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Posted on Apr 6, 2017 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Most Wanted | 0 comments

Doc Antle – T.I.G.E.R.S (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species)

Doc Antle – T.I.G.E.R.S (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species)

AKA Kevin Antle, Bhagavan Antle, Rare Species Fund, Preservation Station

USDA cites for recurring problems with ringworm on the tiger cubs.

RingwormAntle_2780343476975951961_o:

Ringworm is easily spread from infected cubs to those who touch them.

June 2016:  Kevin Antle’s pay to play scheme is is involved in a federal investigation.  The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has conducted 23 inspections at the facility since April 2013.  A USDA spokeswoman told WMBF News APHIS typically visits a facility once a year.  Businesses are visited more often if there is repeat noncompliance, or if complaints are filed.

The agency said it has 130 inspectors for about 10,000 facilities across the country. It largely relies on people who visit the facilities to point out any issues.

http://www.wmbfnews.com/story/ 32143305/myrtle-beach-animal- exhibit-under-federal- investigation

 

Overview

Exploiting tiger cubs. In our opinion, Kevin Antle (who calls himself “Doc” because he supposedly earned a doctor of natural sciences degree from the Chinese Science Foundation according to one report. Note that there does not appear to be a Chinese Science Foundation on the Internet) is one of the most notorious exploiters of tiger cubs in the country.  Antle operates two facilities in Myrtle Beach, SC that offer cub handling and photo ops for a fee.  One is a retail location called Preservation Station in a tourist area of town near the beach.  The other is his zoo or park.

He incessantly breeds tiger cubs to use to make money at these locations.  From what we are told by visitors, the cubs are taken to the retail location where they are subjected to being placed with and handled by person after person paying to have their photos taken with the cubs for a number of hours each day.  Then the cubs are taken back to the zoo, where they are subjected to more handling and photos.  Antle also takes cubs on the road to exhibit far from home at fairs or other venues, forcing the tiny cubs to ride long distances in a truck only to be  handled by person after person for hours to make money.

Cubs used by exhibitors to make money from handling are typically torn from their mothers shortly after birth, a torment to both cub and mother.  They are deprived of the comfort and nutrition of nursing and grooming by the mothers, subjected to unnatural levels of stress that lower their immune systems, and typically not allowed the natural amount and timing of sleep in order to satisfy customers.  For more about cub handling in general see Cub Handling Factsheet

Where do Antle’s cubs end up? USDA guidance states that cubs should not be handled at under 8 weeks of age because their immune systems are not sufficiently developed, and not handled at over 12 weeks because they are classified as “juvenile” and dangerous.  This creates a four week “window” during which cubs can be handled if exhibitors comply with the guidance.  (NOTE: We and other much larger animal welfare organizations have been urging to USDA to close this 8-12 week “window” by banning cub petting altogether to stop the widespread abuse of cubs used for petting.)

One visitor reported they were told by handlers that Antle starts using the cubs at 3 weeks of age, ignoring USDA guidance designed to protect the health of the cubs.  Even so, there is only a brief period during which the cubs can be handled.  So, Antle must steadily breed cubs to use in this money generating business.  But, according to his USDA census, he only houses 51 tigers at his park.

Where do all these cubs go when they are too old for him to use to make money? There is no way to know how many of these tigers end up living miserable lives in conditions compassionate people who care about animals would consider inhumane.  Per the report by TRAFFIC, the worldwide organization that tracks trade in exotic animals, the lack of tracking of tigers in the U.S. means there is also no way to know how many tigers end up being slaughtered for their parts to make “derivatives” like alleged medicines and tiger bone wine.

Visitors who have tried asking where the tigers end up tell us that they get evasive answers.  According to one Animal Welfare Act violation case and “Animal Underworld,” Alan Green’s excellent book exposing the illegal trade in exotic animals, that two of Antle’s tigers ended up in the hands of Mario Tabruae.  Tabruae was arrested in the late 80’s for heading a 10 year drug smuggling ring.  His Zoological Imports business was featured in Green’s book.  Some of Antle’s animals have ended up at GW Park in Oklahoma, another notorious exhibitor of tiger cubs.

Unsafe exhibition of adult tigers – USDA lawsuit.  Antle used to make money photographing visitors in close proximity to big cats with no barrier to protect the public.  In 2005 the USDA told him he was violating the safety rule that prohibits exhibiting without sufficient distance and/or barriers between the animals and the public.  Antle sued USDA claiming his procedures complied with the rules.  His case was so lacking in merit that he lost on summary judgment.  He then appealed, and lost again.  In our opinion, the idea that someone could safely stand within touching distance of an adult big cat is absurd because there is no way any “handler” can restrain a big cat that decides to attack.  Antle made his argument despite the fact that, according to reports, in 1991 one if his lions who was posing with a female model bit her  head resulting in 50 stitches and a $75,000 civil suit judgment against him.

Investigations, violations and injuries.  Antle has a 20+ year history of USDA and/or state agency investigations and/or violations including hitting tigers, injuries, transporting animals without proper health tests and papers and containing them in areas that were too small,  unclean, unsound and/or inadequate.  A chronology of those violations appears below.

Breeding ligers and tigons and color variations.  Antle is known for breeding hybrids between lions and tigers and color variations that do not occur in nature and have no conservation value according to experts.  Their only apparent purpose is to draw visitors to see what in our opinion are freaks.

Helping conservation?  Antle is a clever marketer who positions himself as making a significant contribution to conservation in the wild.  Visitors are given literature that may cause them to think that Antle makes a significant contribution to conservation.  Antle claims to have a “nonprofit grassroots organization” called the Rare Species Fund that donates to conservation in the wild.  In our search, we were unable to find an entity of this name listed as a nonprofit by the IRS.   We were not even able to find an entity with this name in South Carolina Secretary of State records.  It appears to be simply a fictional name Antle uses.  Antle’s brochure claims RSF is “among the world’s most effective conservation agencies.”  The literature says that since the founding of RSF in 1982 it has provided “more than $200,000 to wildlife conservation effort.”  This comes to less than $10,000 each year on average.  This is likely to be a tiny fraction of the amount Antle makes from his for profit tours and animal handling fees.  We are unable to find any financial reporting or disclosure related to this alleged entity.  One of the groups Antle’s literature says he works with as part of his alleged conservation work is the Feline Conservation Federation (FCF).  This is a group that advocates the private pet ownership of exotic animals that we believe leads to many animals living in what we consider to be miserable conditions and creates danger to the owners and public.

Tiger escape.  Antle used to also keep a few tigers and other animals at Jungle Island in Miami.  In August 2010 one his tigers escaped, sending visitors scattering.  Fortunately the tiger was recaptured without anyone being attacked, although a news report indicated four people were treated for minor injuries.  Antle was cited by USDA twice in the months following the escape for continuing to keep tigers in an inadequate enclosure.  It appears from our research that by January 2012 he had transferred ownership of the animals to another licensee and did not renew his permits to keep animals in Florida.

Lies regarding critics.  Because exploiters of tiger cubs have no true basis for justifying their mistreatment of the animals, they typically try to discredit critics with false statements about the critics. Antle is no exception.  Big Cat Rescue in Tampa has made exposing what we view as abuse of tiger cubs a priority.  In response, Antle makes false statements and points to websites set up by other exploiters containing false statements about Big Cat Rescue and Founder Carole Baskin.  Among his lies have been claims that he is the copyright holder of photos Big Cat Rescue posted to expose his operation.  When challenged under the provisions of the Digital Media Copyright Act, Antle was unable to back up his lies and the images were reinstated.

What is it like to work at T.I.G.E.R.S.?

Barbara Fisher spent 8 years in the cultish compound and says, “So why didn’t I just leave? Why don’t the suicide bombers quit before they are forced to kill themselves? It’s not like they are forcing them to stay; they choose to, right? Well, this is very easy to say but very hard to do in real life. When so much of an individual’s identity is invested in an extremist group, leaving can mean losing everything: property, people, identity, accomplishment, and years and years of work.” Read the rest of her story here:  http://iowainformer.com/commentary/2017/03/bhagavan-doc-antle-rolling-stone-tigers/

 

Chronology of Citations/Investigations/Escape/Injuries from news reports and government documents

Nov 16, 2010 cited again for tiger enclosures that were no different from the one that enabled an escape in Aug 2010.

Sept 10, 2010 cited for failing to house the tiger who had previously escaped in a cage that was any different from the one he had escaped from on Aug 28.

Aug 28, 2010 Visitors to Miami’s Jungle Island were treated to a scarily authentic experience when a tiger sprang from its pen at the tropical tourist attraction.  Hundreds of terrified guests ran for safety when the big cat, known as Mahesh, broke out of its enclosure. According to MSNBC, the 3-year-old tiger spent an hour enjoying its newfound freedom before being recaptured.

June 8, 2010 failed to have a person of legal age available at Miami’s Jungle Island site to let the USDA inspect the facility.

May 10, 2009 As an example of where Antle’s tigers end up, in AWA Docket No. 09-0085 the judge found that Bhagavan Antle released two tigers to Ray Thunderhawk, who had already lost his USDA license  and who had abandoned 75 tigers in Palm Bay, Florida.  Thunderhawk ran a “pay to play” operation whereby patrons pay to pet and pose with big cats and he took the two tigers from Antle in S.C. to Boston before taking them to the buyer in Miami.  The buyer was Mario S. Tabruae of Zoological Imports 2000 located at 16225 SW 172 Av Miami, FL 33187.  Tabruae admitted to falsifying records to make it look as if he had purchased directly from Antle and that Antle had delivered the tigers.  Dec 12, 1987 New York Times reports that Mario S.Tabruae was arrested for:

A drug-smuggling ring that killed an informer and cut up his body while trafficking in a half-million pounds of marijuana has been broken, the Federal authorities said today.  The ring also bribed police officers to protect their operation, said Richard Gregorie, the chief assistant United States Attorney here. At one time, the indictment charged, members of the ring used Miami police officers to collect, count and disburse drug profits.

The ring operated for at least 10 years, smuggling the marijuana, along with some cocaine, into Louisiana and Florida, Mr. Gregorie said.  Six of the seven people indicted in the case were arrested here by a special Federal law-enforcement group combatting drug smuggling. The seventh was in custody in another state. $50,000 Caught by Agent Among those arrested were the men who the authorities said headed the ring, Mario Tabraue and his father, Guillermo. When the men were arrested at their homes in Dade County, Mario Tabraue’s wife tossed a bundle of $50,000 in cash out the back window, said Lloyd E. Dean, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation here. The money was caught by a Federal agent, Mr. Dean said.

December 1994 Antle was fined $1000 for transporting a bull and cow without proper health tests and papers. He was also cited for night boxes that were too small for zebras, wolf hybrids and tigers.

