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Posted on Oct 11, 2018 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Jungle Safari AKA The Zoo Pat and Robert Engesser

Jungle Safari AKA The Zoo Pat and Robert Engesser

Jungle Safari AKA The Zoo Pat and Robert Engesser

Jungle Safari (formerly known as Engesser’s Exotic Felines, Luce Enterprises, The Zoo, and Endangered Species, Inc.)  is a privately-owned traveling petting zoo which spends 9 months of the year displaying big cats and their cubs in the parking lots of malls and shopping centers.  Although it occasionally claims to be a “rescue,” owners Pat and Robert Engesser are for-profit big cat breeders who have repeatedly failed to comply with minimal animal care standards established in the federal Animal Welfare Act.

USDA inspectors have cited Jungle Safari numerous times for repeatedly failing to provide animals with appropriate food, water, veterinary care, and enrichment, failing to maintain enclosures and transport trailers, and housing animals in filthy cages. They have also been cited for exhibiting animals with zoonotic (transmissible to humans) diseases, for the death of a tiger cub, and for the injury of a 5-year-old girl who was attacked by a leopard.

PETA Alerts Authorities to Jungle Safari’s Interstate Receipt of 4-Week-Old Neonatal Tiger Cub

June 15, 2017

PETA has sent a complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) concerning Jungle Safari, a traveling zoo based in Trenton, which apparently arranged for the interstate transfer of a 4-week-old tiger cub—who was forcibly and prematurely separated from her mother—in apparent violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

According to a certificate of veterinary inspection issued to the notorious Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park (aka “G.W. Zoo”) in Oklahoma, Jungle Safari arranged for the tiger cub’s transfer from G.W. Zoo. USDA policy acknowledges that neonatal cubs (baby animals 4 weeks of age or younger) are not able to regulate their body temperatures and have an underdeveloped immune system, placing them at risk of disease and infection.

Jungle Safari also apparently arranged for the transfer of a 5-week-old tiger cub—but the destination on the certificate was the Oklahoma shopping mall at which the G.W. Zoo–affiliated Neon Jungle exhibits and sells “playtime” with tiger, bear, and wolf or wolf-dog hybrid cubs and a lemur. PETA is asking the USDA to investigate this transfer.

PETA has also asked the USDA to investigate facilities in Illinois, Oregon, and Wisconsin that have received neonatal big-cat cubs from G.W. Zoo and to investigate G.W. Zoo for transferring these animals. PETA has also asked the USDA to investigate why G.W. Zoo’s veterinarian repeatedly signed off on these transfers and has asked the Oklahoma Veterinary Board to hold her professionally accountable.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

In 2016, a Jungle Safari employee was arrested for multiple counts of sexually molesting young girls who visited the exhibit. A lawsuit brought against the petting zoo and the shopping plaza they were set up at alleged that Jungle Safari continued to allow this employee to work with children even after his misconduct was brought to their attention.

Note the first cub is only 6 weeks old and not even old enough for her first inoculations to protect her from disease.  USDA guidelines say she should still be with her mother until she’s four weeks old.  If that had happened she wouldn’t tolerate being touched by humans.  She’s clearly stressed and wants to nurse when the keeper tosses in the furry toy.  The 10 month old is biting her front paws hard and the videographer notes that back claws are visible, but it looks like she’s been declawed on the front, even though that’s been illegal since 2006.  When asked what zoo the cubs are going to the keepers get vague and we are pretty sure it’s because they aren’t proud of the circumstances that await these cubs.

This is what videographers have to say:

Published on Jul 4, 2012 by Sophiaz123

“Tigers need water to cool off in hot weather. This is a horrid Zoo Safari in Hamilton, Ohio in front of Big Lots on Rt. 4, july 4th, the temperature was 100 degrees and VERY humid. Taken at 5pm. Sorry only 9 seconds. Shot a second video but was shakier than this one. I was very upset and trying to hold it together. I am sure the fan on him feels like a hot blow dryers. Disgusting that this Robert Engesser guy calls himself a “traveling zoo” when it’s nothing but Animal Cruelty Galore. From Chiefland, Florida. Google him yourself. Disturbing. He has a camel, monkeys, goats and wild cats. He keeps his cats in cages like this for MINIMUM of 4 weeks. It can NEVER walk around!! Disgraceful. Tigers need to swim to cool off. I saw no water. The police did nothing when I called them. Powerless they said ????”

 

https://www.facebook.com/OutreachForAnimals/videos/3160931756024/

Tim Harrison of Outreach for Animals filmed this disturbing video at Jungle Safari in 2012. He writes:

“I went there and could not believe what I saw. The big cats, (tigers, a black leopard, and a lion cub) were overheated and panting rapidly. The temperature was 96 degrees (110 heat index) The tigers and black leopard had no comfortable flooring for their small cages. The 8 week old lion cub was being used for photos and passed around to anyone who wanted to touch it. There are too many lions being bred by dealers in the USA just to be used for money making “educational traveling zoos.” Most are destroyed after growing too large. I spoke with the manager of Big Lots where the “zoo” had its tent set up in their parking lot. He said they will not have them back next year. It is up to all of us to stop this cruelty. Please contact the owners of properties where this madness happens and… …ask them to be more humane.”

Animal Cruelty

Jungle Safari exhibits leopards, lions, and other large cats in tiny, hot, barren travel cages for weeks at a time, and constantly breeds tiger and lion cubs in order to sell $15 “photo ops” with little regard for federal laws or animal welfare. When not on the road, the animals are housed in small enclosures on Engesser’s farm in Trenton, Florida.

Jungle Safari has been cited by the USDA for the following violations of the Animal Welfare Act:

USDA License #58-C-0295

It’s impossible to know if there are more recent citations as the USDA is hiding the inspection reports and telling inspectors to “educate” rather than cite violators.

January 5, 2015: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failure to dispose of expired medication. One of the drugs had expired in December 2009. The inspector noted that “[u]sing expired medication for treatment is not an accepted and appropriate method of veterinary care.”

September 7, 2011: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for putting the public and animals at risk by placing a young lion directly onto the laps of children. The inspector noted that in “all cases,” the zoo attendant had no control over the 11-week-old lion cub and that the practice “could easily result in injury.” Adults were also allowed to hold and handle the cub as well as a kangaroo and a capuchin monkey.

July 12, 2011: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for accumulations of dirt in the food storage and  preparation areas, including under and around the freezers, cooler, table, and food containers.

March 18, 2011: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for using a “highly active” 16-week-old tiger cub in public photo sessions. Engesser said that he would be replacing the tiger with another. He was also cited for causing a primate psychological harm by housing a 12-year-old weeper capuchin monkey alone after her mate died. The inspector noted that the monkey had excessive hair loss and observed her biting her tail. There was no environmental enhancement plan—as required for primates—to address her neurotic and abnormal behavior. Engesser refused to sign the report.

February 13, 2010: A 9.5-foot-long python was “stolen” from Jungle Safari after the snake was left caged in a South Fort Myers, Florida, parking lot overnight.

October 26, 2007: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for improper handling of animals. An unvaccinated 6-week-old lion cub was being used for public photo sessions, putting the cub at risk of contracting contagious diseases.

May 25, 2007: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failure to maintain acquisition records for a water buffalo obtained from a person who did not have a USDA license.

July 13, 2006: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for an incomplete program of veterinary care, which omitted vaccination information for two juvenile lion cubs, dosages of chemical restraint drugs for adult tigers and leopards, names and dosages of deworming medication for all animals, and any records of care for a young kangaroo. The inspector also noted that the two lion cubs being used in photo shoots would soon be too large to be safely handled during direct public contact.

January 23, 2004: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failure to have a responsible person available so that an inspection could be performed.

May 29, 2003: A USDA inspector recommended that Jungle Safari implement signage advising visitors to wash their hands after touching the animals and to provide methods for doing so. The inspector wrote, “The farm animals are of particular concern, especially the calf.”

February 27, 2003: A USDA inspector noted that Jungle Safari lacked sufficient environmental enrichment for primates.

March 1, 2002: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for allowing children to come into direct contact with animals without supervision during exhibition. For the third time, the USDA cited the facility for failing to develop and implement an environment enrichment plan for primates. The baboon and a lemur were exhibiting stereotypic behavior.

August 22, 2001: During an inspection, the USDA noted that the baboon’s stereotypic behavior was still not being addressed.

May 24, 2001: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to provide environment enrichment to a baboon housed alone or to the ring-tailed lemurs. The baboon was seen pacing and head-rolling. A lion cub was being fed an inadequate diet of goat milk replacer (“photo prop cubs” are often deliberately malnourished in order to keep them small for as long as possible). Water containers for the camel and llama were covered in algae.

August 17, 2000: Jungle Safari was cited for failing to provide proper veterinary care to a tiger cub suffering from metabolic bone disease due to lack of proper diet and to a leopard with several areas of missing hair.

June 28, 2000: During a complaint- based inspection, the USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to provide adequate food to animals.

November 4, 1999: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to store food to protect against deterioration, mold, or contamination by vermin.

April 30, 1999: Jungle Safari was cited for keeping a tiger cub in a cage in which he was unable to turn about freely and make normal postural adjustments. The exhibit was again cited for failing to maintain proper veterinary records to document that an underweight elephant was receiving proper medical attention.

January 28, 1999: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to provide an inclusive program of veterinary care, including measures to prevent zoonosis. A lion cub transmitted ringworm to other animals and a caretaker. The facility was also cited for failing to keep enclosures and food storage areas in good repair. A dead tiger cub was found in the freezer, having died of an unknown (“probably infectious”) respiratory illness.

July 24, 1998: During a complaint- based inspection, the USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to maintain enclosures adequate to prevent animals from escaping. The exhibitor was also cited for lack of a proper program of veterinary care.

April 24, 1996: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to maintain transport enclosures in good repair.

November 7, 1995: Jungle Safari was cited for improper storage of supplies, for failing to maintain enclosures in good repair, and for a lack of proper water sources for three leopards.

May 20, 1995: In a letter to the owners of Jungle Safari, the attending veterinarian noted observations that the big cats were overweight and stated that a leopard’s tail had to be amputated.

May 15, 1995: Jungle Safari was cited for failing to maintain enclosures in order to prevent injury to animals.

March 2, 1995: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for housing goats, sheep, and llamas in enclosures in which they could not make normal postural adjustments. It was again cited for failing to provide enrichment to a baboon who was constantly pacing and picking at her skin—a sign of zoochosis. There was also no record of veterinary care, and an elephant was observed to be thin.

October 12, 1994: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to store food in order to prevent contamination and to maintain transport containers in good repair.

June 10, 1994: Jungle Safari was cited for failing to store food properly to prevent contamination. The baboon was exhibiting stereotypic behavior indicative of zoochosis.

March 8-11, 1994: During this inspection, the USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to maintain enclosures in good repair and for failing to store bedding to prevent contamination. A male tiger was noted as underweight and suffering from a lame paw. Jungle Safari staff was not able to provide records to account for the whereabouts of all animals. Enclosures and perimeter fencing were noted to be inadequate to safely contain animals. The camel’s water source was found to be filled with algae and silt.

February 11, 1994: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for failing to implement an environment enrichment program for primates, and the lemurs did not have access to a den to which they could retreat from the public. Food was noted to be stored in a manner in which it could become contaminated, and enclosures were noted to be in disrepair.

May 11, 1993: The USDA cited Jungle Safari for housing lemurs, lions, and tigers in transport containers.

August 9, 1990: According to the Rapid City Journal, a leopard attacked and mauled a 5-year-old girl while on display at the Black Hills Motor Classic in South Dakota. Reportedly, the leopard, who was restrained with a small chain fastened to a box, leaped on the girl’s back as she walked past him.

Cub Abuse

Robert Engesser Jungle Safari Zoo Abuse Jungle Safari makes tens of thousands of dollars in profit by selling photos of guests holding a tiger or lion cub. But since USDA recommends that cubs only be handled by the public between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks, Jungle Safari must constantly breed, exploit, and dump cubs in order to continue selling photos. Pictures posted online by Engesser and his employees show a constant stream of injured, inbred, and sick cubs on display at Jungle Safari. Shortly after birth, staff remove baby lions and tigers from their mothers and place them in dog crates, where the tiny cubs rub their noses raw and bloody on the bars in a frantic attempt to escape.

Robert Engesser Jungle Safari Zoo Abuse

On exhibit, the cubs are used as photo props, constantly handled by the public, and placed in the laps of children, even when they are too exhausted to hold their heads up.

Because Jungle Safari uses inbreeding in an attempt to create white tigers, many of the cubs are born with genetic deformities such as crossed eyes. These animals are sometimes kept as “breeders,” resulting in generation after generation of damaged cubs.

Robert Engesser Jungle Safari Zoo AbuseOccasionally, Jungle Safari buys newborn cubs from breeders in other states. In June 2017, a certificate of veterinary inspection issued to the notoriously abusive G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma revealed that Jungle Safari arranged for the interstate transfer of a 4-week-old tiger cub, who was forcibly and prematurely separated from her mother, in apparent violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act. USDA policy acknowledges that neonatal cubs (4 weeks of age or younger) are not able to regulate their body temperatures and have an underdeveloped immune system, placing them at risk of disease and infection.

In 2017, Jungle Safari brought this tiny lion cub to a local radio station. Not only should this cub still be with his mother, he appears to be thin with a scruffy coat.

Where do the cubs go?

Once cubs are too large for the public to handle, Jungle Safari sells them and replaces them with new cubs. Nobody knows where the majority of these cubs end up, but it is known that the owners of Jungle Safari have known connections with notoriously abusive private zoos and circus trainers, including Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado Passage, Vincent Von Duke, Kathy Stearns, Brian Staples, Josip Marcan, “doc” Antle, Lynn Culver, and Felicia Frisco.

In January 2005, the owners of Jungle Safari advertised lion cubs for sale in Animal Finders’ Guide, a (now defunct) trade publication for private exotic animal breeders and dealers. Later that year, a Hernando Today article interviewed Pat Engesser at an exotic-animal auction in Florida. Engesser, described as a big cat breeder for 30 years, said that she attended the auction with the hope of selling lion cubs to other breeders. Animals sold at such auctions often end up at canned hunts, in the “pet” trade, or at poorly run roadside zoos.

Jungle Safari is known to have sold cubs to the notorious “Hovatter’s Wildlife Zoo“, a roadside menagerie in West Virginia that has shown repeated contempt for federal regulations.

These lion cubs were sold by Jungle Safari to the notoriously abusive DEW Haven, where they were kept in the living room of a house.

