors are consistently found non-compliant during inspections, they are typically allowed time to make “improvements.” Great Cats is a classic example. Getting “real” sanctions imposed on animal abusers is exceedingly difficult. Even when horrific abuses are caught on tape it doesn’t mean an abuser will face meaningful repercussions or have their license revoked. The laws that govern these sanctuaries need to be revised.

Great Cats of IndianaLuckily, I have been in recent contact with a woman who is one of our Indiana State Legislators, and lives in my hometown. She has been fighting for animal rights, and was interested in my story. She has offered to take me with her to Indianapolis (our state capital) in the fall to sit in on a session. She and I will hopefully be able to work together to make a difference.

I know I am just getting started, but all in all it has been worthwhile. I have had many fights along the way, some agree with me, some do not like my methods of action. Someone told me that there are bigger matters out there than this.

I agree there are some really pressing issues in the world right now. But I cannot help with the war in Iraq, the price of gasoline, or the economy. This, however, is something so close to home with me both literally and spiritually. I feel like I CAN make a difference with this…and you know what? I’m going to keep on pushing buttons and doing everything I can do to give these animals a peaceful, healthy existence. They deserve nothing less.

Diane had posted a petition on July 13, 2008  called END HE SUFFERING AT “GREAT CATS OF INDIANA” and it ended on Sept. 19, 2008.  The petition received 1055 signatures.

Message from the petition author, DIANE GUSTAFSON:

Thank you everyone for supporting my petition. I sent it off to the Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer. I hope he will read it and take heed.

If you want to be updated on this, please check this website and I will post any and all updates here. I will continue to fight the good fight!

Again…thank you SO very much – the big cats love you too!

Diane Gustafson

If you have any information that might help my cause, please e-mail me at:

bigcatangel@ymail.com

Diane Gustafson

Photographs by Beryl Gersch http://www.pbase.com/haleyscomet/big_cats

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