July 6, 1994 US Department of Agriculture investigation for failing to supply proper travel papers in Kodak, TN in Sevier County.  Antle was also associated with a second investigation into the legality of whether interstate transportation and exchange of baby tiger cubs. Antle was also under investigation because one of his tigers bit a trainer who was visiting Antle’s Buckingham Zoological Park in Virginia.

Dec 1993 transporting a bull and cow without proper health tests/papers in Kodak, TN in Sevier County

May 1992 Sharp wire was at the top of the zebra fence.

Nov 1991 An electric cord from a space heater dangled within reach of an elephant.

Oct 11, 1991 charged with hitting his tigers in Carver, MA in Plymouth County.  Antle and his handlers were seen hitting wild cats at a fair according to the Animal Rescue League of Boston.  Antle stated he hit the tigers when they became too aggressive.

Another investigation found that Antle allowed people to have their pictures taken with the animals, failed to list a cougar among the animals he brought to the state and had overstayed his permit according to Tom French, assistant director of the Massachusetts Division of Wildlife.  Antle at that point was asked to leave Carver, MA within 24 hours.

According to one report, Antle returned to Massachusetts without the knowledge of wildlife officials under the guise of other company names, and at the time that led the Massachusetts wildlife department to declare that it would not issue any more permits to Antle.   However, they apparently have, since he reportedly has been performing at a fair there for decades.

Oct 9, 1991 lion named Arthur bit a model during a photo shoot requiring 50 stitches in Manchester, NH in Hillsborough County.  Antle allowed a Konica lion named Arthur to pose for pictures with a Bedford, NH model.  Shannon Audley, 23, of Bedford, NH was injured when the 6-year-old lion opened its mouth and clamped down on one side of her head. Audley’s head was cut, and she was admitted to Catholic Medical Center where she needed more than 50 stitches to close the wounds to her head and was hospitalized for about 5 days.  Audley also had to undergo a series of rabies shots because Antle left the state with the lion and it couldn’t be determined if the lion had received a rabies vaccination.

Audley was awarded $75,000 in her lawsuit against Antle, under a default judgment.  A default judgment is entered when a defendant takes no action to contest a claim against him.  Audley was seeking $250,000.  Audley also filed a suit against Bill Melton, the Manchester, NH photographer, but the court dismissed that action.  Antle claimed the model was cut falling off a platform.

Sept 1991 The pit of a young zebra was called inadequate and exposed nails were found in animal enclosures in at least 2 inspections.

Aug 21, 1991 Antle was assessed a $3500 penalty to avoid litigation over 7 alleged violations, including animal enclosures that were unclean and structurally unsound and supplying incomplete travel and identification records.  He did not have to admit innocence or guilt as a result of the order.  Kodak, TN in Sevier County  As of July 14, 1994 the penalty has not been paid.

July 1991 Antle was cited for unclean and unsound animal enclosures, incomplete travel and ID records. Monkeys were kept too close to coyotes and a baboon across from a jaguar.  An exhibit site for an elephant had no way of preventing the animal from entering a highway if it got away from the trainer. Kodak, TN in Sevier County

1991 Antle came home from his tiger roadshow to an outstanding misdemeanor warrant issued by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.  It charges him of letting a tiger come in contact with the general public at a 1990 bodybuilding contest in Sevierville. It was served on him and carries a $50 fine if he’s convicted.

December 1989 Federal inspectors find zoo vacated with deer and peacocks left behind in Buckingham, VA

###

Antle Tiger Escape at Jungle Island August 2010

August 29, 2010 Miami, FL: Visitors to Miami’s Jungle Island stampeded over each other to avoid an escaped, 3 yr old, 500 lb. tiger named Mahesh. A monkey escaped while being transported through the zoo and 500 lb. Mahesh bounded over the 14-foot fence into the public area according to the Miami Herald. The attraction’s three big cats — which include a liger and a white tiger — have been confined to a “night kennel,” while the park investigates. “We were really scared. There were people crying,” Miami mom Dorothy Evans told the Herald, adding that people knocked each other down as they sprinted toward the shelter. “People were running for their lives,” Larry Rhodes, 46, of Pompano Beach, told the Sun Sentinel. Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Ignatius Carroll told the Herald that several people were injured while running, including a mother who fell on top of her 15-month old baby. Another guest was taken to a Miami hospital after suffering a panic attack.  Bhagavan (Kevin) Antle, who also owns T.I.G.E.R.S. in Myrtle Beach, SC and who is the owner of Mahesh, was charged with one count of maintaining captive wildlife in an unsafe condition, resulting in threats to public safety. Park owner Bern M. Levine was charged with two second-degree misdemeanors for conditions resulting in the animals’ escape. The charges for both men have a maximum penalty of $500, FWC officer Pino said. Source Time and others.

About Antle in the book Animal Underworld

Page 35 of Alan Green’s book Animal Underworld: “An animal handler who has claimed to also own an Exxon tiger is Bhagavan Kevin Antle, who was an assistant to Jack Hanna during his appearances on Good Morning America and Late Night With David Letterman. Known alternatively as Kevin Bhagavan, Kevin Antle, Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle, Ghagavan Antle, and Dr. Kevin Antle (he supposedly earned a doctor of natural sciences degree from the Chinese Science Foundation), Antle also claimed to own the MGM lion, even though Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. sent him a cease-and-desist letter, and he implied in his literature an affiliation with Greenpeace, until he was told to cease and desist. Antle is a self-described big-cat conservationist who presides over The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS), which operates a mobile petting zoo, leases tigers for TV commercials, and charges people at shopping malls and festivals to have their pictures taken with an animal. Antle hauls around a crossbred lion and tiger to such places as casinos in Biloxi, Mississippi. He is also known for owning a lion that, in 1991, had to be pulled off a terrified model during a photo shoot in Manchester, New Hampshire. That same year, the federal government charged Antle with repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including substandard housing for big cats, and to settle the charges he agreed to pay a $3,5000 fine. He was also cited in Massachusetts that year for illegally displaying his cats, and he was threatened with arrest and confiscation of the animals if he didn’t immediately leave the state. What’s more, Antle was the target of an unsuccessful 1991 Tennessee lawsuit regarding his alleged beating of a Bengal tiger with a wooden shaft.”

Antle Claiming to be an M.D.

In an article he wrote for the Phoenix Exotic Wildlife Association in 2005 Antle claimed to be a medical doctor saying, “I still think this is your right to have your own tiger and to be killed by your own tiger. Just keep it in a cage forever and don’t let anyone else near you or watch you have it happen. I know this rambled on a bit but I was trying to make several points that are hard to explain. I often say that as an MD., I can talk you trough [sic] taking out someone’s kidney, but I can not talk you through tiger training. You have to live it to understand it. Dr. Bhagavan Antle”

1991 News Article

Antle, 34 and his high-profile business are in the middle of an ongoing animal-rights debate.

Antle, whose full name is Mahamayavia Bhagavan Antle though he has gone by the name Kevin, is an animal trainer who supplies trained animals for advertising, commercials, film work and shows.

He opened the park on Bryan Road within site of Interstate 40 in late May. It is open to the public.  It houses dozens of animals ranging from tigers to lions, to wolf hybrids, an elephant, primates and some deer. Antle said he also has some animals in Korea, where he has been working on a show involving trained animals for a resort.

Animal-rights advocates say he routinely doesn’t follow federal animal welfare regulations.

Among the charges leveled by regulators and animal-right groups are that Antle doesn’t provide proper shelter for the animals, doesn’t give them enough access to water, gives incomplete records to federal and state officials and allows the public to come in contact with the dangerous animals.

Animal-rights activists said Antle cares little about the animals or the public.  They believe Antle beats, mistreats and drugs the animals to make them act domesticated for commercials, television, movies and his shows.

“He’s out there to make money and that’s all he’s out there for” said Sue Pressman, a West Virginia zoo consultant who helped write the Animal Welfare Act and who gave a critical inspection report of T.I.G.E.R.S in August 1991.  “He needs to go to jail” stated Pressman.

“It’s a lie the United States Department of Agriculture comes here all the time to inspect us,” Antle said. “The USDA’s sole purpose in life is sanitation.”

But Sue Pressman, a consultant for P.A.W.S., the Performing Animal Welfare Society who toured T.I.G.E.R.S. on Aug. 3, said it was rife with violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.

“We went through and there were lots of problems,” said Don Elroy, co-director of the Tennessee Network for Animals, which invited Pressman to the area. She is a former longtime director of Captive Wildlife for the Humane Society of the United States.

Among the problems Pressman said she found were a host of sanitary (violations, a dangerously low perimeter fence that might allow animals to escape, a fence enclosing tigers that is configured in a way that could allow the cats to climb out and an elephant chained without shade and water.

Elroy said there are also questions the group has about the registration of some of Antle’s animals. He said a lot of the problems are already laid out in previous USDA inspection reports of the facility.

“We want to see some demonstration of compliance,” Elroy said. “He’s not trying to improve the facility.”  Elroy also questioned how the USDA could give Antle a license until he was in full compliance with all regulations.

Antle, however, countered that T.I.G.E.R.S. was licensed by the USDA in May and that USDA veterinarians were back inspecting the facility only a few days before Pressman was there.

He said that groups like P.A.W.S. are against him no matter what.  “No matter what our facility looked like, the lady would have complained,” Antle said.  He also displayed the USDA exhibitor license for T.I.G.E.R.S. and copies of USDA inspection reports on May 21, 1991, and July 16, 1991.

“A few days before that lady was here, they (USDA) made an inspection, and nothing was said about sanitation,” Antle said. “And these men were experts.”

The USDA issues the permits for parks like T.I.G.E.R.S.  “The USDA says we pass unequivocally,” Antle said. “They said they want us to fix water bowls. They said our weeds were higher than they wanted.”

The USDA inspection report on July 16, which Antle provided to a reporter, lists two pages of handwritten recommendations of corrections.  Inspection reports dating back to 1988 for Antle-owned facilities – he also owned Buckingham Zoological Park in Buckingham, Va. – have similar lists.

Despite all of this Antle has never lost his license to exhibit animals.

Reference:
The Knoxville News-Sentinel
The Union Leader
Knight Ridder
Tribune News Service

 

Video Exposing Treatment of Circus Animals

 

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Posted on Dec 5, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Most Wanted | 2 comments

Big Cat Habitat Kay Rosaire Clay Rosaire Circus

Big Cat Habitat Kay Rosaire Clay Rosaire Circus

Five Generations of Circus Acts that Exploit Tigers and Other Big Cats

Rosaire Taunting Tiger with Baton

Rosaire Taunting Tiger with Baton

You can pretty much tell how much a person has to hide by how many names they operate under.  Finding USDA reports on this facility and the Rosaire family has been one of the hardest because they keep changing names, changing locations and changing license numbers.  To further exacerbate the situation Rosaire uses a P.O. Box for her USDA entity that houses the big cats making it hard for the average person to find anything on her without knowing her USDA license number.  The following is just the beginning of an effort to bring all of their past into one time line to the best of our ability given the lack of government oversite and dismal record keeping.