Robert Engesser Jungle Safari Zoo Abuse

Around 2015, this lion cub with a severe case of ringworm was sold by Jungle Safari to an undisclosed buyer.

RingwormRobert Engesser Jungle Safari Zoo Abuse

A History of Abuse

The company that would become Jungle Safari was founded in 1968 by Roxy (Luce) Engesser, a circus trainer who decided to make a living breeding exotic cats for zoos and traveling the country to sell photos with the cubs. By 1984, “Engesser’s Exotic Felines” had a whopping 286 breeding big cats on lease to other private exhibitors nationwide, according to an Ocala Star-Banner report about Engesser’s plans to build a “retirement home” for her animals in a residential Levy County subdivision. In the article, Mrs. Engesser made the dangerous (and false) claim that “these aren’t wild cats, they’ve been hand raised. After about 10 generations in captivity, these animals even lose the instinct to kill their prey.” When Roxy passed away, the family big cat business was left in the hands of her son, Robert, and his wife, Pat.

Two Cats Who Were Abused and Abandoned by Roxy Engesser

Snorkle Tiger

Snorkle Tiger

Snorkel Tiger was bred in 1996 by Roxy Engesser, the same abuser who bred Nakoma the lion. She breeds lions and tigers and uses them to make money by selling you a photo of you holding a cute little cub. Typically these cubs are starved, deprived of bone building calcium and even poisoned to give them constant diarrhea so that they cannot gain weight. They do this because the cubs are only profitable while they are small. Once they reach 45 pounds they cannot be touched by the public, according to FL state law, and then they are discarded.

Snorkel was given to a small family operated circus when he exceeded 45 pounds at the age of 6 months but because he had been so deprived of nutrition he was very tiny and stands on little stunted legs. The other bigger circus tigers beat him up and one bit him across the nose so severely that when he chuffs it sounds like he is drowning, thus his name. He has never had soft grass to roll in nor a pool or mountain cave to call his own before going to Big Cat Rescue.

Nakoma Lion was used as a photo prop by the owners of Jungle Safari. He was purposely starved, deprived of vitamins and calcium, and kept in a small concrete space. Hardly conditions fit for a king.

Nakoma Lion

Nakoma Lion

That’s when Big Cat Rescue stepped in and purchased young Nakoma at a livestock auction. Imagine that, the “king of beasts” being auctioned off. Nakoma was so crippled in the hind legs and so malnourished that no one wanted him and he was sold for only $200.  (Big Cat Rescue stopped paying to rescue animals in the ’90s)

Only a year earlier this little lion cub was being pimped out as a photo prop. His owner (Engesser) made money by selling people the opportunity to have their photograph taken with the cute and cuddly lion cub. In the state of Florida, however, it is against the law to allow contact with a big cat over 45 pounds. So Engesser purposely starved him and deprived him of vitamins to keep him under the weight limit. As a result of this deficiency, Nakoma developed paralysis in his hind legs. Crippled, unwanted and abused, he was found with gaping gashes in his body that had become infested with maggots. Yet despite all this, he was still a very lovable, talkative cub.

Big Cat Rescue took Nakoma into their care. But after a year and a half of proper nutrition and supplements, he was still having an increasingly hard time moving his back legs. It took him two hours just to walk across his pen by dragging himself with his front paws. X-rays, a spinal tap and MRI all came out negative, meaning that Nakoma’s paralysis had most likely been caused by the thiamine deficiency he endured.

On July 12, 1998, during his MRI, Nakoma tragically stopped breathing and died. His quiet passing may have been a blessing in disguise since nothing could be done for his crippled body. In fact, the vets said his condition would have continued to deteriorate until he could not move at all.

Today, Nakoma rests in a grave on the site, adorned with his proud picture. This brave little king will never be forgotten and everybody can take solace in that Big Cat Rescue was at least able to make his last years a little better.

News Coverage

Roadside zoo sparks protests, second thoughts

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Posted Jan 19, 2007 at 3:24 AM

RobertEngesserJungleSafariZooAbuse7

I saw the tent being pitched and anxiously waited to see the wonderful animals that would soon be on display in South Venice.

Traveling zoos remind me of being a youngster and visiting the zoo with my parents and siblings. It was a day trip that we always looked forward to as children. Later, when I had my own children, I made sure we took similar trips at least once a year to see the animals and give my kids the same experience.

So when the Jungle Safari pulled into town, I was ready to relive the fond memories I had of those days. What I saw instead on repeated visits saddened me.

Maybe I was seeing with different eyes, but the wonderment of it all was gone.

A realization hit me that a traveling zoo is not the same as a zoo at all.

I saw large animals that were unable to run, raise their heads up and in one case, unable to turn around at all in their cages.

Some were standing in their own feces because they had nowhere else to go.

I saw a tiger cub repeatedly return to an empty water dish while several other cages had no water dish at all.

When David Hadley, 44, saw the roadside traveling zoo at the Venice Village Shoppes at U.S. 41 and Jacaranda Boulevard, he traded in his beach and house-hunting time for some protest time.

Creating a makeshift sign out of foam board, the Army veteran stood at the roadside garnering support from fellow animal lovers.

Among the honks of approval, however, were shouts of profanity and displays of obscene gestures. Hadley, a former airborne combat medic in the Army, stood firm.

“I have a right to protest, it’s a freedom of speech and I earned that right,” said Hadley, who suffers from a painful hip. With his walking cane and Luna, his rescued border collie mix, Hadley remained undaunted.

The Jungle Safari traveling zoo is owned and operated by Robert Engesser.

“It was my parents’ zoo, and now it is mine,” said Engesser, referring to the original owners as the Luce family.

Soon Hadley was joined by Englewood sisters Nicole Miers, 17, and Tiffany Miers-Pandolfi, 21.

Later, Venice MCC student Monica Moore, 18, joined the group with her own homemade sign.

“I’m a big animal lover and I don’t like to see animals trapped unfairly. They deserve a chance to be in their own habitat and have a happy life,” Moore said.

A state wildlife inspector visited the setup in South Venice and found no violations.

For nearly 11 months out of the year, the animals travel from parking lot to parking lot throughout the South.

A typical day requires them to stand from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in small cages directly on pavement.

Engesser acknowledged that the protesters had a right to share their feelings but defended the zoo’s ability to expose kids to exotic creatures.

“I believe that the protesters are entitled to their opinion. But it’s a chance for kids to see animals they wouldn’t otherwise see. It’s a family thing. The protesters just don’t like to see animals in cages and they don’t like to see them spend their lives like that,” Engesser said.

Well, maybe.

But not so for North Port protester Holly Carver, who also joined the group objecting to the roadside menagerie.

“I do support zoos, but this is a whole different thing. I don’t believe it’s right for animals to be traveling in small environments. They can’t move around. It’s not much of a life for them,” Carver said sadly.

In his defense, Engesser added, “We are taking and raising these animals from babies, and they are used to captivity. They are used to it and comfortable with it. It’s not like we are taking them from the wild and putting them in captivity. They don’t have that stress factor.”

Maybe not, except for one small cub who had a noticeable mark on his forehead. A caretaker said the cub had been banging its head against its cage again and again.

“I’m here as a moral decision to stop the cruelty that the animals are subjected to. In 2007, it’s just unacceptable in our society,” said Hadley.

Pony ride worker accused of inappropriately touching children

By Tom Smith

Senior Staff Writer, Florence Times-Daily

Apr 30, 2016

Daryl V Raymond Jr., of Stockholm, MaineFLORENCE — A man working at a traveling petting zoo with the pony ride has been arrested and charged after police said he inappropriately was touching little girls who were riding the animals.

Police Sgt. Brad Holmes said Daryl V Raymond Jr., 48, of Stockholm, Maine, has been charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a child under 12.

Holmes said police were notified of the allegations Friday while detectives were investigating a homicide.

Reports indicate while the sexual abuse case was under investigation, a second victim came forward.

Police said Raymond was taken into custody Saturday morning at the petting zoo, which had set up operations in the Big Lots Shopping Center on Darby Drive.

Authorities said Raymond was picked up without incident, interviewed, then arrested and charged.

Police Detective Keith Johnson said Raymond was an employee of Jungle Safari, which is based in Chiefland, Florida.

He said after the investigation and arrest of Raymond, the owner of the petting zoo was closing his operation and leaving the area.

According to reports, since Raymond’s arrest, three more reports of similar incidents have been made to police.

Police said two of the incidents are supposed to have happened Thursday and three Friday. The victims are all young girls between the ages of 3 and 5.

Investigators said Raymond was working the pony ride and, according to allegations, he would have his left hand on the pole that guided the pony and his right hand on the saddle horn where the victims were sitting. During the ride, while he was walking with the pony, he would inappropriately touch the girls, police said.

Johnson said the first incident was reported Friday after a young girl told her family what happened and the police were notified.

Authorities said after reporting the incident, a family member put a post on social media about what had happened, and other incidents started being reported.

Raymond has denied the allegations.

More charges are pending as the case continues.

Sexual abuse of a child under 12 is a Class B felony, which is punishable by 2-20 years in prison.

Raymond is being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center on bond of $100,000.

Petting zoo employee now has 5 child sex abuse charges in Alabama

Posted May 2, 2016

By Jonathan Grass, AL.com

A man already accused of sexually abusing two children who visited the traveling petting zoo where he works now faces additional charges.

Daryl V. Raymond Jr., 48, of Stockholm, Maine was arrested in Florence on Saturday.

He worked for Jungle Safari, a Florida-based petting zoo that travels to malls, fairs and festivals across the country, according to its website.

He was originally charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12. Police say two children who visited the petting zoo came forward with accusations.

On Monday, Raymond was charged with three additional counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12. He is in the Lauderdale County Detention Center on bonds totaling $250,000.

Five victims have come forward so far, and additional charges are pending, Sgt. Brad Holmes said.

Jungle Safari’s owner told Florence police that he planned to move the petting zoo to another city ahead of schedule. Holmes said the owner has cooperated fully throughout the investigation, which is ongoing.

Traveling zoos, carnivals only need business license

By Jennifer Edwards, Florence Times-Daily

May 3, 2016

FLORENCE — A simple business license is the only permission a traveling show needs in three of the four Shoals cities, but Florence officials are reviewing their process in the wake of a child sexual abuse case.

Obtaining a business license is the only requirement Jungle Safari had to meet before setting up a free petting zoo in a Darby Drive parking lot. An employee of that outfit, Daryl V. Raymond Jr., was arrested Saturday and charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a child under 12.

Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler wants to take another look at the business license requirement.

“When I talked to (Florence Mayor Mickey Haddock) Saturday to inform him about what was going on, he said then that, at the first opportunity, to get with the city attorney and look at making changes to the ordinance that governs those businesses,” Tyler said Monday.

“We want to look at the cost of temporary business licenses — businesses that are not going to make a permanent home here.”

Tyler said city officials would not prohibit temporary business license issuance to companies that come into Florence to do fundraisers for Shoals-based agencies or groups. He said scrutiny would be especially close on businesses such as the petting zoo traveling show.

“These companies are coming in with employees who may or may not have had background checks,” he said. “That is up to the employer.”

Raymond, 48, of Stockholm, Maine, is accused of inappropriately touching young girls while he was operating the pony ride at Jungle Safari. Chief Assistant District Attorney Will Powell said at Raymond’s initial court appearance Monday more charges are likely after three additional complaints were made. Raymond has been detained without bond in the Lauderdale County Detention Center pending a bond hearing scheduled for Friday.

“As a result to what happened Saturday, we are going to do some research into other cities as to how they handle temporary business licenses and see what we can do to strengthen some of the protection for our citizens,” Tyler said. “You just can’t have unknown people coming in with unknown backgrounds.”

Florence spokesman Phil Stevenson said if a vendor does not require a utility connection, the only permit necessary is a business license. The city’s simple business license is $75. Vendors selling wares pay a business license fee in proportion to anticipated sales.

Tyler said there is a reason authorities acted quickly Saturday when the allegations surfaced.

“We knew the petting zoo was not going to be here long and once he was gone, he would be gone,” Tyler said. “Hopefully this will never happen again. We’re trying to make sure it never does.”

Jungle Safari closed and left Florence on Saturday.

The latest United States Department of Agriculture inspection report shows Zoo/Jungle Safari is based in Chiefland, Florida, and is operated by Robert Engesser. A USDA inspection, performed March 17, 2016, when the traveling show was set up in Graceville, Florida, shows Jungle Safari had exotic animals including tigers, a camel, a kangaroo and several primates, goats, llamas and a cow or ox.

Obtaining a license for traveling vendors is fairly routine. In Florence, if a utility connection is required to operate lights, signs or rides, the city inspects the connection to ensure the work was done properly and safely, Stevenson said.

Tuscumbia requires a business license and requires fire-rated tents be used, according to city Building Official Luster Echols.

Sheffield requires a $100 flat fee for its privilege license, which is good for 10 days. In the case of a carnival, if there are peripheral vendors not associated with the carnival itself, each one would pay $10 a day to the city. The $100 flat fee is waived if it’s a nonprofit. Sheffield issues one privilege license every 120 days for the same vendor.

Muscle Shoals is the strictest among the four Shoals cities and imposes regulations on temporary vendors that go beyond a simple business license. Revenue Clerk Rebecca Barnett said a business license is required for anyone setting up in Muscle Shoals, but to obtain one the vendor must rent a suite or storefront at the location, have utility service turned on using the name of the operator, and have functioning restrooms.

Barnett said carnivals previously have set up in shopping center parking lots, but could not recall one recently.

Tyler said he is meeting with the Florence city attorney this week to discuss the ordinance governing temporary businesses.

“We can’t tolerate, never again, someone endangering our children,” he said.

Lawsuit filed in Lauderdale County against petting zoo & employee accused of sexual assault

Posted 2:52 pm, December 5, 2016, by Carter Watkins, WHNT19 News

FLORENCE, Ala. – A civil lawsuit has been filed against the owners of a petting zoo, who employed a man accused of inappropriately touching several small children. The lawsuit has been filed in Lauderdale County Circuit Court.

The 10-page complaint was filed on behalf of three sets of parents, whose children were allegedly touched by Daryl Raymond while he was working for Jungle Safari.

The complaint names Engesser’s Exotics, the parent company of Jungle Safari, the Florence Plaza, and Daryl Raymond as defendants.

The Florence Plaza is named as a defendant because according to the suit, they used the petting zoo as a promotion to get more shoppers to visit.

The plaintiffs state Jungle Safari and Florence Plaza should have known Raymond’s history and practice of assault, and in particular, sexual assault of minor children.

The suit claims Raymond touched three children on the dates of April 28th and 29th.

According to Florence Police, Raymond was working on a pony ride at Jungle Safari at that time.