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of this research has been how the public can pay to see her forcing the cats to perform and then believe her when she claims that her tigers were rescued.  She rescues from herself.  They are tigers bred by her for use as props who are then relegated to tiny, barren cages.  Most of these only have a tarp for shade.  In 2009 she claimed on her USDA renewal to have 18 tigers, 8 lions, 2 leopards, 1 cougar and 1 bobcat as well as an assortment of other exotic animals.  If you go to her facility you will see that all of these animals are crammed into a very small patch of her property.

Her inspector is Richard Botehlo who rarely reports anything wrong at her facility.  See the whistleblower report filed against USDA by Richard Botehlo below and you will begin to understand why inspectors do not report most of the violations they see.

 

Photos by Dee DeSantis

USDA Violations

2009 March 19 Rosaire license 58-C-0908 cited for failure to properly identify the dogs and failure to provide proper storage of their food to keep it free of vermin.  A dog was being housed in 4.8 square feet of space when the USDA minimum for a dog his size was 6.67 square feet.  USDA regulations only require that the animal be able to stand up and turn around in their cages and Rosaire was not meeting even this barest of minimums.

2009 May 19 Pamela and Roger Zoppe have their USDA license 58-C-501 cancelled.  Their DBA and address at the time was Rosaire-Zoppe Chimpanzees 5317 Fruitville Road #175 Sarasota, FL 34232

2009 June 22 Pamela and Roger Zoppe pop back up with a new USDA number at the same name and address 58-C-0936

2009 July 7 Rosaire license  58-C-0387 cited for three violations including a freezer that was not working properly where animal food was stored, bears being separated only by use of hot wire where they could reach through and harm each other and bears being kept in such small cages that they could not get out of their own excrement.

2009 October 13  Rosaire license  58-C-0387 cited that a young bear was being kept in a cage where he could not freely stand up and turn around, which is all that the USDA mandates.

2010 June 19 Rosaire license 58-C-0908 cited for one performing dog having an untreated cut above his eye, and 7 dogs being forced to perform in temperatures above 85 degrees (regulation restriction) where the heat index was 107 and one dog was being kept in a cage that only measured 9.69 sf of floor space with USDA regs require 12.25 sf of space.  The dog was 3 feet long, so even the minimun requirement was only 3 feet by 4 feet.  Rosaire wasn’t even providing the barest minimum of space.

2010 September 25 Rosaire license 58-C-908 cited for a repeat violation of not properly identifying dogs with license tags.  The reason USDA regulates this sort of thing is to prevent “bunchers” from stealing dogs and selling them to labs for experimentation.

UniverSoul Circus does not possess an exhibitor license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The animals are leased from outside companies, including Tarzan Zerbini Circus, Carson & Barnes Circus, Kay Rosaire, Bucky Steele, Rosaire-Zoppe Chimps, and Mitchel Kalmanson, so that the pages and pages of cited violations they have incurred are obscured through multiple owners, names and entities.

Rosaire’s Known Licenses and Aliases

Florida 3092 58-C-0387 Rosaire, David David Rosaire’s Perky Pekes P.O. Box 50094 Sarasota 34232 license issued 6/1998

Florida 2998 58-C-0496 Rosaire, Ross Derrick & Kay Rosaires Bears Po Box 346 Myakka City 34251

Florida 9309 58-C-0769 Rosaire, Wayne Rosaires Royal Racers Po Box 338 Bostwick 32007 this is for 14 racing pigs

Florida 3121 58-C-0367 Rosaire-Mowrey, Kay Rosaire-Mowrey Family P O Box 50217 Sarasota 34232 license issued 10/1990

Florida 6648 58-C-0608 Zoppe, Andrea 3074 Myrtle Sarasota 34234 last inspection was in 2008 for 6 dogs

Florida 13162 58-C-0908 Zoppe, Dallas 3115 44th St Sarasota 34234

Florida 3009 58-C-0501 Zoppe, Pamela & Roger Rosaire-Zoppe Chimpanzees Rosaire-Zoppe Chimpanzees Sarasota 34232

Florida 3009 58-C-0936 Zoppe, Pamela & Roger Rosaire-Zoppe Chimpanzees Rosaire-Zoppe Chimpanzees Sarasota 34232

Florida 3175 58-C-0868 Arneberg, James Arnberg Super Dog Show 7101 Palmer Blvd Sarasota 34234 this is the physical address for the tigers

Florida 32030 58-C-0832 Dymek, Kazinerz Party Animals Petting Zoo Llc 901 East Rd Sarasota 34240 SunBiz registered to Rosaire no inspection since 2009

The following are USDA licensees in Sarasota that may or may not be affiliated with Rosaire. These are still being evaluated.

Florida 1874 58-C-0012 Zerbini, Alain Alain Zerbini Circus Production 3327 51st St. Sarasota 34235
Florida 40523 58-C-0886 Svensson, Carlos 7419 Prospect Rd Sarasota 34243
Florida 7398 58-C-0629 Castano, Raul Swap Shop 151 Verna Road Sarasota 34240
Florida 32762 58-C-0905 Creadon, Peggy Pony Parties Of Sarasota 7034 Westwood Dr Sarasota 34241
Florida 3883 58-C-0788 Donoho, Georgina P. O. Box 1418 Sarasota 34230
Florida 38355 58-C-0878 Esqueda, Alfonso Sulo Esqueda Brother Circus 935 N Beneva Rd S609 #43 Sarasota 34232
Florida 38122 58-C-0876 Fornasari, Tosca 3322 Oak Grove Dr Sarasota 34243
Florida 33721 58-C-0845 Garcia, Katherine Star Family Circus 2621 Ridge Ave Sarasota 34235
Florida 18946 58-C-0753 Juchno, James 745 N Pompano Ave Sarasota 34237
Florida 10034 58-C-0664 Klose, Hans & Adele Adeles Canine Review 4600 Sloan Ave Sarasota 34233
Florida 20089 58-C-0852 Markov, Andrey 5136 Indian Mound St Sarasota 34232
Florida 31471 58-C-0841 Maya Panfilova, Andriy Bilobrov & 2250 Gulf Gate Dr Suite A Sarasota 34231

 

More on Kay Rosaire http://reporter.911animalabuse.com/service/searchEverything.kickAction?keywords=rosaire&includeVideo=on&includeAudio=on&includePhoto=on&includeBlog=on&includeUser=on&includeGroups=on&includeMessages=on&includeSets=on&as=23072&sortType=relevance
Kay Rosaire and her son Clay Rosaire do not rescue cats, but rather are a part of the problem rather than the solution. They do not walk the talk and these pages will tell you more about them:

http://reporter.911animalabuse.com /kickapps/service/searchEverything.kickAction?keyw ords= rosaire&includeVideo=on& amp;includeAudio=on&includePhoto=on&includ eBlog=on&includeUser=on&includeGroups=on&a mp;includeMessages=on&as=23072

 

This is nothing more than an antiquated “carnie” circus.

Thankfully, in this more enlightened age of animal compassion, the market for these animal abusive displays is dwindling. Most people realize that there is nothing “educational” about seeing infant or adultwild animals caged, transported from venue to venue, “tamed” using abusive methods, existing solely as a profit center for a business.They watch Animal Planet, they visit truly accredited rescue sanctuaries, they are more aware of the reality of life for these imprisoned animals. In short, they are more educated and will look at anyone promoting them as irresponsible. (please note below the negative publicity that fairs have received as a result of displaying captive wildlife from leased organizations and the truth behind these displays)

Kay Rosaire ‘s organization is not accredited and has been cited by the government for the abusive conditions in which their animals are kept. At a USDA Big Cat Symposium in Fort Worth, Texas on March 26, 2003, Kay Rosaire made this statement on stage: “To keep a tiger off you, you just poke ’em real hard with a pitchfork a time or two and show ’em who’s boss. Then they’ll get the message.”

These two articles will give you background on what the Rosaire ‘s are really about.

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/ s/0articlesbybcr/2008DyingToBeHeld.htm

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/circus tigers.htm

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/ s/0articlesbybcr/claws_and_effect.htm

The animals have no voice, but you do, and you can still do so much to put an end to their abuse.

 

USDA Whistle Blower Report

January 5, 2005

Richard Botelho Jr, Animal Care Inspector for the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant Heath Inspection Service, Animal Care agency, has filed a whistle blower complaint against USDA with the US government “Office of Special Counsel,” dated January 4, 2005.

As an animal care inspector and citizen of the United States, Richard Botelho Jr, believes the public needs to be aware of the prohibited practices by the Animal Care’s management at the eastern regional office. The OSC whistle blower complaint alleges multiple violations of federal regulations and law, gross mismanagement and waste of funds at Animal Care’s eastern regional office in Raleigh, NC.

The Animal Care agency is responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, which is federal legislation that ensures the humane care and treatment of certain warm blooded and exotic/wild animals. Animal Care conducts routine inspections at facilities that use regulated animals in research, exhibited to the public, sold wholesale and retail and transported. Licensed facilities would include but are not limited to zoos, circuses, wholesale dog / cat breeders, exhibitors, exotic / wild animal dealers and exhibitors to include transporters. Animal Care’s Mission Statement: AC provides leadership in establishing acceptable standards of humane animal care and treatment and to monitor and achieve compliance with the Animal Welfare Act through inspections, education, and cooperative efforts. Unfortunately, records show in the last several years Animal Care in the eastern region has failed to use enforcement to achieve compliance.

This lack of enforcement has caused more prolonged health and welfare problems for animals that AC is required to protect by the federal Animal Welfare Act. The lack of enforcement has also caused more incidents with potentially dangerous animals and the public. Animal Care in the eastern region is failing to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, which is endangering the animals we are responsible to protect to ensure adequate care and treatment. Failing to enforce the minimum standards and regulations of the AWA, has harmful risks to the animals and to the public. Potentially dangerous animal are being allowed to be exhibited to the public without direct control of a handler(s), sufficient distance or barrier between the animals and the public.

The OSC complaint states the Eastern Regional Office allows licensee’s with a history of repeat noncompliance’s to operate without any legal action against such licensees. Evidence shows that Animal Care paid consultation fees to a licensee to consult with a facility which had a history of repeat noncompliance’s. Repeat violators of the AWA are seldom given warnings. When legal action is taken against violators, only a fraction of the proposed fine is given by a stipulation agreement. The licensee does not have to admit to the history of repeated violations when they accept a stipulation agreement.. Even when the investigation shows the licensee has repeatedly violated the AWA, which affected the health and welfare of the animals and or public, Animal Care issues a warning or small stipulation. Facilities often accept these stipulations and continue to violate the AWA minimum standards and regulations year after year, stating it’s just the cost of doing business. Even after facilities pay multiple stipulations they continue to violate the AWA without any further action by Animal Care. USDA licenses are rarely revoked and commonly renewed, even when facilities have a history multiple repeat violations and not in compliance. Research facilities pay thousands of dollars in stipulations which usually cost the taxpayers, because the research with animals is mainly funded by the US government.

Inspectors request warning letters and investigations for repeat violators of the AWA from Animal Care management, never toreceive such requests, and without any reply to the inspector. There are several lawsuits against Animal Care from animal welfare groups for allegedly failing to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, which may cost the taxpayers thousand of dollars in attorney and settlement fees. The eastern regional office has issued far less warning letters and stipulations than the western regional office. Recently there was an audit by USDA, Office of Inspector General of the eastern regional office, due to the lack of enforcement issued to facilities. This audit should now be available by FOIA.

The whistle blower complaint states the eastern regional office superiors hire inspectors in areas which are fully staffed. Inspectors with a lack of facilities and work are often sent to other inspectors facilities and paid for travel and lodging. Yet, other inspectors,with over a hundred facilities more than other inspectors, which have not inspected facilities for several years, are not given additional inspectors for their territories.

The OSC complaint states Inspectors are often approved to visit other cities and states, just to visit relatives or site see, as long as they conduct inspections in that requested territory. These visits are paid by Animal Care, the taxpayers dollars. In most circumstances the inspector assigned to that territory has never requested any additional help from his or her superior.

The whistle blower complaint states the eastern regional office of Animal Care purchases laptop computers, digital cameras, and other equipment when the current inventory are in excellent working condition. Unnecessary purchases are made before the end of the fiscal year to spend what monies are left in Animal Care’s budget.

The OSC complaint states inspectors were verbally reprimanded and their complaints not heard by Animal Care management when they refused to join coworkers at a training course at Plum Island, New York, where animals were given a variety of diseases without pain management before their death. Animal Care enforces pain management at research facilities, however USDA fails to follow such standards during its own training programs.

The whistle blower complaint states an inspector alleges that Animal Care management gave direct orders to an inspector to expunge files which were FOIA from a federal agency due to an investigation of a human death at a research facility. Other requested records from USDA, FOIA, have taken over 2 years and requesters still have not received the FOIA nor the reason for the delay.

Inspector Botelho has been inspecting facilities for nearly 5 years in SW Florida. He has conducted an astounding number of inspection, nearly 1000 inspections which have uncovered over 200 persons operating without a USDA license, some for many years. He has been given all successful evaluations each year, has no prior discipline, and has an exceptional sick leave record.

Unfortunately, since Animal Care inspector Botelho has complained about the gross mismanagement in the last several years and filed numerous complaints against his supervisor and Director of the eastern regional office, he has been retaliated against recently to include one 14 day suspension unpaid for alleged improper conduct.

Five days after serving his first suspension, he was issued a proposed 14 day suspension unpaid for alleged improper conduct. The improper conduct Director for investigations division for RMSES, stated inspector Botelho used profanity during a telephone conversation. The telephone conversation was a complaint by inspector Botelho due to RMSES investigators calling his home during late hours, harassing his family and waking his children.. Inspector Botelho’s first suspension states that he had 5 complaints against him for alleged inappropriate conduct from USDA licensees who have repeatedly violated the Animal Welfare Act and was issued either warning or stipulations. It appears that 5 complaints, which were here say, out of 1000 inspections is a very high percentage by Animal Care standards.

The eastern regional office Director has not disciplined inspectors with greater number of complaints initiated against them, to include Ethics violations (conflict of interest accepting gifts from licensees) AC management does not support their inspectors, but supports high profile licensees when complaints are initiated against them, especially if such facilities threaten lawsuits against the agency. There is a complaint procedure for licensees, however none for inspectors who often learn of complaints during an internal investigations or suspensions.

Management has unlimited funds for legal fees. Yes, their USDA attorney is provided free of charge for their gross mismanagement at the cost of the tax payers. There is seldom any accountability when government superiors are found guilty of discrimination or retaliation, except for future promotions. There is a free in-house grievance procedure for Animal Care employees, but it is evident that the decision would not be UN-bias, due to being made by the USDA administrator. Inspector Botleho has hired an out of state employment attorney in the last several months, which he has since paid over thousands of dollars in legal funds. It has been over two years since inspector Botelho filed initial complaints against USDA, APHIS, Animal Care. The US government being back logged with complaints and lack of staff has yet to set a hearing with a federal judge at the EEOC.

Congress needs to help federal employees do their job with dignity and respect, allowing them to file complaints in a timely and cost effective manner. Help is greatly needed for employees who file complaints against their superiors, due to the cost and time it takes for employees to receive their justice. Federal managers are allowed to issue discipline without pay and state that employees are guilty before employees can prove their innocence, costing thousands of dollars to them and their families. Most employees in inspector Botelho’s situation give into management and drop their complaint because of retaliation and the lack of funds for legal representation. Since inspectors fear complaints against them and do not get support from the management, most end up picking their battles at certain facilities, turning their heads from citing enforcement resulting in poor work ethics. Other federal employees are given ultimatums to resign or be fired. Federal managers need to be accountable for their gross mismanagement. History shows that employees who file whistle blowers eventually will be wrongfully terminated, hopefully history don’t repeat itself for inspector Botelho and congress will make some serious much needed changes in current federal regulations and laws.

Before Inspector Botelho filed this whistle blower complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, he has recently forwarded such similar complaints to his chain of command to include: Deputy Administrator, Dr. Chester Gipson, APHIS Administrator, Dr. Ron Dehaven, Ann Venneman, USDA Secretary of Agriculture, Agriculture Committee, Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush and President George Bush.

Hopefully his concerns and complaints will be heard by all animal lovers worldwide for the health and welfare of the animals regulated by USDA, APHIS, Animal Care. Animal Care inspectors need to be supported to enforce the Animal Welfare Act. Repeat violators of the AWA need to be issued the appropriate legal action by Animal Care management.

Inspector Botelho can be reached by e-mail at: critermanfl40@wmconnect.com .

 

Kay Rosaire takes her circus act to Bermuda and the cats on barges

Animals from non-profit sanctuary (read pseudo sanctuary)

By  Ruth O Kelly-Lynch

Tigers and bears from a non-profit sanctuary will arrive on the Island for the Animal Extravaganza shows which begin on May 26.

The animals are coming  from Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Florida. DNA Entertainment  spokesman Ray Hollis said the company would be bringing six tigers and five  bears. The sanctuary, run by Kay Rosaire, has been rescuing exotic animals from  unhealthy environments since 1987.

Approximately 57 large cats call the  sanctuary home at the moment. They live on three large indoor/outdoor complexes  with swimming pools, toys and trees. The brochure says the activities provide  emotional enrichment that maintains optimal mental and physical health.

Ms  Rosaire and her son hold educational shows and demonstrations in order to raise  funds for the habitat. Their brochure touts them as gentle caregivers:
Their  unique style of gentle handling, praise and treats encourage the natural  behaviours of big cats on cue and in a sequence of their choice. Clayton is one  of the few men in the world who can put his head in a lions  mouth. Semi-retired from the entertainment industry, Kay dedicates herself  full time to the rescue of big cats and other animals in need of a safe,  permanent home, and continues to the educate visitors at the Big Cat Habitat and  Gulf Coast Sanctuary as to the plight of these magnificent animals in the wild, addressing subjects such as conservation and habitat preservation. Kay has  spoken at two big cat symposiums for the United States Department of Agriculture and is a recognised expert in animal husbandry pertaining to lions and tigers.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is currently investigating the group to ensure that it treats the animals well. Teresa Ince,  Shelter Manager, said the Society still has concerns about the event.

We are  still not endorsing the event because we are concerned about the transport of  the animals, the veterinary care and the housing of the animals while they are  in Bermuda and their safety, she said.

Mr. Hollis said he was aware that  the SPCA would probably not be endorsing his event, though he said he has not  made any contact with them recently. Even if you have the best trainers and  safety in place it will not change their stance, he said. They do not want  them in cages so what can you do? That is their opinion.

He said that the  SPCAs concerns have not hurt ticket sales to the event, they have already sold  out of all $25 tickets to the four shows. There are still $35 and $40 tickets to  the shows which will be held May 26-28.

The public seems to realise that  with any animal you have to transport them in a cage, he said.

The animals  will arrive on the Island on May 21 via a freight ship. He is currently in  discussions over where to keep them while they are on the Island. A spokesman  from the Environment Ministry said it had not granted DNA Entertainment  permission to import the animals and the Ministry is still actively reviewing  the case.

Mr. Hollis said it is not customary to apply for permission until  ten days before the event and added that he is in constant touch with the  Ministry. He also said his company has not been affected by North Rock  Communications pulling its sponsorship from the event.

I respect their  decision, he said.

He added that he is looking to include local animal acts  into the Animal Extravaganza as well as the big cats from the sanctuary.

http://www.theroyalgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060504/NEWS/105040119

MONTGOMERY COUNTY NOT FAIR TO LIONS AND TIGERS

Fund for Animals Condemns Agricultural Fair for Hosting Big Cat Encounter

SILVER SPRING, MD (August 14, 2003)

 

The Fund for Animals is condemning the organizers of the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair for allowing the exhibit of lions and tigers by Rosaires Big Cat Encounter. Five lions and three tigers confined to small cages are on display at the fair this week.

 

The fair is taking a huge risk by promoting captive wild animal shows such as this, said Andi Bernat, Program Coordinator for The Fund for Animals. People unfortunately trust that these exotic animals can be domesticated when in fact, the animals often retain their wild instincts. According to the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition, captive wild cats exhibited to the public have been responsible for 8 deaths and over 60 injuries. Bernat also pointed out that people who are in the business of displaying captive wild animals often end up selling or trading their animals to circuses, roadside petting zoos, and trophy hunting ranches.

 

In fact, Kay Rosaire , one of the Big Cat Encounter owners, was an exhibitor for UniverSoul Circus, which has been cited for a number of infractions including Animal Welfare Act violations, said Bernat. In 1999, the Big Cat Encounter was cited by the USDA for failure to provide proper veterinary care and for cages that did not meet minimal size requirements.

 

Captive wild animals deserve to be treated as animals, not as stage props, said Bernat. Having lions and tigers at a county fair is not only inhumane to the animals, but also poses a danger to citizens and could make the county and the fair organizers liable for injuries ordeaths.

 

In March of 2012 the Rosaire Circus dragged their cats up to the IX Indoor Amusement Park in Cleveland, OH for the third year in a row.

 

FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE ALLOWING WILD ANIMAL DISPLAYS

 

 

In an attempt to clean up the sleazy image long associated with roadside zoos, operators of these facilities now declare themselves “conservationists.” They in fact do nothing to protect wildlife or preserve habitat, and they breed animals indiscriminately, without regard for genetic diversity and with nowhere suitable for them to go. What people learn from these exhibitors is how animals act in captivity and that it is acceptable to cause wild animals to be bored, cramped, lonely, and kept far from their natural homes.