In August, a Lauderdale County grand jury indicted Raymond on six counts of unlawful sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12.

The lawsuit goes on to say, Jungle Safari continued to allow Raymond to operate the pony ride after a complaint was brought to their attention on the 28th. The suit said two more victims were sexually assaulted on April 29th.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages to be determined by a jury.

According to Florence Police, there were a total of six victims Raymond is accused of touching.

Raymond is set to stand trial on criminal charges next spring.  Dates for the civil suit to be heard have not been set. Raymond remains in the Lauderdale County Detention Center on bail totaling $300,000.

Traveling exhibit of exotic animals stops in Bryan

By Brooke West, The Bryan Eagle

Dec 1, 2012

RobertEngesserJungleSafariZooAbuse9

It’s a zoo in Bryan this week.

Jungle Safari, a free exotic animal exhibit, set up in the 3700 block of Texas Avenue on Wednesday and will stay until Sunday at 5 p.m.

Mathilda, a four-year-old kangaroo, shoved her nose through a wire square, giving passersby a curious sniff. Empress the three-year-old Bengal tiger — all 425 pounds of her — slept soundly in her cage. A tiny but busy Zeus, a 9-week-old Bengal tiger cub, circled behind a fence, purring and nuzzling against the warm hands of caretakers who reached in to pet his fuzzy head.

The owner and manager of Jungle Safari, Robert Engesser, said he’s glad to be in Bryan for the first time.

“This enables us to share these guys with the public,” Engesser said, gesturing toward the monkeys, lemurs, goats, ponies, and the camel on display.

Engesser said the traveling zoo provides a chance for people in areas that don’t have permanent exhibits to see, learn and interact with the animals.

Engesser has been showing his variety of animals across the United States for 31 years, he said. He and his crew of handlers and caretakers are on the road for nine and a half months out of the year. The other two and a half months are spent on his land in Chiefland, Fla.

Admission to the exhibit — equipped with eight goats, one cow, two llamas, one camel, three ponies, one spotted mule, two monkeys, two lemurs, and two tigers — is free. There is a cost, however, to ride the camel or ponies, feed the animals or take pictures with them. There is also a white tiger and black leopard on display for a $1 charge.

Engesser said the free admission is “doing it the old-fashioned way.” He said the profits made through pictures, feeding and rides pays all of the employees and allows them to keep the exhibit on the move.

Dealing with large exotic animals safely, Engesser said, is a matter of their weight.

“You have to know what you are doing,” he said. “Size dictates how they should be handled. We want to protect the public from the animal and the animal from the public. These are still wild animals.”

The full-grown Bengal tiger was raised in captivity, Engesser said, and has grown up “socialized.”

“Anytime an animal is on display and confined, there is not a stress factor,” Engesser said. “Inevitably you will have the extreme view. There are a number of ways to be raised healthily in captivity.”

Engesser said his grandparents and parents were operating the traveling zoo before him.

Growing up, he hated it, he said. So he decided to be a mechanic instead.

“I wanted to get away from it so bad,” Engesser laughed. “Then I found out that’s work, too. I figured I might as well come back to what I love if I was gonna have to work anyway.”

In order to operate such a business, Jungle Safari must have an exhibitor license through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Engesser also had to acquire a special event permit from the city of Bryan.

Dave Sacks, spokeswoman for the USDA, said the goal of licenses is to enforce the Animal Wellness Act.

“The act is a federal set of care standards that must be met for facilities with certain types of animals,” Sacks said. “We put them on unannounced inspections to see how they are treating their animals.”

Sacks said that anything not in compliance with general USDA guidelines is cited, and the operator is given a timeframe in which to correct the problem.

“It can be anything from a hole in the hippo’s cage, to a giraffe with a broken leg,” Sacks said. “It can really run the gamut.”

Regulations set by the organization are not specific, Sacks said. For instance, cage size standards are not determined for each animal, but should be large enough for the animal to move about freely.

“The bottom line is ensuring the welfare of these animals,” Sacks said. “The responsibility falls to them. These folks do what they need to do, and we do what we need to do to ensure the animals are healthy.”

Sacks said Jungle Safari’s last 11 inspections were “pretty clean.”

According to the USDA, the zoo was issued a warning letter on March 8, 1994, and a civil penalty of $250 on May 24, 1999.

Sacks could not detail the nature of the penalties because the cases are outdated.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has several citations to Jungle Safari listed on their website, but Sacks did not confirm that they are consistent with USDA records.

According to PETA, the March 8, 1994 infraction was for failure to maintain enclosures and failure to store bedding to prevent contamination.

There was not an entry in PETA’s records for the May 24, 1999 civil penalty.

Engesser said he thinks Jungle Safari has a “decent record” in all its 31 years.

He said there was an infraction in the past for improper food care for the animals, but the organization was in the process of building a new food housing system at the time.

“[The USDA] wants to oversee the animals’ health and welfare, Engesser said. “I think we’ve done a good job of that.”

When the animals aren’t on the road, he said, they have open spaces to roam back home in Florida.

He said he has a close relationship with two vets he consults with often to ensure the health of the animals.

A pair of sisters, 11-year-old Caitlyn and 8-year-old Ashlyn Seal, lit up as they stopped to gaze at each animal.

“It’s pretty cool,” Caitlyn said. “When we went to feed the goats we put the money in [the machine] and they all came right to it!”

Ashlyn said her favorite part was riding the 2,000 pound camel.

Their mom, Julie Seal, said she wanted to bring her daughters after hearing about the exhibit on the radio. She was especially excited about them getting to ride the camel.

“I remember riding one at a circus when I was little, so I wanted them to do it,” Julie said. “I do feel bad that the animals are kind of in cages but they’re so cute. It’s hard not to want to look at them.”

Engesser said there will be a public feeding Saturday at 7:30 p.m., where anyone is welcome to watch the exotic animals be fed. There will also be a lecture about the animals, he said.

2011 Fox News Charlotte Report on USDA Violations

MONROE, N.C. – From the tame and the typical to totally wild. The traveling petting zoo called Jungle Safari has a little bit of everything, all in the parking lot of Monroe Crossing mall. A mom of two boys says, “I think it’s cool, we were just driving by and like, free admission, why not?” And 11-year-old Zack Weilage says, “Animals are amazing!”

There are tigers, there are camels, there are lemurs and there is a USDA inspection report from March. It levels two concerns, first: a 16-week-old “highly active” tiger cub used for pictures with the public. “‘Too rambunctious’ is actually what she (the inspector) said,” says the zoo owner Robert Engesser.

The inspector noted her concern that the cub couldn’t be controlled in a way that would keep him and the public safe. Engesser replaced the cub with a nine and a half week old lion.

The other issue: a capuchin monkey. The report lists hair loss and tail biting; signs of psychological distress. The zoo had not documented the steps it was taking to address the monkey’s neurotic behavior, often caused by a lack of interaction. The report says her mate died two months ago. Engesser says, “There’s quite a bit of interaction.”

Engesser has owned the traveling zoo for about 13 years. He appealed the March inspection, was denied, and says he will appeal again. He says, “I don’t feel in that situation they were correct, but they’re entitled to their opinion just like I am mine.”

Engesser says he has 30 big cats at his permanent facility in Florida. He rotates which ones are on tour. The two-year -old female tiger currently with him will stay inside her cage for four weeks before returning to Florida.

“It seems fun and it seems great for the kids, but in reality, it’s not, especially not for the poor animals in there,” says Monroe resident Felicia Kiker. She didn’t like what she saw at the petting zoo. “The animals are all in little cages, animals which are supposed to be in the wild,” says Kiker.

Engesser expects between five and six thousand visitors through the weekend. He insists all of the animals are well taken care of and that public safety is his priority. He says, “If we feel it’s a danger to the animal as well as the public, we’re not gonna use it.”

The USDA has inspected the zoo eight times in the last three years. The March report is the only one with citations. Mall management wasn’t aware of the March inspection until FOX Charlotte brought it to their attention. They tell us, “Jungle Safari approached us about operating at Monroe Crossing and we offered them the space free of charge because we knew it would be a great attraction for the community.”

Note: Thankfully the belief that such abuse is good for business is an outdated opinion.

 

Read More

Posted on Oct 6, 2018 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Fakers and Haters, Most Wanted | 2 comments

G.W. Exotics Animal Foundation Joe Schreibvogel

G.W. Exotics Animal Foundation Joe Schreibvogel

9/7/18 Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” was arrested after being indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on two counts of “murder for hire” for seeking to hire someone to murder Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue.   Read more at https://bigcatrescue.org/joe-exotic-arrested-murder-hire/

JOE SCHREIBVOGEL

JOE “EXOTIC”

AKA JOSEPH MALDONADO

AKA JOSEPH MALDONADO-PASSAGE

If Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado has contacted you with slanderous allegations against Big Cat Rescue, check out this million dollar settlement Joe Schreibvogel consented to in favor of Big Cat Rescue.

Researched and written by Howard Baskin JD, MBA, Advisory Board Chairman of Big Cat Rescue

Joe Schreibvogel says that he and his parents started G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Park in memory of a brother who loved animals.

On December 10, 2010 Joe wrote on Facebook

“…another employee quit today without so much as a phone call.  …all I get is a text message that reads… My brother (g.w.) would be ashamed of what I have become”

If Joe’s brother was indeed a lover of animals, this is likely to be an understatement.

As detailed below, Joe has become one of the most notorious breeders and exploiters of tiger cubs in the world.

 

DECEPTION

Below you will read about how Joe treats tiger cubs and some of his deceptions. One telling example of his dishonesty that is not cat related is his claim to be a country western singer. It is hard to imagine how anyone who hears his nasal speaking voice could believe that the voice on hi music videos is really his.  But the people he has duped into believing his nonsense seem to.  In actual fact, informant information indicates he has paid singers/songwriters Vince Johnson and/or Danny Clinton to sing some if not all of the songs.  Then Joe makes a video lip syncing the song and claims it is him singing.

You can hear his speaking voice on his Facebook page.

Originally we had a link here to one of his songs. But after we revealed how he had misled everyone, including his own followers, he took down most of his music videos from YouTube and in one of his Facebook video rants basically admitted his deceit by saying “who cares” as if it does not matter that he lied to everyone for years. It matters because it shows his true character, or lack thereof, and apparent desperate need for attention, in our view.

Joe pretended to sing this song:

Click here for songs by The Vince Johnson Band to compare the voice.

If Joe lies about this, duping his own friends and followers, how can one believe anything he says?

ABUSE OF TIGER CUBS

 

Feds Cite Big-Cat Exhibitor Over Transport of Infant Tiger Cub 

Joe Schreibvogel operates a roadside zoo in Oklahoma with 1400 animals, including over 150 tigers, on sixteen acres, that has a history of serious animal abuse (see below).  He generates revenue by constantly breeding tiger cubs, ripping them from their mothers shortly after birth, and abusing them by carting them around from mall to mall charging people to pet them alongside a magic show he performs.  USDA rules prohibit using the cubs for this purpose after they reach 12 weeks old.  When he can no longer use them to make money, he “donates” (or by some reports sells) them, or brings to his zoo.  In most cases these animals will at best spend their entire lives in small, prison-like cells.  Current USDA regulations permit keeping an adult tiger in a cage smaller than a parking spot. Many of his cats are sent to places with a history of animal abuse violations.

What is life like for these poor cubs dragged around from mall to mall for the early weeks of their lives?  Videos of the mall exhibit reveal what they endure.

In the video below, you can see that the cub has diarrhea.  Witnesses report this was true of at least three of the cubs.  Instead of taking the cubs off display, the attendant follows the cub with a rag.  First Beth Corley wipes the floor, then she wipes the cub’s bottom with the same rag.  The cub’s bottom is likely raw and sore from the diarrhea.  You can hear the cub scream.  You can see the video under “Sick Cubs at Mall” below.

Malls who allow Joe to exhibit are supporting this abuse.  If venues would not allow acts like this, the breeding and suffering would stop.  Fortunately, more and more responsible venues are making the right decision.  For instance, after a cub display at one of their stores, Petsmart recently issued a policy that there would be no exotic animal displays at their U.S. and Canada stores.  In doing so they showed that they truly care about animals.

Joe claims that he has to breed cubs and take them out on the traveling show in order to support the animals at his zoo.   He acknowledges that this is wrong when he says in a Facebook post that he does not want to do this but is “forced to” in order to make money to support the animals at the zoo.  Joe is only forced to do this as a result of his own bad decisions and lack of caring for animals.

Joe’s latest argument to justify his rampant breeding (which he calls “selective”) is that he is doing a public service because by supplying a cub to every zoo and exhibitor who wants a tiger, he is putting out of business the “back yard breeders.”  This is a little bit like John Dillinger claiming he was doing public service by putting other bank robbers out of business because he had robbed all the banks.  It does not matter who is breeding tigers to make money from cubs and then discarding them to a life of misery.  It is just wrong.

The fact is that real sanctuaries all around the country are able to support their rescue and animal care work without adding to the problem by breeding and without abusing animals to make money.  They do that by operating facilities that have excellent animal care that donors appreciate and want to support.  They also do that by being financially responsible and not taking in more animals than they can support.

The fact that true sanctuaries all of over the country do support their animals without tormenting innocent cubs proves that it can be done.  If Joe cannot do the right thing for the animals, he should not be collecting them. If real sanctuaries around the county are capable of doing this, why can’t Joe?

Joe’s website says his zoo was started in 1999 as a way to honor his deceased brother, who reportedly loved animals.  Joe could have done exactly that.  He could have built a real sanctuary by taking in animals and giving them the kind of care that would have touched the hearts of donors who would have supported him like other real sanctuaries have done.  He says on his website that in 2005 he “grew away from the word ‘Sanctuary’ … because everyone wanted to dictate how you run a business as a sanctuary, but no one wanted to help pay the bills.”

Regarding having others “dictate”, yes, to be a real sanctuary, you have to meet certain standards of animal care. The animal abuse documented in USDA violations from 2000 to 2015, discussed below, shows he never was a sanctuary.  He could have invested time in learning the skills needed to run a true sanctuary, including how to run the financial side of a nonprofit.  He could have built a place that would have been a true tribute to a deceased animal lover.  He did not.

Young Children Bitten at GW Park

Before going into the details about Joe’s exploitation and lies, below are three videos taken in September 2011 by visitors to GW Park.  According to a USDA Fact Sheet, cubs under 8 weeks old should not be petted because their immune systems have not sufficiently developed to prevent disease.  Separately, USDA guidance forbids petting cubs over 12 weeks of age because they are dangerous.  (See 2010 in the Palazzo case upholding USDA position established in 2004).