 

Profit-hungry operators perpetually breed animals so that they will have an endless supply of “cute babies” in order to draw crowds. The older, unmanageable animals are left to languish in small cages or disposed of when they have exhausted their “usefulness.” Exotic animal auctions, frequented by unscrupulous dealers, are a popular method of discarding unwanted “display” animals, who ultimately end up in the pet trade, on breeding farms, killed for their skins and other organs, or used for canned hunts. Some animals, such as tigers, lions, and bears—both cubs and adults—are worth more dead than alive. Hides alone can fetch $2,000 to $20,000 or more. Entire families are slaughtered and stuffed for mounts that sell for $10,000. To avoid damaging pelts, animals are killed by the most gruesome methods imaginable, such as shoving ice picks through their ears and into their brains, suffocating them by wrapping plastic bags around their heads, and drowning.

 

 

 

Wildlife exhibitors mislead the public with impressive-sounding but meaningless credentials, such as “federally licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of the Interior.” Federal permits to exhibit, breed, or sell regulated animals are required and issued to nearly anyone who fills out an application and sends in a fee. The USDA exhibitor application is a 3/4-page-long form that asks for a person’s name, address, and animal inventory but nothing that pertains to qualifications. The Animal Welfare Act, which the USDA enforces, sets only minimum standards of care and rarely addresses an animal’s psychological needs. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), the branch of the Department of the Interior that issues permits to buy and sell threatened and endangered species, considers non-native wildlife a low priority. Breeding mills have so saturated the market with “generic tigers” of unknown lineage that USFWS exempts these animals from full regulation. Some exhibitors even retain their licenses despite incidents of deadly animal attacks, dangerous animal escapes, serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and illegal wildlife trafficking.

Circuses: Clean Family Fun Or Havens Of Cruelty?

This video is 23 minutes long, so it takes a few minutes to load.

If this video makes you mad, then DO SOMETHING about it!

Send a letter to your legislator with our quick & easy form at www.CatLaws.com

The Best Response to Circuses Ever Written

By Kerry Ashmore , The Northeaster

Numerous thorny issues cloud the debate over how humans treat animals. One issue coming quickly to Minneapolis, however, has a clear and easy correct answer. We urge Minneapolis City Council members to ban wild animal circus performances in the city.

This will not require all of us to become vegetarians. It won’t ban laboratory research. It won’t be a death sentence for any animal that bites a human. Minneapolis taxpayers would simply be refusing to allow people to make money in the city through capturing and training wild animals, and would be foregoing any money the city and local businesses might make if the circus came to town.

This issue is similar to some other thorny issues, however, in that many people will oppose the ban because they don’t want to believe that circuses are necessarily cruel to animals. To support the ban, they would have to admit that the whole concept of capturing and
training wild animals for human entertainment and enrichment is, and always has been, wrong; and that they have been wrong for not doing everything they could to ban the practice decades ago. Who wants to admit to something like that?

Our advice to them: Deal with it.

Yes, we humans have been wrong all along, and this is a baby step toward making things right.

Those who don’t want the ban will be quick to point to violent and illegal acts people have committed in the name of ending animal cruelty, and suggest that seeking to end animal cruelty somehow indicates that one condones such acts. That simply doesn’t pass the common sense test, and those who bring such incidents into the discussion are essentially admitting that they can’t come up with a reasonable defense for the way animals are treated in a circus setting. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because there is no reasonable defense for it.

Some local people will lose some money if the ban is passed. Circus people stay in local hotels, eat in local restaurants and spend money in local stores. Our wise and resourceful officials can replace the circus with other events that don’t cause us to support unconscionable acts toward beings who, because of human intervention, are no longer able to defend themselves.

Humans, with complete freedom of movement and superior reasoning capability, grow weary of “life on the road,” and with good reason. Circus animals are caged and moved from town to town, forced to perform unnatural acts and then caged and moved to yet another town for yet another performance. The best efforts of the most kind- hearted people in the world cannot make this process humane. It is
cruel by its nature.

It’s unlikely that the circus people think that what they’re doing is inhumane. It’s only when city after city after city closes its doors that they will ask, “Why?” and perhaps begin to have second thoughts about the way animals have to be treated if they are to provide money- making entertainment to humans.

When and if our society becomes truly civilized, such entertainment will be banned entirely. Those animal-protection laws don’t exist now, and there isn’t a legal way to stop circus use of animals.

Minneapolis, however, has a chance to take one simple, straightforward action, and become the 29th American city to close its doors to wild animal circuses. It’s an action Minneapolis council members should take without delay, without regret and without dissent.

Posted: Wed, 08/01/2007

http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/node/5895

For the love of animals, avoid the circus

By DUNCAN STRAUSS
Special to The Post

Sunday, December 23, 2007

On Wednesday, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus lumbers into the South Florida Fairgrounds Expo Center in Palm Beach County for 12 performances. To those considering stepping into the big top to attend one of these shows, I offer this polite request:

Please don’t.

Who am I – some animal-hating killjoy out to spoil your fun? Far from it. I’m a father, a pretty passionate animal lover and, not coincidentally, I host a radio program about animals that airs on Tampa National Public Radio affiliate WMNF.

I do not claim to be a renowned animal expert. But over the years, I’ve done a great deal of research into an array of animal matters. In hosting the show, I’ve had the good fortune to interview a number of renowned animal experts, experiences that have yielded one indisputable conclusion:

Animals in circuses endure a relentlessly awful life, marked by constant travel in cramped quarters, where access to food and water and proper veterinary care can’t always be counted on, but punishment, pain, cruelty and, sometimes, premature death can be.

Hyperbole? Hardly. Any unit of Ringling Bros. is on the road for six to 11 months at a time, typically traveling in small train cars or trucks that are often poorly ventilated and/or lack basic creature comforts.

But the travails of transportation practically seem glorious alongside the covert and overt cruelty of the training that prepares – if that’s the right word – these animals to perform in “the greatest show on Earth.” Allow me to pose two related rhetorical questions:

Do you think that tigers – who, like most animals, are deathly afraid of fire – would be naturally inclined to jump through a ring of fire?

Do you think that elephants would be naturally inclined to balance on a colorful perch, stand on their hind legs or heads, or dance?

The answer, of course, is a resounding “No.” So, to achieve the sort of unnatural and physically challenging behaviors described above and others, the training is fear-driven, revolving around punishing and hurting the animals: whipping them, beating them with rods, etc.

Elephants often are restrained, then beaten until they understand not to fight back. The chief tool of the elephant training trade is the bull hook, or ankus, which is heavy and clublike and has a pointy, sharp tip. Imagine a heavy and sharp fireplace poker. The trainers hit the elephants with the bull hook in various parts of their body, so that they comply – “learn.”

Sounds too horrendous to believe, doesn’t it? But there is plenty of testimony by former Ringling employees that says as much, and lots of video that shows as much – some of it as new as this year. To see an extensive array of germane video footage in less than eight minutes, you could hardly do better than watching the award-winning piece on Ringling and its abuse of Asian elephants by television journalist Leslie Griffith, who has won nine local Emmys and two Edward R. Murrow Awards, It’s at www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3rQzLOLR4M.

Keen observers of Ms. Griffith’s work will notice that it’s from 2004, and might reasonably wonder whether Ringling has improved its treatment of animals. Nope. In October 2006, Robert Tom, a former animal keeper who worked for Ringling for nearly two years (his wife, Margaret, also was employed by the circus) issued a notarized declaration – six pages of hair-raising accounts of animal neglect, abuse and cruelty in and around the big top.

Mr. Tom’s experiences echo those of Archele Faye Hundley, a young mother of five, who worked as part of the animal crew. Her lengthy September 2006 notarized declaration, notes: “I quit the circus because the animal abuse was too upsetting. The abuse was not once in awhile, it occurred every day.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, along with three other not-for-profit animal welfare organizations – The Fund For Animals, Animal Welfare Institute and Animal Protection Institute – are in the midst of litigation, under the Federal Endangered Species Act, against Ringling. The allegations detail the routine abuse and neglect of Asian elephants. The groups are joined in the lawsuit by a former Ringling employee, Tom Rider, who worked as a barn man for the elephants for 21/2 years, and is featured in the Griffith piece.

I digress here briefly for a prediction: Ringling owner Kenneth Feld surely will dispatch someone to respond to this piece – could be an official employee or maybe someone in the guise of a Ringling fan writing a letter to the editor – to dismiss these contentions as the ravings of a misinformed loon.

There will be rosy scenarios offered about their training, about their “conservation efforts” (their Center for Elephant Conservation is little more than a facility to restock the touring units with fresh pachyderms), about how great their animals are treated, etc. There are millions of dollars at stake, and elephants are the prime drawing cards, so when someone is critical of the operation, Mr. Feld and his fellow Ringling panjandrums typically mobilize quickly. And they’ll say anything

Nonetheless, let’s just say, for the sake of ludicrous argument, that nothing untoward is visited on elephants in the course of their big top training. They’re still forced to travel in those train cars or trucks to perform up to three shows a day and to spend most of their non-performance time anchored by leg chains.

Let me hasten to add that I’m not at all universally opposed to circuses, just those that use animals. There are numerous animal-free circuses – perhaps the most famous is Cirque du Soleil, but the last list I saw featured more than 20 such outfits.

If your family has a hankering to see a circus, go to one of those. But attending a Ringling performance is tantamount to endorsing animal abuse.

Read it online HERE

Nov 18, 2011 News Reports Woman Posing and Petting Over Age Cub at Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota owned by Kay Rosaire:

 

Watching Ghandis progress
By: CliffRoles  http://spotted.heraldtribune.com/photos/index.php?id=2465158
September 13, 2011: Wonderful but sad … my last hugs and kisses with Ghandi today. She’s now 4 months old and weighs about 30 pounds; her teeth and claws are razor sharp, and now that she’s at the Habitat, her natural instincts will take over and she’ll learn to get along with the “big cats” and become one herself. In a year’s time she’ll weigh about 400 pounds. My consolation – she’ll have a wonderful life thanks to YOU and your donations to the Habitat. Ghandi and the rest of the cats, bears, lions, ligers, wallabies, monkeys and emus need you to visit them and help Kay Rosaire and her staff take care of them. So thanks for the kisses today, Ghandi … and here’s to the next cub I get to cuddle!
Read More

Posted on Nov 1, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Dade City Wild Things – Kathy Stearns

Dade City Wild Things – Kathy Stearns

PeTA Sues Dade City Wild Things

(CN) – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has set its sights on a private Florida zoo that allows visitors personal interaction with cute and cuddly tiger cubs.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Tampa, PETA claims Dade City’s Wild Things and its owners are violating the Endangered Species Act.

The complaint, peppered with eyewitness accounts and references to previous federal violations, takes aim at the zoo’s programs that allow patrons to handle, pet and swim with tiger cubs.   Read PeTA vs Dade City Wild Things

Dade City’s Wild Things holds more than 200 animals, including primates and reptiles, on 22 acres of land in Pasco County, Florida.