In these three short videos you see GWPark employees blatantly violating these USDA policies and endangering the cubs and the public.  In the videos the handlers acknowledge that the cubs are 14, 15, 16, 19 or 20 weeks old.  In one video you hear the handlers laughing about a child being bitten by one of the overage cubs and being taken in to see under age cubs to appease the family.  Remarkably, just one week later, with a handler lying by saying “we have never had an incident,”  the video shows a young child jumped on and bitten by a 20 week old cub.  After that, even though in both videos the handlers talk about the smaller cubs having weak immune systems which makes public contact dangerous for them, the park manager brings out a tiny two week old cub to appease the crowd.  He allows two and three people to grope at the cub at a time.  He only stops when the poor cub, who is so young that its eyes are not even open yet, starts squealing loudly and desperately tries to climb away to avoid the petting.

As a practical matter, USDA inspectors are never going to see the animals mistreated or see animals that are too young or too old being used this way.  The inspectors do not do undercover work, they announce themselves on arrival.  An individual who worked at GW Park tells us that when the inspector arrives, someone at the park announces “USDA on the property” and some individuals are assigned to delay the inspectors while others run around filling water bowls and stop any behavior that could result in citation.  As you watch the tiny cub squealing in discomfort and fear in the third video, knowing that each of the hands you see groping at him is a threat to his infant weak immune system, and as you hear the handlers in the first video chuckle about a child being bitten, and as you see Schreibvogel in the video at the top of this page strike a tiny cub with a pole and say “just pop ’em in the ass,” ask yourself if you think Joe Schreibvogel is someone who loves animals.  Does someone who loves animals torment tiny cubs to make money?   And if you are a venue that permits his traveling exhibit to set up in your mall or fair, aside from the potential liability, is this kind of treatment of animals what you want to support?

Underage Cubs Used to Appease Crowd After Child Bitten

Sick Cubs at Mall

 Joe Schreibvogel Exposed by Inside Edition

HISTORY OF ANIMAL ABUSE

 

USDA VIOLATIONS

 

Instead of creating a sanctuary, Joe created a facility that in its early years, 2000 – 2004, was cited repeatedly by USDA for serious violations of the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act.  USDA has limited enforcement resources.  They can only take a few animal abusers to court, so they reserve that for only the most blatant cases.  Typically they will issue citations for years, giving the licensee every opportunity to correct the out of compliance conditions before they consider filing a lawsuit. After years of citations they finally sued Joe.  In April 2005 the agency filed a 20-page complaint against Joe with numerous charges, including the following:

* Failure to provide adequate veterinary care
* Failure to handle animals so that there was minimal risk of harm to the animal and to the public
* An incident in which a tiger escaped from his enclosure and attacked and seriously wounded a camel
* Transportation of 15 tigers and lions in a manner that allowed urine, feces, or both to contaminate the animals caged below
* Lack of potable water for 18 lions, 23 tigers, 15 bears, 20 cougars, three leopards, and a pig
* Lack of employees present to provide care to 80 large, dangerous cats
* Lack of knowledge by employees about how often the animals were fed
* Filthy, wet, unsafe, and dilapidated enclosures
* Failure to handle animals in a manner that does not cause trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort
* Failure to provide animals with minimum space
* Exposed live, bare wires in tiger nursery play area

 

In July 25, 2017 USDA licensees (We believe Beth Corley is just another alias for Joe because she hasn’t been reported at this facility since about 2011) at this facility were cited for failure to keep accurate acquisition and disposal records on the animals, including a lack of reporting who and where animals came from or went, and failure to keep an accurate census.  Read the USDA violation.

On May 15, 2017 a tiger escaped her enclosure and was noticed wandering the grounds at feeding time.  The tiger was reportedly shot to death by Joe.  Read the USDA violation.

On October 19, 2016 licensees were cited for injury to a tiger due to feeding a large group of tigers in a single pen by throwing meat into the frenzy.  They were also cited for rancid meat left to rot on top of the shade stands from the same practice.  Reach the USDA violation.

On May 19, 2016 licensees were cited for failing to throw out medication that was two years passed the expiry date.  A live mouse was seen on the floor of the lemur cage and a half eaten mouse was in the capuchin cage in the medical building.  The report states there is no professional vermin control measure in practice.  Instead they said they put out poison…poison that could be consumed by the rats and then by the primates. Read the USDA violations.

On February 1, 2016 Joe Maldonado was cited for failure to provide sufficient barriers between the public and adult lions and tigers. He was also cited for rusting metal panels in the baboon enclosure that had sharp edges around the hole that could harm the primates.  Read his USDA violations.

On the same day, Feb. 1, 2016 Beth Corley (We believe Beth Corley is just another alias for Joe because she hasn’t been reported at this facility since about 2011) was blamed for not including 14 tigers in the census that came from Serenity Springs on 12/18/15.  Read that USDA violation.

In November 2015 Schreibvogel / Maldonado was cited for dangerous conditions for his cubs who were being raised in a room with “live, bare electrical wires” and glass window panes within reach of the cubs that could provide both injury or a way of escape.  He was also cited for improper handling of food for the animals.  Records indicate 99 tigers at this time.  Read the USDA violation.

In August 2015 Schreibvogel / Maldonado was cited for displaying a 19 day old liger cub at the Mississippi State Fair. Read the USDA violation.

In July 2015 Schreibvogel / Maldonado was cited for fly infestation, filthy food bowls, inadequate methods of temperature control for primates, unsafe fencing and more. Read the USDA violations.

In March 2015 Schreibvogel / Maldonado was cited for a “trail of rodent droppings” on the rails between cages, food stored on the floors, dirty food receptacles, rotting meat on top of the cages, where keepers had apparently tried to throw it into the cages and failed, a decomposing rat that was intended as food, no shade for a tiger named Batista and more. Read the USDA violations.

In August 2014 Schreibvogel was cited for standing water, food and waste in an open ditch next to the primates, described by the inspector as “an open sewer,” unsafe caging, “numerous wasps” in the primate shed, tigers being kept in a cage where the gate hinge had “rusted through”, “significant” rust in a support pole, no water and no water bowls in the grizzly cage, rancid meat on the floor of the tiger cage that was covered in maggots, numerous ants and food stuck in the feed chutes that was covered in ants. At this time records show 100 tigers.  Twenty one more tigers than just 5 months ago.   Read the USDA violations.

In April 2014 Schreibvogel was cited because a bear, named Crybaby, had been injured on April 2, resulting in a 4-8 inch long laceration.  The vet was said to have stitched up the bear, but the wound was reopened 3 days later.  Apparently Joe re stitched the bear, without the vet, but on April 14 workers reported that the wound was open.  The vet came on April 15 and euthanized the bear.  He was cited for failing to have the vet care for the injured bear between April 5 and April 15.

In March 2014 Schreibvogel was cited for inadequate vet care, rusty cages with sharp, protruding edges, a missing plank in the tiger’s walkway and exposed screw.  At this time Joe claimed to own 79 tigers, which is 15 fewer tigers than this same time last year.  Read the USDA violations.

In March 2013 Schreibvogel was cited for fencing and a gate that was leaning and sagging and could provide a means of escape, a broken roof in a tiger’s enclosure, inadequate shade.  At this time records indicated 94 tigers. Read the USDA violations.

In January 2006 Schreibvogel consented to a $25,000 fine and a probation period. Based on inspections since, hopefully conditions have improved.  But, for over five years before USDA forced changes, the animals Joe “rescued” were subjected to the horrible conditions USDA cited.

In September 2009 USDA issued a warning notice for alleged violations of the AWA handling requirements stemming from separate incidents that occurred in 2007 and 2008, one involving a customer injured by a lion cub.

On September 13, 2011 Schreibvogel was cited by USDA for failing to provide veterinary care to two animals.

On December 1, 2011 Schreibvogel was cited by USDA for improper handling related to an incident in September 2011 at GW Park where young boy was injured by a tiger cub.

23 CUBS DIED AT GW PARK

Schreibvogel is currently under investigation by USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs and separately for other possible violations of the AWA.  The cubs died between April 2009 and May 2010 according to what Joe’s people reported to the FDA.  Any responsible facility would have done necropsies on the  initial deaths.  Joe finally did necropsies on one or two of the last cubs to die and called in FDA to test the formula.  The necropsies indicated curdled milk formula in the stomachs of the cubs.  So, Joe insists that the cubs were killed by “bad formula.”  But, the FDA testing of the samples Joe provided and of samples from the manufacturer found nothing wrong with the formula.  This formula must be stored, handled, mixed and administered properly.  Since FDA found nothing wrong with the formula itself, if the cubs did die from the formula, the most logical conclusion is that it was because Joe’s staff did not do one or more of these activities properly.

 

PETA INVESTIGATION

 

Between February and June 2006, a PETA investigator working at GW Exotics kept a log documenting a pattern of abuse.  These included animals seriously injured from fighting, food dishes teeming with maggots, hungry animals who went without food, animals who were abused and beaten by staff.  For instance, here are two examples from http://www.peta.org/features/gw-the-animals.aspx:

 

JULIE, THE THREE-LEGGED LION

On his first day on the job, PETA’s investigator met Julie, a three-legged lioness, who had a bloody, raw, and gaping hole where her right front leg used to be. Julie had been attacked by two tigers who literally chewed and tore her leg off and then ate it. The remaining stump of her leg had to be amputated and when she pulled out the stitches, Julie’s open wound went untreated.Though she moaned and whimpered for days, she was given nothing for pain. Julie languished in a small and barren indoor cage on a concrete floor with nothing more than a small towel for comfort. Although she was bred and born at the zoo, [J1] tells people that he “rescued” Julie and that she was injured before coming to the zoo.

 

‘THE VEGAS TIGERS’

GW’s Holiday 2005 newsletter reported that the Fercos Bros., a Siegfried & Roy wannabe magic act in Las Vegas, gave the park two male tigers who had “outgrown” the stage. Two days after PETA’s investigator started working at the park, the “Vegas tigers,” as they were called, were killed by lethal injection because staff decided they were “mean.”

Reportedly, the tigers’ teeth were cut out, and one was decapitated and his head given to the veterinarian’s husband to be mounted. When the Fercos came to visit the tigers in June, they were told that the cats were killed when lightning struck their cage during a storm.

Below is a video by the investigator showing a dying horse left suffering, workers beating animals with tools, and a worker explaining how they forge the feeding log to say animals were fed that were not because USDA had no way to prove otherwise.

According to one report “PETA activists took their recordings to law enforcement, but no charges were filed after authorities said no criminal activity occurred in the videos they viewed. Federal agents inspected the park twice after the videos were released and found no violations. Schreibvogel claimed the PETA videos took out of context what was going on, but did admit he had fired four of the employees featured in the investigation.” Although authorities decided not to file criminal charges, it is hard to imagine the behavior in this video not being animal abuse no matter what the “context.”

For more on PeTA’s investigation visit http://www.peta.org/features/gw.aspx

 

IS JOE AN ANIMAL LOVER?

Allowing animals to suffer horrible conditions for years until USDA forced him to correct them clearly contradicts Joe’s claim to be a lover of animals. His current argument that he should be allowed to abuse cubs and subject a steady stream of them to lifelong misery in order to support those he has collected raises further doubts. He accepts animals from places known for animal abuse without regard for the fact that these places continue to operate and abuse more animals. Is that a rescuer, or someone just building the “world’s largest” big cat zoo to satisfy his ego?

 

IS JOE A PERSON OF CHARACTER AND PROFESSIONALISM?

 

To get an insight into Joe’s character, let’s look at a few examples of his behavior.

Photos of PETA and BCR effigies being killed. One of his responses to criticism from PETA and BIG CAT RESCUE was to post photos on his Facebook page showing figures labeled PETA and BCR with guns to their heads, hangman’s nooses around their necks, and a bow and arrow pointed at them.

If you are a manager of a mall reading this, is this the kind of person you want to be associated with?

Photo shooting polar bear cub. One mall executive found out how professional Joe is when his company decided they did not want to be associated with Joe’s abuse. Joe, using one of his “stage names” Aarron Alex, accused the management company online of “supporting the killing of animals” and posted a photo with his proposed boycott of their properties showing a polar bear plush toy with a handgun to its head and the title “If Mama Don’t Want It Don’t Nobody Want It.”

If you were a mall owner or manager, is this the kind of vendor you want?

Registering URLs in Name of Dead Person. Another rather bizarre behavior is that in recent years Joe has been in the habit of registering new internet URL’s using the name Brian Rhyne, who the GW website said died in 2001. What kind of person uses a dead man’s name to register their websites? Recently Joe has been changing some of these, perhaps as a result of this strange behavior being commented upon online.

Crude, sexually oriented comments and lies.  Joe and a small band of cronies, most of whom are people who support subjecting exotic animals to the unsuitable condition of being pets, constantly post blatant lies, sometimes sexually oriented, about his critics.  Some of the Facebook identities making these comments are fake identities set up by Joe or this group.  For instance, it is hard to imagine that his Facebook supporter “Carole Backsins” is anything more than a shallow and childish alteration of the name of Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue.

 

JOE’S MULTIPLE COMPANY NAMES AND PERSONAL NAMES

 

Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado-Passage is or has also known individually as:

 

 Joe Exotic

Aarron Alex

Cody Ryan

 

And doing business as:

 

5 Continent Productions

Garold Wayne Interactive Zoo

G.W. Exotic Animal Foundation

G.W. Exotic Animal Park

G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Foundation

G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Park

Alex Productions

Awakening Productions

Awakening Rescue

Big Cat Rescue Entertainment Group

Corley’s Exotics

Mystical Magic of the Endangered

Tigers in Need

Welch’s Entertainment Group

Welch’s Tiger Experience

Welch’s Great Cat Adventure

World Magic

and others.

What about all those company names listed above? One of the most basic principles in marketing is to develop a consistent brand image. The problem for Joe is that his brand is tainted by his animal abuse, so he keeps making up new names. He really went to town in 2010 adding at least four of the names listed above.

He says he uses different names to avoid the “animal activists.” Joe is not fooling any of the people who fight to protect animals and want him to stop abusing the cubs. They find him no matter what entity name he uses. The only people he can fool this way are the members of the public. One individual, Aaron Wissner, whose posts indicate he simply was concerned at what he saw at a mall and wanted to find out who “Tigers in Need” was, spent what had to be hours researching. Some of his information came from prior versions of this page, but much he obtained elsewhere. A URL to his research appears at the bottom of this page.

Joe’s Names. In addition to using his own name, Joe has performed his magic act using Joe Exotic, Aarron Alex, and Cody Ryan. Cody Ryan frequently performs as a duo with a man named Aaron Stone. Joe posts disparaging remarks about his critics under both his own name and Aarron Alex, and Aaron Stone has shown up with similar comments as a “volunteer” on at least one post.

Joe’s Accomplices. Joe has two accomplices in the subterfuge of his entity “name game.” One is Beth Corley. Joe has one USDA license. Beth Corley has her own license, registered at the same address as Joe’s, i.e. the G.W. Animal Park address. The other accomplice is Vicky Welch, spelled with a “y” in news reports, but with an “i” when Joe uses her name to register URL’s for the new names he makes up for the magic act and cub display. She travels with the show and has been referred to in the press as “road manager and animal caretaker” for Awakening Productions.

Are they all interconnected? It would take too long to give details on each here. We have built an excel spreadsheet sorting out his maze. Some names are registered as Trade Names of G.W. Exotics. Others are separate corporations. And still others are not registered at all with the Oklahoma Secretary of State nor show up on the IRS.gov site as nonprofits even though they claim to be.

Just for example, let’s look at one person and one entity.

Beth Corley. As mentioned, Beth has a USDA license registered at Joe’s address. Beth is referred to in an online news story posted by Joe as “Director” of Big Cat Rescue Entertainment. She is referred to by a reporter for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, IN as “Beth Corley, a worker with Big Cat Rescue” (failing to include the “Entertainment”). A report in The Telegraph on the exhibit at the Alton Square Mall in Alton, IL in July 2010 refers to “Beth Corley, co-founder of Welch’s Entertainment.” The Fremont Tribune from Fremont, NE on 1-28-10 refers to “Corley’s Exotics, run by Beth Corley of G.W. Exotic Animal Park.”

Tigers In Need. Now, let’s take one entity, or one name since it does not actually appear to be an entity, “Tigers In Need”. As of this writing, we could not find it registered as a Trade Name nor as a separate Corporation, so it appears to be just a made up name. One advantage, assuming that is intentional, is that it is difficult to know who “owns” it. Below is a list of some of the ways in which Tiger In Need is connected to the other entities and accomplice names:

1) The URL tigersinneed.org was registered 1/30/10. Before 7/29/10 the WHOIS report showed Registrant Name was “Tigers in need” and Registrant Email was Joe_Exotic@Yahoo.com. On 7-29-10 the registration was changed to show Registrant Name as Vicki Welch and Registrant Email left blank.

2) The tigersinneed.org website has a description that clearly is GW Park. It refers to being started in 1999 in Southern Oklahoma and having over 150 big cats. It says “Please note that we are a non-profit organization and are not affiliated with any other company”, when it clearly is the same facility as the GW Exotic zoo.

3) The “Contact Us” link at tigersinneed.org brings up “Florida Office 813-361-9611”, the same phone being used by Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.

4) The “Guestbook” link at tigersinneed.org contains comments from visitors to the Alton Mall in July. The Alton, IL newspaper, The Telegraph, reporting on the show at the mall, refers to the cats being “just a few of the 150 or so from the Tigers In Need refuge in Wynnewood, Okla. Welch’s Entertainment holds the tours…to raise money for Tigers In Need.” It quotes “Beth Corley, co-founder of Welch’s Entertainment.”

5) The Davis County Clipper 7-27-10 in Bountiful, UT refers to Welch’s Tiger Experience also being called Tigers in Need.

6) An event notice on the East Town Mall website was titled Tigers in Need formally (sic – formerly) Awakening Productions.

What kind of person creates a maze of entities like this, and for what legitimate purpose?

 

JOE’S FALSEHOODS

 

Joe and his employee Bobbi Corona have a total disregard for the truth that is remarkable. He says and writes whatever nonsense he decides to make up. PeTA identified statements about his breeding and selling that they show to be false at http://www.peta.org/features/gw-exotic-animal-trade.aspx

Here are some examples where Joe misleads or issues totally false statements:

Tigers In Need Nonprofit and Not Affiliated. His many names and entities and the deception that they foist on the public are discussed above. A number of his entities, like Tigers In Need, have claimed on their websites, literature and press reports to be “nonprofit.” They do not show up as registered trade names of a nonprofit, nor on the IRS site under their own names. G.W. Exotic Animal Park is a nonprofit, so maybe Joe thinks that any name he wants to call it by becomes a nonprofit, even when he is denying that the name is associated with GW. The other deception is the idea that these are not related. Tigers In Need, which clearly is just another name for the GW Animal Park, has on its website at this writing “we… are not affiliated with any other company”, an obviously false statement.  Then, in his depositions in our lawsuit, he did an about face and says that G.W. Exotic Animal Park, Tigers in Need and Big Cat Rescue Entertainment are all the same.  He claims he never intended to file Big Cat Rescue Entertainment as a separate company, it should have been a d/b/a.  This is in spite of the fact that he first registered it as a d/b/a, then redrew that registration and filed it as a separate corporation.

Howard Baskin cub display video. Howard Baskin, husband of Carole Baskin from Big Cat Rescue, went undercover at a tiger cub exhibit to get video showing the cubs’ distress and the exhibitor’s lies. He then made a video explaining in detail why these exhibits are abusive and provided details about the particular exhibitor involved and the poor conditions at her facility. The video included the video clip at the top of this page showing Joe’s cubs with diarrhea. You can see the 6 minute video at http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

What did Joe do? He issued a “press release” on PRLog claiming that Carole does not know that “her husband has been going behind her back to either pet or play with a baby tiger cub.” He quoted the owner of the exhibit, someone who says Joe “donated” a cub to her, as saying “Maybe this is how he gets his kicks since he cant (sic) get them at home…” So, Joe, Howard Baskin goes behind his wife’s back to pet tiger cubs, then makes a video and has her post it on the Big Cat Rescue website. Pretty darn sneaky of him. Surely she will never know. Does a truthful person of character post a press release like this?

Joe claims he is no longer the one displaying the cubs. This one is a gem. Joe recently started saying that people concerned about the abuse in the cub exhibit should leave him alone and are lying if they associate him with it because the cub exhibit is under the USDA license of another person. In a Facebook post 11/4/10 Joe says “I DON’T USE CUBS (his caps) anylonger (sic), all I do is Magic shows.”

Let’s think about that one. The USDA licensee is now not Joe. It is Beth Corley. But her license is registered at the same address as his and she has historically travelled with the show. Her connections to his various entities are detailed above. The proceeds of the show are still advertised as going to Tigers In Need, basically just another made up name for Joe’s GW Exotics Animal Park as shown above. So the show still benefits Joe’s zoo. But since the cubs are technically registered under his co-worker’s license Joe has nothing to do with the cubs show? Sure, Joe.

Breeding “A Select Few”. Joe says he breeds “a select few.” Were the 23 cubs that died mid 2010 a select few? He is constantly breeding to supply his road show. He can be heard in the PeTA video yelling at the cats to breed because he needed cubs for the road show.

Laws restricting private ownership cause abandonment. The GW Exotic website “About” page claims the laws banning private exotic animal ownership are the cause of the abandonment of exotics that Joe has to rescue. This is utter nonsense. New bans typically grandfather in private owners. But more importantly, it is private ownership that causes the abandonment. If private ownership were banned nationwide, which it should be like it is in many states and many other nations, there would be NO abandonment because no private owners would have them!

The steady increase in legislation banning private ownership represents recognition by our society that private ownership leads to massive abuse. Social values evolve. It took decades to ban slavery in England and for women to win the right to vote in America. Those ideas started out as “radical”, held by a small minority. Gradually more and more people understood and agreed until they became a part of our value system that we take for granted today. The same trend is happening with private ownership of exotics. Gradually more and more people are realizing that this simply leads to widespread abuse of these animals. The best evidence of this is the accelerating trend in state laws. Just since 2005 eight more states have passed some level of ban.

GW Exotic is “Accredited”. Joe says he is “accredited”.  He is accredited by United States Zoological Association. Tis is an organization Joe himself created in August 2008. The Registered Agent for USZA in the Oklahoma Secretary of State records is Joe Schreibogel.  When he set up the USZA.us website, he used his email address, but listed the Registered Agent as Brian Rhyne, a man who Joe’s own website said died in 2001.  In one fax Joe claims USZA has “nearly 2 million supporters,” another blatant lie.

What kind of organization is it? The USZA website has a page where people can list exotic animals they want to give away, sell or buy. On 11/7/10 the section listing cats for sale offered “baby white tigers” with the notation “great breed stock”. The sellers are only listed by a code. This code for this seller was “600 OK”. As in Oklahoma. Most likely Joe.

Joe refers to his park as a zoo.  The recognized accrediting body in the zoo industry is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Joe is not accredited by AZA.  Being accredited implies having been reviewed by some independent organization and found to have met certain standards.   Forming your own entity to accredit yourself does not qualify as “accredited.”

People Magazine cover.  On his Facebook page for “Joe Exotic” Joe shows “Cody Ryan” ( aka Joe) and Aaron Stone on the cover of People Magazine for “September 2010”, giving the impression they were actually on that cover. They were not.

Joe is Police Chief. On Examiner.com Joe says he “is a former police chief of the Colony Tx…”.

The Colony website http://www.ci.the-colony.tx.us/Depts/pd/PoliceHistory.html contains the list of past and present police chiefs below. The policeman we spoke with by phone at The Colony police department advised that Joe Schreibvogel was never an officer there.

Since The Colony was formed, it has had 6 Chiefs of Police:
Jim Beltran August 1977 to May 1978
John Steinseck July 1978 to September 1979
Nick Ristagno Jan 1980 to April 1990
Ted Gibson December 1990 to February 1992
Bruce Stewart December 1992 to September 1995
Joe Clark April 1996 to Present

Other places Joe mentions being an officer, then Chief, of Eastvale, TX, a small town of about 500 people that years later merged into The Colony.

Disparagement of Big Cat Rescue. Joe has become almost obsessed with disparaging Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue. He set up a website for this purpose. The “About” section contains the obvious lie that the site is written by “a group of independent reporters.” Sure, Joe.

In March 2010 he visited Big Cat Rescue as a tour guest, took photos, then captioned them with ridiculous lies. In September 2010 he visited again, this time taking a video of the tour. He made nonsensical comments into the microphone during the tour, including childish insults about the hard working volunteers he saw, then added captions with false statements like he did with his photos. He then flew low over the sanctuary for an extended period of time in a helicopter stressing the cats (not the act of someone who loves animals.)

A few examples of his false statements:

1) He questions the guide’s reference to Big Cat Rescue being accredited with a caption asking by whom. As he knows, the accreditation is by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries whose board is composed of members to the largest animal protection organizations.

2) He claims Carole is getting rich from the sanctuary. Carole has worked for 17 years without any salary or other compensation. In fact she donated the land, some investment properties, and made substantial cash donations. After 9/11 when tourism stopped and donations diminished she was selling her car and personal household belongings to pay for food for the cats.

3) He makes sarcastic, ridiculous comments about cage sizes and cleanliness that anyone who visits would realize are total nonsense. For instance, he shows a small portion of a cage and presents it as the entire cage. Or, he shows a structure made of small logs we built just for the cat’s entertainment and claims it is the den and the cat does not have proper shelter, when in fact the real den is nearby and Joe knows it.

Joe, using his alias Aarron Alex, misused the Care2 Petition site to post his photos and start a petition. Martha Hoffman, a person who had visited Big Cat Rescue a number of times, took the time to write to Care2 documenting the false statements. The last sentence of her first paragraph pretty much says it all:

“I am writing in regard to the BCR sanctuary and the accusations lodged by Aarron Alex. My husband and I are residents of Florida, living on the east coast. We have on numerous occasions visited the BCR participating in the different tours offered. Therefore we have walked the premises at different hours and NEVER have we seen anything in the context of what Mr. Aarron Alex has presented. He purposely distorts every single picture.”

To read the full text of her post where she explains the distortions in detail click here.

Finally, one of Joe’s more absurd posts implies that USDA does not do anything about his bogus complaints because “word has it that she (Carole) has a USDA person living on her property.” Sure Joe – and do Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa share a house with the mysterious “USDA person?”

Joe clearly does not have the slightest concern about whether what he says or writes is true. He makes up whatever he thinks will serve his purpose. The strange part is that he makes statements that are so obviously and outrageously not true. He does not even TRY to keep within the bounds of something that would make sense and be believable, except perhaps to his exotic animal owner following.

 

LACK OF FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY

 

Credible nonprofits display their financials to proudly show that they are good shepherds of their donors’ contributions. At this writing, none of Joe’s related entities have financial information on their websites. Some of the entities were formed too recently to have filed the required nonprofit IRS form 990, and the G.W. Exotics 990 for 2009 does not yet appear on Guidestar, so the only financial information available is GW Exotic’s 2008 Form 990.

For revenue, the 2008 Form 990 shows $501k in donations and $9k in sales of inventory. Expenses were $447k, with only $3k in salaries and only $48k in animal feed. If food was donated, it is supposed to be recorded as a “noncash” donation and included in the contribution number. So they spent $34/year per animal for food. This is not possible. And salaries of only $3k? Something does not add up. Meantime, Beth Corley is quoted in the press as saying it takes $60k/month to care for their 156 tigers, or $720k/year. They may have had fewer tigers in 2008, but what about the 1200+ other animals?

The 990 shows G.W. Exotic owning about $400k in Land, Buildings, and Equipment. But, this does not include the 16 acres the park sits on. According to county records, Joe owns that personally.

Joe says he displays the cubs to make money to support the park. He recently reported making a record $23,697 in five days. Imagine how many people had to handle these poor cubs in those five days to generate that. Think about how you would feel if that were a human baby. Is it really so much different for a tiger cub that at that age should be spending long hours sleeping just like a human baby?

 

COMMENTS AND RESEARCH BY OTHERS

 

Others have either done homework on Joe or posted comments that provide additional information.

PeTA. PeTA’s webite is referenced above. It mentions documents in which Joe has made false statements. It also provides a list of the other disreputable exotic animal breeders, exhibitors, etc. with whom Joe deals in his rescuing and placing of animals. See http://www.peta.org/features/gw.aspx  Joe repeatedly refers to this undercover work as “faked” or a “frame job,” which is absolutely absurd.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Joe Schreibvogel is one of the best examples in the nation of why private ownership of big cats should be banned. He has a history of abuse, breeds big cats adding to the number that live a miserable life in small cages, breeds and takes in more than he can financially support, and justifies the current abuse by saying he needs to do it to make money to support the other animals. He shows himself to be totally devoid of integrity and professionalism with his inappropriate photos depicting violence against his critics and by constantly posting material online that he knows is devoid of any semblance of truth.