Among its draws are opportunities for up-close interactions with tiger cubs, baby alligators and monkeys, including a chance to swim with them.

Under Florida law, patrons can only have contact with tigers under 25 pounds.

The zoo’s owners — Kathryn Stearns and her son, Randall Stearns — are also named as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Dade City’s Wild Things staff forced cubs to interact with patrons by forcibly grabbing the animals and not allowing them to escape.

PETA also claims the cubs are prematurely separated from their mothers and suffer under bad conditions.

“The Endangered Species Act prohibits harming and harassing tigers,” said Brittany Peet, PETA’s director of captive animal law enforcement. “They are putting profit over the animals’ lives.”

By separating the cubs from mothers — as early as three weeks, according to the complaint — the zoo is setting the tigers up for a “lifetime of cruelty,” Peet said.

Once the cubs are too large to play with, she added, they are relegated to tiny enclosures or sold to other “roadside attractions.”

“As a result there are untold thousands — some put the number at 10,000 — of grown tigers in the U.S. completely unregulated,” Peet said. “Meanwhile, tigers are endangered in the wild.”

Since 2010, the U.S. Agriculture Department has issued several official warnings to the zoo for alleged violations ranging from inadequate shelter and veterinary care to mishandling of the tigers.

In these warnings federal regulators detailed several instances of alleged mistreatment of the tiger cubs, including the painting of their fur. On one occasion, Stearns pulled a tiger’s tail and held him up by his neck, the department said.

After learning of this last incident, the Agriculture Department filed an administrative complaint against the zoo under the Animal Welfare Act, the complaint says.

“Despite having received multiple inspection reports identifying noncompliance with the regulations and failures to comply with the standards, and the receipt of an official warning, respondent has continued to mishandle animals, particularly infant and juvenile tigers, exposing these animals and the public to injury, disease, and harm,” the government says.

That litigation (see below) is still pending.

In addition to the extensive regulatory record, PETA also cites eyewitness accounts, including one from a former employee, of alleged abuse at the attraction.

End the abuse by ending private ownership of big cats at BigCatAct.com

End the abuse by ending private ownership of big cats at BigCatAct.com

“Over many months, witnesses observed Dade City’s Wild Things staff repeatedly holding onto and pulling the tiger cubs by the cubs’ tails; grabbing the cubs by the skin on the back of their necks; pulling them by the front feet; pinching their ears and nose; and even slamming their bodies to the ground,” the complaint says.

PETA seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

By ALEX PICKETT Read more at  http://www.courthousenews.com/2016/10/14/peta-says-florida-zoo-abuses-baby-tigers.htm

USDA Sues Dade City Wild Things

The complaint, linked below states:

DCWTSwimmingCubUkIndependent-tigerswimThe gravity of the violations alleged in this complaint is great, involving multiple failures to handle animals carefully and to provide access for inspection.

February 23, 2012  The Official Warning stated: “After providing you with an opportunity for a hearing, we may impose civil penalties of up to $10,000, or other sanctions, for each violation described in this Official Warning. Although we generally pursue penalties for this type of violation(s ), we have decided not to pursue penalties in this instance so long as you comply, in the future, with laws that APHIS enforces.”

5. Respondent has not shown good faith. Despite having received multiple inspection reports identifying noncompliance with the Regulations and failures to comply with the Standards, and the receipt of an Official Warning, respondent has continued to mishandle animals, particularly infant and juvenile tigers, exposing these animals and the public to injury, disease, and harm.

2015-07-17_USDA AWA Complaint_Stearns Zoological_AWA Docket

2015 August citations against Dade City’s Wild Things for filthy conditions, inadequate shelter, poor vet care, dangerous caging and more.

If you have first hand knowledge of abuse at Dade City Wild Things please contact:

COLLEEN A. CARROLL Attorney for Complainant Office of the General Counsel United States Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W. Room 2343 South Building Washington, D.C. 20250-1400 Telephone (202) 720-6430 Fax (202) 690-4299 colleen.carroll@ogc.usda.gov

The vet for Dade City’s Wild Things, who defended her at trial, is Dr. Don Woodman of Safety Harbor.

News Reports Based on USDA’s Lawsuit Against Kathy Stearns’ Dade City Wild Things

Cast your vote!

Tampa Bay Times

Creative Loafing

My Fox Tampa Bay

ABC Action News

The Mirror

WFLA Channel 8 News

TBO.com

UK Independent

Terrific article with lots of photos of what we think to be cub abuse and eye witness reports at https://www.thedodo.com/dade-city-wild-things-tigers-2074576624.html

Where do those cute cubs end up?

 

Kathy Stearns got international attention for her pay to play scheme whereby tiger cubs are pushed into water over their heads so that they will swim to the paying customer and cling for dear life.  The only good to come of this is that it also drew international attention to the fact that USDA and the Florida Wildlife Commission have allowed this kind of cruel treatment.  The outcry has been loud and fierce, and maybe now the government will do their jobs of enforcing animal welfare laws.

 

The most obvious problem with this activity is that exploiters have to have a constant supply of cubs that are small enough to use for petting, photo and swim with the tigers type commerce.  So where do the cubs end up when they get too big to use?

 

Here is the story that the news should be researching:  During an inspection in May 2012, the USDA counted 12 tigers. Four months later, in September 2012, the USDA counted 19 tigers. The cubs who were being used in the Good Morning America piece that aired 10/9/12 were Tony, the youngest tiger who was screaming for help during the interview, and Tarzan who was far too big to be used for this sort of activity, but on a leash, in the pool, none the less.

 

In late 2011 the cubs being used for pay to play and swim with the tigers were name Rauri and Rajha.  On Oct 4, 2010 the 20 lb white tiger cub was named Diamond.  Wondering where they are now?  Probably in these barren, muddy cages at Dade City’s Wild Things:

 

 

You can help put a stop to this with a quick and easy letter to lawmakers here:  http://www.CatLaws.com

 

What Animal Lovers Think About Dade City’s Wild Things

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 9.08.14 AM

Clearly, the public is opposed to this sort of cruel activity.  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/815/305/050/ban-activity-allowing-visitors-to-swim-with-baby-animals/

This unsolicited letter reported conditions that we think are deplorable.  What is most concerning is that USDA has been copied and has yet to do anything about it.

“Last month (June 2015)  I went on a one-day group bus trip to WILD THINGS in Dade City, FL.  We took their “Jungle Safari Ride” and what we saw was enough to make us sick!  The place was nothing like your facility.

There was cage after cage of big cats, mostly Bengal tigers, kept in pathetic condition.  A large Siberian tiger was kept in a cage with no shelter from the searing Florida sun or the torrential afternoon thunderstorms and recent flooding with not even a wooden deck   He was laying in mud!

A surplus of other tigers were in cages on cement slabs with a barrel type shelter that could only hold one animal at a time.  In a cage by itself, a young tiger had access to an in-ground kiddie pool filled with cloudy, green water.

In another area were ponies and a donkey.  Although there was shade, all of these animal’s ribs were visible. Driving on, we saw a rectangular cage housing 4 coyotes.  The cage was set up in the sun on a cement slab.  The cage was divided by a closed fence.  2/3 of the area was occupied by 2 coyotes with no shelter and the other 1/3 was occupied by 2 coyotes and two “dog houses” taking up most of the area.  These poor creatures were forced to run back and forth in their own urine and feces. The odor was horrific and they all seemed to be frantic.

NONE OF THE ANIMALS ABOVE HAD WATER IN THEIR CAGES!!!

As we moved along we saw two different species of foxes displayed in a cage on the back of a pickup truck.  There was also no water and shelter for only one fox. The trolley then passed a large, fenced area and we were told that it was a sinkhole.  The water in this sinkhole was stagnant with green stuff all over the top and probably breeding millions of mosquitos.  Around the narrow edge of this sinkhole, were two llamas.  Their drinking water was beneath the green stuff. With recent flooding, they probably already drowned. We saw cages of small monkeys and baboons with no enrichments or water.  A lone zebra with an open neck wound was housed in a pen.  Two ring tailed lemurs were kept in a small cage with shelter for only one at a time. We were told at the beginning of our tour that we were not allowed to take pictures.  The guide emphasized

NO PHOTOS OR YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE!

Most of the animals were suffering from cage syndrome, mindlessly pacing back and forth. We didn’t go to the Petting Zoo so I don’t know what conditions prevailed in that area.

I emailed PETA and they replied that they contacted the USDA and advised me to do the same thing, which I did.  I sent a letter to the I Team Investigators at ABC-TV Action News, the Dade City and Pasco County Humane Societies, The St Petersburg Times and the Humane Society of the United States, vets at both Lowry Park Zoo and Busch Gardens without any response to date. Enclosed is the reply from PETA.

I posted a blurb on Travel Advisor and it is there for all to see, along too many others who shared my experience. Can you direct me to somewhere or someone who can bring this blatant abuse to and end now?

I am a Florida resident also and this is happening in our back yard!  Take a ride on the “Jungle Safari Ride” and see for yourself. This place must be shut down and the animals placed in a more humane setting. These regal and innocent animals are languishing in a living hell and if we don’t do something….who will?

Thank you for your time and I look forward to a favorable response.

Very truly yours, ******”

Note: We withheld the name and contact info of this person, but they revealed it to the authorities and have asked the authorities to contact them.

You can help!

Do you remember other names of cubs who were used at Dade City’s Wild Things?  If so, please put the name, tiger or lion, and the year the animal was a cub in the comments section below.

 

Kathy Stearns Zoo Slapped with Official Warning Letter from USDA

Cited for improper fencing, inadequate veterinary care and improper cub handling among other things.

USDA Official Warning_Stearns Zoo 2012-05-31

Despite warning Dade City’s Wild Things began hyping a new baby tiger and encouraging people to book their Swim with a Tiger exploit between august 30 through September 15. 2012 before the pool water gets too cold.  If you know where she got this cub from, please post in the comments below.

On April 11, 2012 Dade City’s Wild Things was offering pay to play with three female tiger cubs who they said had been born three weeks prior.

On Aug 30, 2012 Dade City’s Wild Things was offering pay to play with a new tiger cub, saying that they could only do so until Sept 2012.

In an effort to catalog all of the cubs they have bred or bought for this purpose, please note in the comments section if you know dates when they had cubs for public contact.

 

Stearns Zoo

 

We wouldn't suggest eating there either

We wouldn’t suggest eating there either

DCWT regularly purchases tiger and lion cubs and exploits them to make money.   The cubs are taken from their mothers shortly after birth by the breeders.  This is a torment to both mother and cub, like it would be to any mammal species.  Then, once Stearns gets them, a former volunteer who was charged with walking them reports on what she was told to do as follows:  “The cub was playful.  It wanted to play bite, jump on my leg.  I was told that if it did that I was to grab it by the scruff and toss it to the ground and hold it there.  All training was by punishing physically.”   Stearns makes money from the cubs numerous ways.  She carts them out to fairs or other venues where the cubs are awakened repeatedly for anyone who will pay to pet them or take photos with them.  At her “zoo”, she charges for “encounters”.   One kind of encounter involves forcing the cub into a swimming pool so paying customers can swim with the cub.  Cubs don’t like holding still for petting sessions and photo opportunities.  The swimming solves that problem for Stearns because the cubs has to swim for dear life. And, Stearns can charge much more for this.

 

Stearns claims it is legal to use the cubs this way until they are 40 pounds.  Under Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission rules, if the employee relinquishes control, i.e. let’s you hold the cub, the legal weight is 25 pounds.    Meantime, Stearns blatantly violates the federal policies established by USDA that cubs cannot be used for petting under 8 weeks old because their immune systems are not sufficiently developed and over 12 weeks old because they are dangerous.  Unfortunately, enforcement of these rules is almost nonexistent.  Stearns was finally cited by USDA for causing stress to cubs during pay to play swimming sessions on p/14/12.   This was a repeat violation for improper animal handling.

 

In addition to exploiting the animals to make money and then keeping them in miserable conditions, Stearns has consistently demonstrated a lack of financial integrity and responsibility.  She has been arrested for passing bad checks (Sept 7, 2011 Kathy Stearns’ Worthless Check Case) and individuals formerly associated with the facility indicate this has been a recurring practice.   We are told she owes back pay to at least one former employee.   Tax deeds have been issued for her failure to pay tax on the property (Kathryn Stearns Tax Warrant May 2011.  More importantly and significantly for the future of the animals, the zoo property has been in foreclosure for years, with the proceedings delayed by a series of bankruptcy filings by Stearns and other individuals and entities (April 27, 2010 Kathryn P Stearns Foreclosure).

 

What happens after the cubs are too old to pet?  They end up spending the rest of their lives in misery living in tiny cages.

 

Below is a video showing the abusive treatment of the cubs and how they live after Stearns can no longer exploit them to make money.

 

 

 

Below is one visitor’s detailed description of the misery they saw at Dade City’s Wild Things

 

A friend and I recently visited Dade City’s Wild Things.  What we saw was amazing, in this day and age, but certainly NOT in a good way.  Maybe if I recount our trip there, you’ll understand why.

At the converted gift shop, Mr. Stearns loaded up about 20 guests onto their trolley car for transportation to their home and “zoo” a few miles away.  Each guest paid $22.95 for the tour and the majority eagerly paid another $20 for an “animal encounter” with a white tiger cub or a baby snow monkey to be included after the tour.  There are no cameras or video cameras or filming of any kind allowed on the tour.  When asked why, we were told that it’s because of those PETA people.  They said that they have to remain constantly vigilant because those animal activists can always make trouble for them.  I was soon to find out why.

Arriving at their home and surrounding grounds, your first impression is of beautiful rolling hills, towering oak trees hundreds of year’s old, lush, green landscapes.  Then you begin to notice the cages.  Though roosters, chicks, and dogs roam freely throughout their land, the animals that were born to do so have miniscule amounts of territory to call their own.

Kathy Stearns, the proprietor, gave the tour.  Having served as a Florida Fish and Wildlife Technical Advisory Committee member, she believes strongly in private ownership and is against all bans.  As she says on her blog, “I am proud of standing up for all exotic owners’ rights.  (Serving  on this committee) It sparked a great desire to work in spreading legislature(sic) issues because I experienced firsthand on(sic) how quickly our rights can be removed in working with non human primate owners in various other states like Pennsylvania where there is a ban on private ownership of non human primates.”

For a woman with a lifelong passion for wild animals and a beautiful piece of Florida property, we were expecting to see a collection of animals benefitting from both.  How shocking  to see the size of the cages where these animals spend every day of their lives.  The first Old World and New World monkeys she introduced us to, no matter their size, looked like they were living in approx. 10’x10’ cages that many shared with others.  No vegetation, no trees, no heights to climb.  A plastic hanging baby swing was all that 2 monkeys had to play with in their small cage. The 2 baboons we saw much later in the tour looked as if they were living in a cell like we used to see in old, rundown zoos decades ago.  Their human- like faces definitely betrayed the sadness of their captivity.

The hills were dotted with small, minimum size chain link cages.  Two servals were on display in a 6’x12’ cage, most of their space taken up with a makeshift pool.  The roosters and chicks clucked their way happily through the ferns and plants outside the serval cage while the servals couldn’t even be coaxed out to view. Though we were told they could jump 12-14’ in the wild, these 2 were contained in a cage that couldn’t have been 6’ high.  Again, the irony of seeing something so majestic with so much agility in the wilds of Africa yet here contained in one of the smallest cages I’ve seen….but there was more to come.

Ahead and up a hill, we saw a large metal building with many chain link cages attached to it.  We thought that surely these animals must have it better?  They must have indoor AND outdoor facilities?  This is where the big cats are housed. But, we were told that it was a maintenance and equipment building with no access for the animals.  On one side of the building, 2 full grown Florida panthers are housed together in a long, skinny,  dirt floor cage that looked to be about 10’x30’ and was attached to the side of the metal building with a low roof.  There is a mural painted on the side of the building depicting typical Florida life with alligators and marshes.  How I wished that was what life really consisted of for this unfortunate duo.

Around the other side of the building is where the big cats live.  An enormous male lion and a female lioness live in an open-top, chain link fenced cage that had a single hot wire running along top.  When someone commented how huge the animals were, all we could think of was how could they not be with so little room for exercise?  Again, just a dirt floor with little, if anything, to make life interesting for them.  No wonder the lioness bared her teeth at Kathy when she came close to her. Someone asked if the animals were neutered and Kathy said no.  We wondered, is this where the babies for the encounters come from then? But that’s another story.

Right next door to the lion cage is a duo of tigers.  Kathy said one was a Bengal weighing 1000 lbs.  As we stood so close, I wondered just how strong is that chain link fence between that enormous tiger and me?  He ran around and around in circles while his cage mate chased him.  I held my breath and hoped the cage held tight.  Chain link fences vs. 1000 lb. carnivores, I didn’t want to be anywhere near that competition!

In the background, I couldn’t help but notice a small round cage.  Imagine the shape of a tin can but this is about 12’ in diameter and is barren except in the middle, where 2 wooden boxes are stacked up as den boxes.  This tiny cage also had 2 full grown inhabitants – 2 cougars who I imagine tire of going round and round and round their entire lives with nothing to do, nothing to explore.  It looked like the definition of boredom.

Behind us was another sparse, small, low-roofed cage where 2 magnificent jaguars lived – one golden and another a luxurious, velvety black.  What struck us the most about this cage was how ironic that these tall, majestic oaks towered all around and yet, these 2 jaguars were panting in the hot enclosure with so little shade for them.  If we were drenched in sweat and Kathy was lingering under a water mister to cool off, how hot must that black fur coat be for that jaguar? Though we had heard that Cypress Gardens closed down and their jaguar Sheba was transferred here, we didn’t see her.   We were told she wouldn’t be seen on the tour.  Where is she?  What has happened to her?  That’s all we kept thinking.

We saw a herd of deer that, honestly, had the best enclosure on the property, though it borders the street fence line.  Then we saw the cages that really broke our hearts.  Two beautiful black leopards were caged in a barren, long, narrow cage that had a couple of shelves mounted inside.  One of the leopards was bald around his/her eyes, laid on one of the shelves, never lifted its head or moved, and stared blankly at us.  Another definition for us – misery.  The cage mate stood up and stretched to try to interact with Mr. Stearns.  What baffled us was why weren’t these guests asking many questions, why weren’t they seeing the things we were seeing, or was it just that they were simply anticipating their moments with the babies – that’s all they really came for?

On we went to the baboon “cell” I mentioned before.  They looked so human like, I couldn’t help but identify with them.  I thought about how incredibly sad life would be if I were relegated to a cage like that forever?  My feelings really sunk to a new low when I saw the small cage, behind theirs, that housed 2 extremely large bears.  They were very social bears, coming over to the cage wall, sitting, spending time there while visitors gawked at them. At this point, it was hard not to cry, not to shout out, “doesn’t anyone else see something wrong with all of this?”  But, when a guest asked “What’s your schedule for giving all these animals their baths?” and “How hard is it to bathe them?” and “What kind of animal is this?” (It was a tiger), I realized how little this group of people knew about the life these animals should be living, the space they need, the enrichment they need to stimulate their minds in captivity.  I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is it still just all about the baby encounters coming up?  Is that all they really care about?  These other animals and the way they’re living don’t matter?”

For a minute, Kathy couldn’t remember the names of the next 2 tigers we walked over to see.  I guess that was better than one of the other animals who, when asked what his name was, she said she doesn’t think he even has a name.  I thought, “Not even worth naming?”  At this point, everyone was hot, drained, and the 2 hours of looking at antiquated cages and sad looking animals was more than enough.  But, everyone perked up when it was announced that it was now time for “Animal Encounters.”

The majority of the guests had paid and signed up for this but, even if you hadn’t, you could participate and settle up later at the conclusion of the tour.  The first baby brought out was Jajay, the 7 week old baby snow monkey who was wheeled to us in a stroller wearing diapers.  A very young girl had requested to play with JaJay so he was plunked down on the picnic table on a towel for her to cuddle with and play with and pose for pictures with.  What if she had any respiratory illnesses or anything contagious?  What a vulnerable age for this little monkey.  When she was through with Jajay, and since no one else had booked time with him, he was put back in the stroller, zipped up, rolled behind the Tiki bar and left there alone while Kathy and all the other guests marched off to a small shed labeled “Nursery” for their time with Diamond, the white tiger cub caged inside.  We started hearing squealing and squeaking and looked over to see JaJay very upset, looking abandoned and forgotten back there.  Eventually, Kathy’s adult son came over and wheeled JaJay away. We wondered to where?

For close to half an hour, we waited while others were in the shed having their pictures taken and playing with the white tiger cub.  If you didn’t pay, you didn’t play. Kathy had said Diamond was donated to them by an Oklahoma zoo.  Donated?  We wondered how true could that be?  This was obviously the proverbial cash cow for “Wild Things.”  In reality, it’s what everyone was here for.  Mr. Stearns said that a couple drove all the way down from South Carolina the week before just for the chance to hold that little tiger since you couldn’t do it up there.  How ridiculous that this is what Florida is famous for – allowing people to hold and handle something so small, so precious, a baby who should be spending this time with its mother, not manhandled by the public for profit.

We were so upset, at this point, all we wanted to do was leave but we were trapped there with no transportation of our own.  We couldn’t believe our ears when one of the guests said he was a photographer with TBT (Tampa Bay Times) and he couldn’t wait to let everyone back at the newspaper know what a unique, fantastic place this is.  Of course, he was also one of the guests who couldn’t wait to go hold a tiger cub, an animal whose life, at this point, is spent locked up in a small cage in a shed with people filing in and out twice a day to “play” with her.