Venues who host exhibits like this and the public who “pay to play” don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. We hope the information on this page helps. The best way to stop this form of abuse is to have venues and the public understand what really happens to these animals and choose not to support the misery Joe and those like him create.

Joe prefers to be a zoo rather than a sanctuary. Two individuals who say they know Joe say he has told them his goal is to be the “world’s largest” animal facility. But he could make a different choice. If Joe took all the time he spends online ranting untruths about those who object to his abuse of these cubs and devoted it to trying to learn the skills necessary to operate a real sanctuary, and if he focused on having a number of animals that he could reasonably support instead of being “the world’s largest”, he might be able to support his animals without having to abuse some to do it. No one who runs a real sanctuary will tell you it is easy, and Joe might not be able to do it. But that is not a reason to let him continue to breed and abuse generation after generation of innocent cubs.

 

PAGES REFERRED TO ABOVE

Marsha Hoffman letter to Care2 re Aarron Alex Petition disparaging Big Cat Rescue

TO: Care2

I am writing in regard to the BCR sanctuary and the accusations lodged by Aarron Alex.My husband and I are residents of Florida, living on the east coast. We have on numerous occasions visited the BCR participating in the different tours offered. Therefore we have walked the premises at different hours and NEVER have we seen anything in the context of what Mr. Aarron Alex has presented. He purposely distorts every single picture.

First, I would like to address the various tours / money making claim. To the credit of the BCR their tours are considerably smaller than those of other sanctuaries we have visited. Total number of people for day tours is 20 people. This is done so as not to upset the animals. The price of their tours are very much in line with other sanctuaries .. in some cases less. Public is NOT permitted to wander around outside of the tour as in other sanctuaries. While the tours do provide income, that money is used for the benefit of the inhabitants and the wonderful education provided by BCR in regard to exotic animals. I don’t understand this complaint. Seems to me they are just reaching for something that isn’t there to try to discredit this sanctuary especially because they charge for their zoo. BCR, like every other sanctuary, need income to provide for the care of the animals. He complains that Carole Baskin did not do the tour – as they are done by volunteers. Ms. Baskin has a sanctuary to run that is why she has volunteers do the tours.

Further Ms.Baskin’s only concern/interest is that of the welfare of the animals. The BCR is a true sanctuary. Animals are not exploited, do not do tricks, are not handled by the public etc .. which is in complete contrast to the “sanctuary” zoo Mr. Aarron Alex is associated with. See -http://www.gwpark.org/ – BCR on the other hand, is a quiet, peaceful place for animals to live out their lives as close to their natural habitats as possible.

As far as the pictures go I am appalled at the distortions. Pictures were taken of the animals close up and do not show full enclosures. Yes, several of the enclosures are round, but what Alex neglected to say is how large they are .. ranging from actually one full acre to smaller ones for smaller cats. Pictures of cats resting on rocks, or sitting in a hut/cave are close ups and do not show the background.

Examples of distortion and lies ..

1 – Cat sitting in small cage with water dish … This is the feeding cage. Every animal has it’s own cage to go to when their food is distributed. As a matter of fact, if one is at the BCR a half hour or so, before feeding, due to the schedule one would see animals sitting patiently in their feeding cage waiting for the feeding. Animals are given any necessary medications and carefully observed while in these small cages. Also it is at this time that keepers clean out the enclosures.

2 – Wild feral cats roaming around. This is absolutely not true. The domestic cats are all friendly felines who come up to people during tours for belly rubs, ears to be scratched and the treats the various volunteers/staff carry with them. I have never seen a feral cat in the area. If you look at the cat Alex has taken a picture of, you will see a very healthy animal, well groomed and certainly well fed. All domestic cats are taken for their shots and cared for/loved every bit as well as the big cats.

3 – Dead trees …. each year different organizations/stores donate unsold Christmas trees – this is simply to add variety to the enclosures and make them more jungle like. These trees bring new smells for the animals and offer something new to investigate.

4 – Poop in enclosures. We have never ever seen unclean enclosures. The staff is constantly cleaning and maintaining the enclosures. Again a factor for the small feeding cages. These cages lock while the animal is feeding and gives the staff ample time to maintain healthy clean enclosures. See point #1.

5 – There is a picture of a tiger lying by the side of the enclosure, but if you look closely, you will see green grass in the background and a pond. This is the “round” enclosure Alex speaks about ………however, he neglects to say it is one acre in size and has a pond for the tigers to swim in.

6 – Black big cat on a rock …. this is where the animal goes to sun himself – the entire rest of the enclosure is conveniently cut out of the picture. There are trees to climb, grass to roll in and a den to hide in ……..not in the picture though.

7 – He portrays huts/dens as horrible small caves where the animals huddle in. These dens or huts are usually in the middle of an enclosure and true to natural habitats of cats where they sleep, have their cubs and spend a good deal of their time. Once again he has conveniently eliminated the large area that house these huts/dens.

8 – There is a tiger lying down on it’s back, with all four legs in the air and belly exposed. What Alex evidently does not understand is that cats, wild or domestic will only take this position if they are truly secure and content. This position makes a cat very vulnerable to attack from a predator. Obviously this tiger is full of trust and totally comfortable in its surroundings.

9 – Three legged Serval. Desiree was rescued from the side of a road in AZ that way. Aarron Alex tries to make the reader believe that this happened to the Serval while it was at BCR ……..a bold faced lie!

I would like to invite you to visit http://www.bigcatrescue.org/videos and view the various videos they have about their sanctuary. You will see how it disputes everything presented by this man. Then go to …http://www.911animalabuse.com/00abusers/GWExotics.htm. Quite a contrast. In Aarron Alex’s write up which accompanies the petition he has the audacity to accuse the BCR of exploiting animals for money when his so called “sanctuary” does exactly that. BCR is not a show place – instead it is a true sanctuary for animals to live out their lives in dignity and peace. Enclosures are not done in glittering, elaborate circus like manner – instead they are done in a calm, tranquil, soothing way to exemplify the natural habitat of each animal.

I respectfully request that you remove this petition due to the untruths, deceptions and blatant distortions. Mr. Aarron Alex obviously went to there for the sole purpose of causing trouble. He knew exactly what he was doing and wanted to accomplish. Please don’t be a party to this sort of dishonesty.

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Posted on Sep 23, 2018 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Alexa Ray Alahouzos AKA AlexaRayWild

Alexa Ray Alahouzos AKA AlexaRayWild

Alexa Ray Alahouzos

AKA AlexaRayWild

This is the first time we’ve heard about this person, and all of the info below was provided by Animal Frauds Exposed, who we do not know personally, but the evidence was pretty convincing, so I am posting it here and asking that if you have further evidence, one way or the other, that you let us know in the comments.  What I do know for sure is that people show off with wild animals on social sites because ignorant people shower them with attention for it.  State and federal agencies move so slowly, if at all, that it is almost never in time to save the animals from years of abuse.  The following is a quote from a letter to us dated 9/23/18:

“Alexa ray Alahouzos, also known as “Alexaraywild” on instagram is infamously known for asking for donations via internet for her “wildlife rescue,” Sunshine State Wildlife Sanctuary. Problem is, she has multiple FWC charges in two counties in Florida. In 2017 she  pleaded guilty to animal neglect, to keeping foxes in a storage unit. She says it was “only for one day,” but there can be seen many photos on her account showing the animals in that place. She paid the fine and the case was closed.

She is currently facing 9 FWC charges for improper permitting and refusing inspection of an undocumented facility. Maybe one day she will change her ways and be a good example of how to do things the right way. For many “animal lovers,” this is the case. They have the right heart but neglect the rules and reality. But please keep an eye on those who use social media and wildlife for popularity! RESEARCH before you donate! We hope this post raises awareness to private wildlife facilities that are registered, but are not exactly true or legitimate conservation. Save your money and spread awareness!”

All of her records can be publicly found in Palm Beach County Court and Broward Court searches with the name “Alexa Ray Alahouzos”

https://www.browardclerk.org/Web2/CaseSearch

Alexa Ray Alahouzos AKA AlexaRayWild

Alexa Ray Alahouzos AKA AlexaRayWild

Alexa Ray Alahouzos AKA AlexaRayWild

 

 

 

Litter bug:

Storage unit fox:

Foxes LIVING on a condo balcony:

Storage unit foxes (look at the white brick walls)

Please expose this. She is a prime example like Mike Holston who misuses their platform to lie and steal. Please contact me for more info.

Thank you,  Animal Frauds ExposedAnimal Frauds Exposed”

Alexa Ray Alahouzos AKA AlexaRayWild MC_Docket Court copy

Alexa Ray Alahouzos AKA AlexaRayWild MC_Docket

Alexa Ray Alahouzos AKA AlexaRayWild-FWC

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Posted on Jul 30, 2018 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Dave Salmoni

Dave Salmoni

ACTION ALERT!

Tiger cubs should NOT be exploited by Animal Planet’s Dave Salmoni!

It’s happened yet again: a young tiger cub is being exploited and used as a television prop by Animal Planet’s co-called “big cat expert” Dave Salmoni. Just last week he brought a 2-month-old tiger cub named Olive on NBC’s Today Show as well as People Now, and perhaps other shows.

Dave Salmoni claims he is a conservationist. In reality he is a self-promoting big cat trainer from Ontario’s notoriously abusive Bowmanville Zoo, a private menagerie and breeding/training facility for performing exotic animals used in film, TV and circuses. The cubs Salmoni brings to television studios likely come from roadside zoos, unaccredited breeders or from Michael Hackenberger, Salmoni’s mentor and the disgraced owner of the Bowmanville Zoo, who was prosecuted for animal cruelty after investigators filmed him brutally whipping a young tiger 19 times during a single “training session.” “I like hitting him in the face,” Hackenberger says in the clip.

This is the type of person that represents Discovery Inc. and Animal Planet and is touting Project CAT, a project created by Discovery Inc. to promote Global Tiger Day? It’s sickeningly ironic that Salmoni is promoting awareness of endangered wild tigers by forcing a captive tiger cub to perform unnatural behaviors such as appearing on television shows and enduring bright lights and noise and petting by the hosts! And there is no tracking of what happens to these poor cubs after they are too big for him to exploit this way.

Salmoni claimed on the Today Show, as most breeders and exploiters of cubs do, that the mother tiger rejected Olive the cub. However, cubs used for petting and exhibition on television are usually snatched away from their mothers shortly after birth so they do not bond with their mothers and are more easily used as entertainment props.

By bringing self-proclaimed “experts” like Salmoni to cuddle endangered wildlife on-air, media outlets such as Discovery, Animal Planet, the Today Show and People Now are actually doing a great disservice to wildlife. Instead of fostering education, respect for animals, or concern for wild populations, viewers are left with the exact opposite message – that it’s okay to drag cubs around as television props.

So now we NEED YOUR HELP. Please speak up for little tiger cub Olive…we are her voice!

See Olive’s appearance on the Today Show:

https://www.today.com/video/kathie-lee-and-hoda-meet-a-baby-tiger-named-olive-1283337795716

Take Action Here:  Letter to the Editor

 

2018 Investigative Report on Dave Salmoni

In my opinion, Dave Salmoni is not a conservationist, behaviorist, or “animal expert,” but a big cat trainer from Ontario’s notoriously abusive Bowmanville Zoo, a private menagerie and breeding/training facility for performing exotic animals used in film, TV, and circuses. The cubs Salmoni brings to TV studios appear to come from Michael Hackenberger, Salmoni’s mentor and the disgraced owner of the Bowmanville Zoo, who was prosecuted for animal cruelty after investigators filmed him brutally whipping a young tiger 19 times during a single “training session.” “I like hitting him in the face,” Hackenberger says in the clip. Just a few months after that video was released, another clip emerged showing Hackenberger speaking almost gleefully about beating his animals. “I can carve my initials in their side,” he brags of his skills at whipping tigers. Later, speaking about a group of wolves, he shows off the wooden stick he uses to beat them. “You smack ’em, and they generally fold like a house of cards. And that’s the beauty.” A Bowmanville Zoo administrator later acknowledges Hackenberger’s violent training methods, stating, “You throw them down on the ground so they know who’s boss. That’s basically Michael’s way of working all animals.”

In a 2009 interview, Dave Salmoni reverently refers to Hackenberger as “one of the best cat trainers in the world—he put me in situations to teach me how to fend off an attack; how to gag a lion with a wooden crook and stop them coming forward, or if they are on top of you, the little skin fold in their lip where you can put your finger, and stop them from biting you. Over the years now, I’ve probably had a few hundred fights with captive lions, or good play wrestling, where you practice that gag, or block their teeth and learn the techniques.”

Leading big cat conservationists affiliated with legitimate organizations like Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society warn that Salmoni’s sensationalized, entertainment-focused “education” is impeding genuine conservation efforts and sending the wrong message to viewers.By bringing self-proclaimed “experts” like Salmoni to cuddle endangered wildlife on-air, media outlets are actually doing a great disservice to wildlife. Instead of fostering education, respect for animals, or concern for wild populations, this is the message viewers are leaving with:

In 2009, Salmoni filmed a show called “Into The Pride,” which featured him deliberately harassing wild lions in a Namibian national park in an attempt to “tame” them. Salmoni somehow believed that habituating the lions to people would make them less likely to come into conflict with humans, and told an interviewer that “those lions are unfazed by human contact, and that’s the way it needs to be.” Legitimate lion conservationists, who know that habituating wildlife to people is not a good thing, were furious. Dr. Luke Hunter, Executive Director of Panthera (the most respected big cat conservation group in the world)  wrote an article titled “Tormenting Lions for TV” where he chastised Salmoni for being a “self-absorbed ignoramus” and the program for being “self-indulgent baloney” and “made-for-TV nonsense [which] obscures the authentic and far more meaningful conservation efforts undertaken by thousands of passionate, anonymous professionals.”

Wildlife documentary producer Chris Palmer, the director of Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University, concurred;  calling Into The Pride “an example of a bad wildlife film” and explaining that Salmoni’s harassment of the lions “makes great television, but lousy conservation. The lions are being gratuitously provoked for the sake of ratings and in the process becoming frightened and needlessly stressed.” 

Salmoni seems to have also proven that he is equally ignorant about animal welfare. Remember that Miami high school which caused national outrage by using a clearly agitated, caged tiger as a prop at their promSalmoni defended the exploitation by claiming that being put on display at the prom was “enrichment” for the tiger — and was promptly criticized by a former zoo veterinary technician, who explained that “this was not enrichment, but a senseless act of cruelty and exploitation. You are clearly in the wrong line of work.”

Salmoni started working as a big cat trainer at the Bowmanville Zoo in 1998, where he apparently “really bought into” Hackenberg’s animal training.  In 2000, with two mixed-subspecies tiger cubs from the Bowmanville Zoo in tow, he moved to South Africa to join a tiger farmer named John Varty for an unscientific and fraudulent “tiger rewilding project.”  The project was filmed and aired on the Discovery Channel as a documentary called “Living With Tigers.”  The project involved training captive-bred tiger cubs to “regain their predatory instincts.”  Once the tigers proved that they could sustain themselves in the wild, they would be released into the wilderness of South Africa — where tigers are not native — to fend for themselves. Nobody with even a shred of conservation knowledge would consider this appropriate, and real conservationists have noted that since the tigers are not genetically pure, the project had zero conservation value. Animals 24-7 says of the documentary:

“The former Bowmanville Zoo trainer Salmoni and Dave Varty were repeatedly shown cuddling and playing with the tigers in a manner opposite to standard wildlife rehabilitation technique, in which contact with humans is minimized and discouraged. They towed dead antelopes behind a truck for the tigers to pounce,  conditioning the tigers to appear at the sound of vehicles  and perhaps, to stalk tourist jeeps. They kept a brother and sister tiger together until the female entered her first heat. They taught the tigers to hunt as a pack,  which no tigers do in the wild. They repeatedly took meat from the tigers to “show them who is boss,”  feeding them later in camp. This taught the tigers to associate human habitation with food. Eventually the Varty brothers proclaimed success in teaching the tigers to hunt, after the tigers killed seven springbok who had been released almost into their mouths.” 
John Seidensticker, chairman of the Save The Tiger Fund Council, and senior scientist at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, stated that

“The conservation community is pretty much opposed to this. It’s diverting funds that could be used otherwise.  “Our definition of conservation is securing a place for wild tigers where they live, not a place in Texas or South Africa. There are a lot of people who spent their lives, sometimes at great risk of themselves, to work on (tiger conservation). It is going to be a story, this whole thing, about how to not do conservation.”

After working with Varty’s bogus “conservation” scheme, Salmoni returned to North America, where he continued to cultivate fame as a network TV “animal expert” while maintaining an active relationship with the Bowmanville Zoo as a promoter, trainer and presenter of circus-style exotic animal acts.

If these media outlets are serious about saving tigers, they’ll stop promoting irresponsible, self-proclaimed “animal experts” like Salmoni and instead listen to the real conservationists who say that cuddling wildlife on TV is a con, not conservation.

 

Dave Salmoni Self Described Lion Man Harassing and Endangers Lions

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Watching lions as nature intended – from the safety of a vehicle
(Photo Courtesy of Panthera)

By Dr. Luke Hunter, Executive Director of Panthera

This week, Animal Planet kicked off the latest offering from likable Steve Irwin-wannabe Dave Salmoni. “Into The Pride” follows Salmoni as he attempts to prove that humans can live in harmony with wild lions. To do so, Dave scoots around the Namibian bush on a quad-bike looking for a close encounter with the big cats. You might think a 4-wheeler doesn’t offer much protection but, provided they’re not hunted or persecuted, lions quickly get used to vehicles. A vehicle acts just like a mobile hide which is why millions of people a year are able to enjoy extraordinary experiences watching wild lions from the safety of their safari jeeps and mini-vans in Africa’s great game parks. It even works with ATVs which disrupt the human silhouette sufficiently that Salmoni is on fairly safe ground — so long as he keeps his distance and stays on the bike. The problem is, that’s not daring enough for Dangerous Dave. When he finds the lions, he dismounts and, armed only with his shepherd’s cane, he walks up to them.

Understandably and predictably, the lions get pissed off. In one sequence from the series, Salmoni pulls this stunt with a lioness called Cleo, resting with the pride’s cubs and a gemsbok kill. Now, if someone asked me, how would I go out of my way to really aggravate a lioness, I’d tell them “threaten her when she is protecting her cubs. Or a carcass. Or, if you were an utterly self-absorbed ignoramus, both.” Cleo does what a million years of evolution have engineered her to do when faced with potential danger to her cubs — she charges. Dave shrieks a bit, high-tails it back to the ATV and scolds Cleo for her “inappropriate behavior.” Of course, it’s actually wholly appropriate — any wild lioness so gratuitously provoked is apt to do the same. Once he’s back on the bike, Cleo relaxes a little and backs off. Predictably, that only encourages this bushveld buffoon to try his luck again, and, again, Cleo comes like a tawny missile. She is upset, frightened and angry — all thanks to Salmoni who is determined to show us that, as he recently toldPeople magazine, he was ‘tougher than they were’.

What self-indulgent baloney. Salmoni repeatedly tells us his antics are necessary because these are aggressive problem lions that must be habituated for eco-tourism or they will be destroyed. That would be reasonable if he stayed with his vehicle, just as tourists, researchers, scientists, guides and park rangers do every day across Africa. None of these folks wander up to lions hoping to get cozy (well, occasionally they do but the ending usually isn’t pretty). If Salmoni was honest and respectful about habituating lions for tourists, he’d get them used to vehicles — it’s safer for both human and lion, and it wouldn’t provoke the same distressed fury from Cleo. Ironically, most of the first episode is taken up with encounter after encounter between Dave and his film crew watching lions from their Land Rovers. The tactic yields beautiful vision of lions being lions — Salmoni’s team cops a few baleful looks and one frustrated rev from Cleo when Dave drives too close, but nothing serious. But of course that doesn’t make good enough television so Salmoni makes sure he says ‘these lions hate vehicles’ a lot even after we’ve just watched shots of the cats doing little more than keeping a reasonable distance. And let’s not forget, Dave reassures us this is all in the name of “conservation” so it’s fine to crank Cleo’s stress off the charts.

And to what end? Even if Cleo eventually tires of charging this clown, all he’s achieved is to put her life more at risk. Lions co-evolved with our kind in Africa and generally do their best to avoid us. When wild lions see a person coming, they know enough to either disappear or give fair warning. Walking in the African bush, I’ve been the recipient of their low warning rumble a few times, like the sound of a tractor-trailer changing down gears. Lions tell people when it’s a good time to change direction because they want to avoid conflict. Episode 1 shows a textbook case from one of the males, Brutus, on Dave’s inaugural walk-in (niftily re-interpreted by our hero as the first step in Brutus’ ‘training’. Sheesh). Salmoni repeatedly forces these conflicts onto Cleo and her family in his puerile quest to show us who’s boss. If he succeeds, Cleo is actually a great deal more dangerous. Conditioned out of her natural, sensible instinct to keep people at a safe distance, her normal flight circle becomes perilously small. Someone — perhaps a lion-loving tourist who has seen the show — only need blunder into her and, faced with a perceived hazard at too-close-for-comfort range, she attacks. If it happens, the predictable outcome is that Cleo gets a bullet. Good work Dave.

The greatest shame of this made-for-TV nonsense is that it obscures the authentic and far more meaningful conservation efforts undertaken by thousands of passionate, anonymous professionals working in Africa today. They will never get the recognition that Salmoni craves and they certainly will never see anything like his pay check. But they are the reason that lions and the wild places they need will persist. Salmoni isn’t.

About the Author…
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Dr. Luke Hunter is the Executive Director at Panthera, the leading global nonprofit organization devoted to saving the world’s wild cat species from the diminutive black-footed cat of southern Africa to the massive tiger of Asia. Hunter has conducted fieldwork on large cats in Africa since 1992. His current projects include assessing the effects of sport hunting and illegal persecution on leopards outside protected areas, developing a conservation strategy for lions across their African range, and the first intensive study of Persian leopards and the last surviving Asiatic cheetahs in Iran.

Follow Panthera on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Pantheracats

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Posted on Apr 29, 2018 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

What does the media think about a Walk on the Wild Side?  Listen to this:

Sign this petition to make A Walk on the Wild Side: Transfer Animals to Reputable Sanctuaries Now!

Recent news about A Walk on the Wild Side

Feds Cite Big-Cat Exhibitor Over Transport of Infant Tiger Cub 

Cub petting Geoffroy's Cat A Walk on the Wild Side 2017(also known as Toucan’s Exotic Animals) is a traveling fairground exhibit and pseudo-sanctuary based in Canby, Oregon. It is owned and operated by Steve Higgs and Cheryl Jones. Although they are licensed as a nonprofit organization, claim to be a “rescue”,  and are legally permitted to house exotic animals confiscated by the state, they have admitted that they are not a sanctuary and do many things that responsible rescues would never do. These include exploiting tiger cubs for $30 photo-ops; breeding and buying animals for display at fairs; threatening and insulting those who criticize them; renting out animals for parties and commercials; and advocating for the “right” of circuses, roadside zoos, and private owners to own, breed, and exploit endangered species.

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

fair sign A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

Fair Exhibit A Walk On The Wild Side

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

 

Fairground tiger exhibit A Walk On The Wild Side

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

Geoffroy Cat A Walk On The Wild Side

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

Selling Photos with Cubs:

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

cub petting ad on website A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

Cub with open sore A Walk On The Wild Side

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

photo cub with injured nose A Walk On The Wild Side

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

tiny lynx cub petting A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

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

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

Struggling cub on news A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

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


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

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

Deliberately misleading “education”:

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

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

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

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

Animal Welfare Concerns:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Cheryl Jones walking tiger A Walk On The Wild Side

Cheryl Jones walking tiger A Walk On The Wild Side

A Walk On The Wild Side Weapons

A Walk On The Wild Side Weapons

injured lion on leash A Walk On The Wild Side

Injured lion on leash A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hostility towards critics:

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

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

Pro Circus A Walk On The Wild Side

facebook3 A Walk On The Wild Side

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

mocking critics online A Walk On The Wild Side

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

admitting theyre not a sanctuary A Walk On The Wild Side

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

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

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

Connections with roadside zoos and the pet trade:

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

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

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

 

A Walk on the Wild Side in the News

A Defiant Couple Is Caging Big Cats in the Portland Suburbs. Should Anybody Stop Them?
The animal lovers behind this nonprofit say they are farmers. What kind of farmers? Tiger farmers.

Customers, like these Jackson County fairgoers, can pay $30 to pose for photos holding tiger cub Zarah. Higgs says the photo ops help condition the cat to enjoy interacting with humans, and they help pay for the cub’s expensive formula. (Shelby Snow)

By Katie Shepherd |
Published July 26 at 5:34 AM  Updated July 26 at 5:34 AM

http://www.wweek.com/news/business/2017/07/26/a-defiant-couple-is-caging-big-cats-in-the-portland-suburbs-should-anybody-stop-them/

What is Cheryl Jones hiding?

Two months ago, Jones and her partner, Steve Higgs, moved much of their family business to an old horse farm outside Hillsboro. Parts of the 80-acre property can be seen just south of Highway 26, but most of the land is tucked behind the tree line.

“No Trespassing” signs line the half-mile gravel driveway. A metal security gate flanked by two stone lions blocks visitors from the farmhouse where Jones and Higgs have set up shop.

Jones and Higgs run one of Oregon’s odder nonprofits: A Walk on the Wild Side, a charity whose purpose, according to tax forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service, is “educational.” Its mission: to house exotic animals and transport them in a fifth-wheeler up and down the West Coast to county fairs and birthday parties. Higgs manages the business of the nonprofit. Jones is the self-taught animal handler.

Since their move to Hillsboro in May, Jones and Higgs have stirred up the largely rural neighborhood. A Walk on the Wild Side’s new home sits among properties that are typically more than 80 acres in size, and are home to blueberry fields and horse stables. But it’s also less than a four-minute drive to a McDonald’s and a Subway. In other words, it sits at the edge of regional planning agency Metro’s urban growth boundary.

A number of neighbors say Jones is a menace. Former neighbors say she keeps her animals in cages too small. Washington County planning officers say she’s flouting regulations. Her landlord, on the other hand, calls her a freedom fighter.

Jones herself? She says she and her husband are misunderstood. “Come and see us at a fair,” she says. “Come and talk to us. Don’t just think that we’re the most terrible people who walk this earth.”

Just don’t ask to visit their new home.

This much is certain: At dusk in Washington County, the roar of lions can be heard from more than a mile away.

KEEP OUT: No one is allowed to visit A Walk on the Wild Side’s property – making it difficult to know exactly what the nonprofit is keeping in its chainlink cages. (Daniel Stindt)
KEEP OUT: No one is allowed to visit A Walk on the Wild Side’s property – making it difficult to know exactly what the nonprofit is keeping in its chainlink cages. (Daniel Stindt)

That’s because Jones and Higgs are assembling one of the largest collections of big cats in the state. Their farm, a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland, holds nearly twice as many lions and tigers as the Oregon Zoo.

No government official has inspected the property since they moved the cats in. Jones and Higgs declined to allow WW to see the animals, saying the publicity could embolden regulators trying to shut them down.

For two decades, allegations of animal neglect and insufficient safeguards have dogged the couple—part of the reason they left their previous location, in Canby, 26 miles south of Portland along 1-5. But those complaints, often filed by neighbors, have almost never been substantiated. In fact, the couple have only once been cited for criminal animal neglect, in 2002, and the charges were later dropped.

Yet their new home could be short-lived, for reasons that stem not from animal welfare protections but land-use laws. In June, Washington County officials sent Jones and Higgs notice that the property they are now renting for A Walk on the Wild Side isn’t zoned for exotic animal exhibits. It can only be used as a farm.

Jones and Higgs, who have several decades’ experience dealing with adversaries, say—with completely straight faces—that’s exactly what it is. A farm.

And what are they farming? Tiger poop.

SORE SPOT: Zarah, a 3-month-old Bengal tiger, rubbed her face raw before the Jackson County Fair this month. “They rub,” says Cheryl Jones. “Some cats more so than others because they want to be out with you.” (Paul Steele)
SORE SPOT: Zarah, a 3-month-old Bengal tiger, rubbed her face raw before the Jackson County Fair this month. “They rub,” says Cheryl Jones. “Some cats more so than others because they want to be out with you.” (Paul Steele)

Zarah, a 3-month-old Bengal tiger cub, has spent most of her short life on the road: the Stockton County Fair in California, the Jackson County Fair in Southern Oregon, and Portland’s own Rose Festival.

Because she’s still so small—45 pounds, about twice the size of a housecat—she gets to sit in the cab of Jones and Higgs’ van and sleep with them in hotel rooms. Jones feeds her formula from a bottle.

At each stop, A Walk on the Wild Side charges fairgoers $30 to pick Zarah up from behind and hoist her into the air, like Simba being offered to the sun in The Lion King.

Jones and Higgs also take cubs to birthday parties and other private events, charging $200 to add a tiger to elaborate photo ops with partygoers dressed as Aladdin and Jasmine.

On occasion, they waive the fee. Mindy Hegstad’s son Jay is terminally ill with a rare genetic condition. Hegstad, who lives in Longview, Wash., called Higgs recently and asked if he would bring one of his big cats to Jay’s 11th birthday party on July 1. Higgs brought Zarah for free.

“This birthday was a miracle. We didn’t think he was going to make it,” Hegstad says. “Jay got to hold the tiger and feed the tiger its bottle. The tiger was just freaking adorable and so well-behaved.”

ANIMAL LOVER: Cheryl Jones has been in love with wild animals since she saved a seagull with a hook its beak at age 12. (A Walk on the Wild Side)
ANIMAL LOVER: Cheryl Jones has been in love with wild animals since she saved a seagull with a hook its beak at age 12. (A Walk on the Wild Side)

Cheryl Jones rescued her first animal when she was 12 years old and living on a Portland houseboat with her family, which had moved there from Pasadena, Calif. It was a seagull with a fishhook in its beak.

Ever since then, she’s been in love with wild animals.

Jones and Higgs look as if they could be twins: straw blond-haired, tanned and clad in matching black polo shirts with a lion and tiger embroidered on the breast pocket.

The pair met 37 years ago at a Portland riding stable. She had worked as an operations manager at horse and greyhound racetracks. He had studied to become a physician’s assistant but dropped out of school to take care of his kids when his first marriage fell apart.

When they moved in together in Sandy, people started bringing them farm animals. At first, it was donkeys, horses and goats that had been abandoned by their owners.

But in 1987, they took in a cougar from the litter of a friend’s cat.
“A friend of ours asked us if we would bottle-raise one of her cougars,” Higgs recalls. “It took off from there.”

A Walk on the Wild Side displayed a cougar at the Jackson County Fair this month. (Paul Steele)
A Walk on the Wild Side displayed a cougar at the Jackson County Fair this month. (Paul Steele)

Keeping a big cat is perfectly legal.

There are more tigers in American backyards than in the jungles of Asia. The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses about 2,600 animal exhibitors nationally, including roadside zoos, circuses and private rescue organizations. A Walk on the Wild Side is one of them—and has been since the early 1990s.

In 2011, Oregon lawmakers stopped issuing permits to people who wanted to own exotic animals as pets, after a number of high-profile escapes and maulings nationwide. But because Jones and Higgs were already licensed by the USDA, they were grandfathered in. Not only could they keep their animals, they could take in new ones.

By then, Jones and Higgs had settled in Canby, on 72 leased acres. They began taking in strays in earnest—both animals and people.

Jennifer McCall Ricke, a Clackamas County medical assistant, volunteered at A Walk on the Wild Side when she was a teenager in the early 2000s. She says Jones and Higgs would often provide lodging for their volunteers, many of whom were otherwise homeless.

“They’re good people,” she says. “Some people think that they’re not because of what they do, but you just have to get to know them.”

In 2002, Jones and Higgs brought home their first tiger, Shere Khan. And in 2009, A Walk on the Wild Side registered as a nonprofit. According to the nonprofit’s tax returns, no one takes a salary or stipend from the organization’s revenues, including Jones and Higgs.

HAVE TIGER, WILL TRAVEL: A Walk on the Wild Side advertises its many entertainment offerings on the side of a trailer it uses to haul aninflatable slide and other equipment. (Clackamas County photo.)
HAVE TIGER, WILL TRAVEL: A Walk on the Wild Side advertises its many entertainment offerings on the side of a trailer it uses to haul aninflatable slide and other equipment. (Clackamas County photo.)

The money that A Walk on the Wild Side brings in from fairs, parties and photo ops—between $250,000 and $350,000 a year in recent years—helps pay for care of the animals, Higgs says.

“These animals are like our kids,” says Higgs, who manages the nonprofit’s business side. “We’re not making money off these guys. All the money that we earn, that’s keeping these guys alive.”

Anna Frostic, an attorney for the Humane Society of the United States, questions whether A Walk on the Wild Side is a charity or just a hobby.

Frostic helped author a 2012 petition to the USDA asking for tighter restrictions on who may own exotic animals. She says A Walk on the Wild Side was mentioned twice in that petition for allowing thousands of strangers to hold, bottle-feed and pose for photos with baby tigers.

Frostic says A Walk on the Wild Side’s justifications—that it is educating the public and training cubs to embrace human interaction—was “a common song we hear from unaccredited roadside zoos across the country.”

Since 2009, Higgs and Jones have been dogged by complaint calls, often from neighbors going to the Clackamas County sheriff about undernourished horses and dirty cages. The sheriff’s office and Canby police say they have responded to 83 calls regarding the property during the past nine years.

“It is an unusually high number of calls for a single property,” says Deputy Brian Jensen.

In August 2009, Joanna Derungs, who lived nearby, called to report eight horses that looked too thin.

“I drove by there every day and saw the horses’ health deteriorate,” Derungs recalls. “I finally decided to do something about it. This was so obvious because the horses were getting sick and laying down and probably dying.”

Jones acknowledges that inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture came out to look at their horses several times after calls like that—but she was never cited for neglect. (She says sometimes she’d take in sick, undernourished horses to treat and fatten them up.)

SQUASHED: A Walk on the Wild Side’s tigers played with fruit fromthe pumpkin patch that Steve Higgs and Cheryl Jones opened each Octoberin Canby. (A Walk on the Wild Side)
SQUASHED: A Walk on the Wild Side’s tigers played with fruit fromthe pumpkin patch that Steve Higgs and Cheryl Jones opened each Octoberin Canby. (A Walk on the Wild Side)

In fact, records show Jones and Higgs have actually been cited only a handful of times by the USDA, for insufficient fencing, dirty cages and improper paperwork. Jones says all of those problems were minor and fixed.

By 2012, Jones and Higgs had accumulated several lions and tigers, letting the public come and view the animals in their cages for $5 per person. Many of their early visitors also came for an annual pumpkin patch.

One of those visitors was John Robinson, who came to the property in October 2013. He told WW he was so shocked by the conditions he witnessed—specifically, small, filthy cages—that he called the sheriff. So did another visitor, Christine Smith.

“The last Halloween trip we took the kids there, it wasn’t very clean,” Smith says. “There was a lion, I think, or a cougar, a bunch of different rodent-type things, birds, chickens, skunks, different types of wild animals. They were stinky and nasty-looking. I’m never going back there again.”

Clackamas County never found much to support the claims of animal neglect. But officials did start bugging Jones and Higgs about code violations.

In 2014, Andrea Hall and Kim Priest, code enforcement coordinators for Clackamas County, inspected the property. She found piles of garbage leaning against animal cages. The fencing around the bear’s cage had been built without a permit. A barn had been converted into a reptile house, but the electrical work for lamps that kept the cold-blooded animals alive was installed without a permit, had not been inspected and left wires exposed. People were living in two unlicensed RVs that the county deemed illegally occupied.

“I don’t think I’ve run into a case with such a variety of animals,” Hall now says.

Clackamas County officials captured shots of a tiger pacing up and down its cage during a 2014 site visit to A Walk on the Wild Side’s Canby property. (Clackamas County)
Clackamas County officials captured shots of a tiger pacing up and down its cage during a 2014 site visit to A Walk on the Wild Side’s Canby property. (Clackamas County)

Higgs says the violations were nitpicky and designed to unfairly target A Walk on the Wild Side. “She was just like a pit bull going after us,” he says. “If one thing didn’t work, then she would just come up with another thing.”

For more than a year, Clackamas County sent letters to Jones and Higgs about the zoning violations, which were upheld. By November 2014, the couple decided to shut down their public zoo and started traveling more often to county fairs, typically bringing tiger cubs and cougars.

About a year later, the Canby property they were renting was sold to a new owner. Fortunately, a wealthy patron had already invited them to Hillsboro.

LEASE ON LIFE: Clackamas tycoon Terry Emmert has become a landlord for A Walk on the Wild Side. “I think that organizations that help rescue animals are a plus to our society,” he says, “not a minus.”
LEASE ON LIFE: Clackamas tycoon Terry Emmert has become a landlord for A Walk on the Wild Side. “I think that organizations that help rescue animals are a plus to our society,” he says, “not a minus.”

He met Jones and Higgs at a local fair. When he heard they needed to move, he offered them a lease. And he says their battles with regulators in Canby motivated him to help.

“No matter what you’re trying to do, whether you’re trying to help kids or help animals, there’s always someone who is going to try to stop you these days,” Emmert says, sitting behind a conference table at his Clackamas hauling company, Emmert International. “No man’s life, property or liberty is safe while we have unrealistic regulations.”

MYSTERY FARM: From above, you can see the four houses and other structures on the old McKay Creek horse farm. But the tenants won’t permit visitors.(Google Maps)
MYSTERY FARM: From above, you can see the four houses and other structures on the old McKay Creek horse farm. But the tenants won’t permit visitors.(Google Maps)

In March 2015, a full year before Higgs and Jones began their move, Washington County officials say they informed their real estate agent that the land wasn’t zoned for wild animals—it could only be used as a farm.

Rita Howard, who has lived nearby on her family farm in rural Hillsboro since 1966, was aware of the restriction. Which is why she was surprised in May when she heard lions roaring.

“It almost sounded like a cow calling its calf,” Howard recalls, “but no, that’s not a cow.”

Standing on a neighbor’s truck bed, she realized it was the sound of big cats. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, are you kidding me?'” Howard says. “They were told they couldn’t move in there. How could that be?”

Cheryl Jones says the big cats are kept in smaller cages when visitors come to the property—for safety. (Clackamas County)
Cheryl Jones says the big cats are kept in smaller cages when visitors come to the property—for safety. (Clackamas County)

In early June, Tom Harry, a code enforcer for Washington County, got the first call about lions roaring nightly. He sent a cease-and-desist letter June 23 informing A Walk on the Wild Side that it could not keep wild animals.

Jones and Higgs’ attorney, Geordie Duckler, doesn’t dispute that the couple is keeping exotic animals in Hillsboro. But he argued to Washington County in a June 28 letter that the nonprofit may keep big cats on the property because A Walk on the Wild Side meets the legal definition of a farm.

“They’ve got livestock,” Duckler tells WW. “They’re raising poultry. They’re selling other animal products. They’re not operating like an attraction.”

To be considered a farm under Oregon law, A Walk on the Wild Side must produce an agricultural product. Duckler and his clients say they have one: tiger and lion dung.

A Walk on the Wild Side’s front entrance in Hillsboro. (Daniel Stindt)
A Walk on the Wild Side’s front entrance in Hillsboro. (Daniel Stindt)

“By raising these tigers, they of course have poop that [we] extract,” Higgs says. “That is being used by farmers to keep the coyotes out and the cougars out. They smell that scent, and they don’t want anything to do with a tiger.”

Higgs says he has a dozen clients buying tiger dung. Among them are cattle and sheep ranchers—but he says the biggest market is cannabis growers who want to keep pests out of their crop.

Steve Pedery, who studies native predators as conservation director for the environmental nonprofit Oregon Wild, doesn’t think tiger poop would help ranchers much. “I am dubious that exotic cat dung would do much to deter wolves or coyotes,” he wrote in an email. “In the case of wolves, I’d fear it might actually serve as an attractant.”

Washington County officials don’t have a ready answer for Jones and Higgs’ argument.

“This is the first we’ve heard about them selling manure,” says county land-use spokeswoman Melissa DeLyser. She says the county’s lawyer “would have to do some legal research to determine whether manure from an exotic animal is a farm use.”

In 2013, Jones told Clackamas County officials that A Walk on the Wild Side owned sheep, goats, miniature cows, alpacas, pigs, horses, donkeys, rabbits, cavies (a large rodent), birds, kinkajous, lemurs, monkeys, bobcats, servals, caracals, a lynx, a fox, tigers, lions, a leopard, and hundreds of reptiles.

Jones and Higgs tells WW that most of these animals have been moved to Hillsboro—including the big cats: seven tigers and five lions. (The Oregon Zoo has six lions and one tiger.)

They are seeking more.

Jones claims to have one of the world’s few purebred Barbary lionesses and and has partnered her with a mate, hoping for cubs. She says she’s talking with zoos that aim to preserve the species, including the San Diego Zoo. (Neither the San Diego Zoo nor the Association of Zoos and Aquariums had any recollection of Jones.)

Jones also says she is successfully breeding smaller cats like servals and Canada lynx, and other animals like cavies and wallabies.

“Sometimes we feel like, ‘God, we’re the only ones out there trying to do anything and help with this,'” Higgs says. “We’re working hard to make sure that our children’s children’s children are going to be able to see these cats.”

FAT CAT: A Walk on the Wild Side provided photographs of its animals, like Leo the lion. Cheryl Jones says Leo loves to play in old McDonald’s PlayPlace tubing. (A Walk on the Wild Side)
FAT CAT: A Walk on the Wild Side provided photographs of its animals, like Leo the lion. Cheryl Jones says Leo loves to play in old McDonald’s PlayPlace tubing. (A Walk on the Wild Side)

The couple is adamant that they are an open book. For almost two weeks, Higgs told WW that a reporter would be welcome to tour the farm, to see how carefully it’s being run. But last week, Duckler said abruptly that WW would not be allowed on the property.

When WW traveled to Jones and Higgs’ property this week to ask follow-up questions, a reporter was not allowed to view the animals.

Jones says that’s because they’re gearing up for a battle with Washington County and don’t want to give their opponents any ammunition.

“We’d love to have you,” she says. “I have nothing whatsoever to hide, but we’ve kind of got a gun to our head.”

Howard, their Hillsboro neighbor, remains worried.

“I’m an animal lover,” she says. “I’m just opposed to the sneakiness. To me, that means they’re hiding something.”

A Canada lynx at the Jackson County Fair. (Paul Steele)
A Canada lynx at the Jackson County Fair. (Paul Steele)

Jones and Higgs laugh at the idea that neighbors should be alarmed at the prospect of their tigers escaping.

“If they got out, they’re not going to go far,” Jones says. “They’re going to come to us. Tigers are the biggest chicken animals you’ve ever seen in your life.”

“We have Chihuahuas that will chase our tigers away,” Higgs adds.

A Walk on the Wild Side’s next exhibit starts July 26 at the Hood River County Fair. Next month, it’ll be a featured attraction at the Clark County Fair in Ridgefield, Wash.

Washington County planning officials say they still don’t know their next move.

This story is published in the July 26 print edition of WW with the headline, “The Tiger Farmer.”

(Joanna Gorham)
(Joanna Gorham)
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