When everyone was through with Diamond, they escorted us back to the trolley.  I noticed a medium-sized cat off display pacing back and forth non-stop in what I thought was a transport type cage since it was so small.  Mr. Stearns said that’s the 7 month old panther cub that you can still have interaction with, if you want.  How could that be?  If my housecat can inflict scratches and scars on me, what could a fully clawed panther the size of a small German Shepherd do to me?  And, especially one that is so poorly caged and with nothing interesting to do but pace?

On the trolley back to the gift shop, one of the guests who went inside with Diamond said it was kind of hysterical watching Kathy grab the cub by the tail whenever Diamond tried to get away from the people.  She’d yank her back and plop her back wherever she wanted her.  She explained that it didn’t hurt the cub since her tail is attached to her spine and that’s how it’s done.  I can’t remember ever seeing any wildlife shots of that method.  Scruffing – yes, slinging a cub around by its tail – no.

The guest also mentioned that there were no pictures allowed.  You had to pay for the CD they sell at the end of the tour if you want any pictures.  The CD contains pictures taken by a photographer “Wild Things” has hired to photograph the animals.  This guest was obviously disgruntled about that since she felt she had already paid enough to them for this experience, she wasn’t going to pay more for pictures.  Yet, she never questioned why they don’t allow pictures.  If everything’s on the up and up, why are they afraid of the photos guests will take and possibly share?  Why must all the pictures be staged by them?

After being dropped off at the gift shop, we went to our car totally depressed thinking about how much more could be given to these animals by the Stearns since the property they have is so incredibly picturesque.  There is just no excuse for the small, inadequate cages these animals are housed in. There is plenty of room to give them more space, a better quality of life. Instead, we heard that their plans are to start running a tram service on another part of the property so “the old people who start coming to Florida soon and who can’t walk” will be able to come out and pay to tour the facility.  So, doesn’t that say it all?  Is quality of life for the animals important or boosting attendance?

What’s also demoralizing is everything we saw is perfectly legal in Florida; tiny cages, no quality of life for these various species, “pay to play” operations using baby animals as a source of income, promotion of more and more breeding, a continuous flow of animals who will have no future quality of life, and teaching people by example that animals deserve nothing better than this.  I’ll never get the images of these animals’ faces out of my mind.  They, more than any others, are “poster children” for why there should be a ban on breeding and private exotic animal ownership.

After this visit, it’s obvious that the Stearns have basic philosophical differences with my friend and I.  They see these animals as a treasure chest.  Quite the opposite, we see these animals as something to be treasured.  Sept. 2010

Despite all of their financial woes they continue to add to the problem by buying more and more lion and tiger cubs to use as photo props.  On May 16th, 2012 they announced, “Dade City’s Wild Things has just added another tiger cub to the three that were born six weeks ago. We are doing the full encounter schedule with them…”  Added from where?  Sue Pearce’s Myrtle Island Ranch in Okeechobee or GW Exotic Animal Park perhaps?
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Posted on Oct 2, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Most Wanted | 1 comment

Big Cats of Serenity Springs Nick Sculac

Big Cats of Serenity Springs Nick Sculac

Serenity Springs Wildlife Center

FKA Big Cats of Serenity Springs

The first time I remembered hearing of Nick and Karen Sculac and Big Cats of Serenity Springs was probably in 2003 when Joan Byron-Marasek said she was going to avoid confiscation of her tigers in NJ by taking them to Colorado, where she would eventually rebuild her breeding compound. Three years later I reported on a news story that Nick Sculac had a heart attack and their compound was in foreclosure. I wondered what would happen to the 85 tigers in Colorado and the 23 from New Jersey ((who ended up in Texas) In 2011 by odd coincidence we would end up assisting in the rescue of some of the last of those NJ tigers from the failed facility in Texas. You know them as the Texas Trio, or Arthur, Amanda and Andre.))

Karen Sculac appeared to have inherited 320 acres near Calhan, CO in 1993 and they started their sanctuary that same year, but they had managed to lose all but 37 acres by the time 47 year old Karen died suddenly from pneumonia in 2006. From all accounts Karen ran a legitimate sanctuary but with her death came the end of any good being done for big cats at Serenity Springs.

Following Nick Sculac’s many charges of theft in 1984, 1991, 1993, 2001 and 2002, he was finally jailed in 2010. In addition to many counts of theft and fraud in his business, he pled guilty to bilking a former volunteer out of $40,500. By that time only 11 acres were left to house over 140 big cats, bears and wolves.

The volunteer, Michael McCain was mauled in 2009 by a 400 lb tiger that reached through the fence, grabbed his arm and pulled him against the cage. When McCain tried to pull his arm out, the tiger held tight. Employees hit the tiger with a shovel until it let go, and McCain was treated for wounds to his wrist, forearm, bicep and tricep.

The judge said Sculac used peoples’ concern for the 138 big cats at the sanctuary to get money from people and line his own pockets. “You’ve been a con artist,” Judge David Gilbert told Sculac, noting his two prior felony convictions. “You’ve been misusing people. You’ve been picking on people who are in a vulnerable state. It’s criminal, but it’s just plain wrong. It’s immoral,” he said. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the sanctuary $7,000.

Meanwhile Nick Sculac had married Julie Walker and changed the name to Serenity Springs Wildlife Center and ownership of the land to Julie presumably to avoid debt collectors. We’ve kept USDA citations and complaints on Sculac from 2004-2016 but when Sculac applied to USFWS for a Captive Bred Wildlife permit, to legitimize his apparently illegal trafficking of tigers, PeTA summarized the violations as follows:

Violations of the Animal Welfare Act from 2004 – 2013

Note that the USDA filed a complaint, based on these issues in 2012, so very few citations were reported after that time, since the first ones had not been ruled on yet and inspectors reported fear of the aggressive gun toting owner.

Veterinary Issues

Nick Sculac, who has no veterinary training, diagnosed a tiger, Nala, as having cancer. He unsuccessfully attempted to inject her with euthanasia solution, before ultimately killing her by cutting her throat.

3 cubs died at two-months, six-months, and one-year of age which Sculac blamed on genetic issues.

A female tiger was seen to be in distressed labor. The next day the mother and her cub were found dead.

Two tigers born at Serenity Springs were put down in 2003 after attacking a volunteer, who had entered their enclosure while they were present.

Between May 2007 and April 2009, Serenity Springs failed to vaccinate animals against distemper, “or to take steps to eliminate or reduce their risk of contracting the disease,” leading to the deaths of a four-month-old lion, a seven-month-old tiger, two other young tigers, two twelve-week-old lions, an eleven-month-old lion, two one-year-old lions, and a ten-week-old black bear.

Serenity Springs reports that two tigers have died due to separate fights with enclosure mates within a four-year period.

A leopard and her enclosure mate died tragically after the female was observed in “obvious distress,” because Sculac incorrectly diagnosed her as being in labor and failed to contact the veterinarian. The leopard was discovered dead an hour later but not removed from the cage. The following morning, the male leopard was discovered lying on top of the female, vocalizing and in distress, whereupon Sculac administered tranquilizers to the male leopard and affixed a noose around his neck to remove him from atop the dead female leopard. Sculac then injected the male leopard with a reversal drug, and removed the noose. The male leopard entered the shelter, appeared to have trouble breathing, and was bleeding from his nose and mouth. He was discovered dead the following morning.

A 13 year old female lynx, named Phoebe was denied medical attention for a week following a prolapsed uterus. Surgery revealed several inches of impacted feces including wood shavings. Phoebe died in Serenity Springs’s custody following surgery. The veterinarian reported that the suspected cause of death was septicemia due to the length of time of impaction.

A USDA inspector reported a tiger who was “extremely thin such that all his ribs were visible and his hip bones were protruding. When asked about this animal, the licensee initially said it was an older animal but, on review of records” this animal was 5 years old.

Serenity Springs reported that a tiger was “put down” due to a “very large hygroma,” which was impossible to treat, however, Dr. Richardson explains, “there is no reason other than negligence or lack of proper veterinary care that a tiger’s hygroma should get so large that the tiger needs to be euthanized. Hygromas are essentially caused by poor management.”

A male tiger died three days after beginning to show signs of declining health, such as losing weight rapidly, drinking lots of water, and having difficulty walking. He was not seen by the vet.

The veterinarian prescribed medication for two juvenile tigers suspected of having ringworm, but there were no records showing that the tigers were receiving this medication, nor was medication available to review during the inspection. In addition, two other tigers who showed signs of ringworm were being given only half the prescribed dose of medication. The attending veterinarian had not seen the tigers in two months, and there did not appear to be any improvement in their condition during that period.

Many reports of lame tigers, with “all ribs protruding” in various inspection reports.

USDA reports that Sculac frequently lied about cats seeing the vet, including a lame mountain lion.

Serenity Springs was cited for failing to provide veterinary care to six tigers and three leopards with hair loss, thin body appearance, limping, cloudy corneas, and lesions, among other conditions.

A leopard named Rosebud was observed “hunched over in an abnormal posture with poor hair coat and open wound on the tail.”

A leopard named Thunder was observed by inspectors with “open wounds on the tail” that appeared to be the result of stress related self mutilation.

A USDA inspector observed that a tiger, Sitara, had “several puncture wounds on the inside thigh of the rear right leg with some swelling and an open wound about 1” on the outside of the left leg.” Another tiger, Eragon, was limping “with obvious swelling” and no vet care.

Danger to the Public

In 2003 Kenny Ryder, 35, the only fulltime paid employee at Big Cats of Serenity Springs, was mauled by two tigers named Duke and Merlin. Nick Sculac beat the tigers off Ryder, reportedly breaking two shovels in the effort. Duke and Merlin were later killed.

In 2004 USDA cited Serenity Springs for holding animals in open crates during public exhibition. The animals continually jumped out of the crates, into which the public was also able to reach.

In 2007 the agency again cited the facility for failing to restrain African lion cubs who were in direct contact with the public at photo shoots. Serenity Springs was also cited for placing insufficient distance between the public and two large cats; a leopard and an adult tiger, while each cage was only monitored by one handler. The handlers apparently failed to stop the adult cats from reaching their paws out of the cages or the public from sticking fingers into a cage holding tiger cubs.

In 2009 a keeper named Michael McCain was severely mauled by a 400 lb tiger while cleaning cages.

In 2011 USDA cited Serenity Springs for exhibiting a tiger on a leash that was not large enough, while only a rope and a fifty-inch space separated the tigers from the public.

Most infractions are not reported, even when there are serious wounds, as the people involved are often told the animal will be killed if it is reported.

Improper Housing Issues

In 2013 USDA cited Serenity Springs for eleven inadequate enclosures, which hold a total of twenty-two animals. The citation notes that this is a repeat violation from inspections conducted on twenty-two separate occasions. The violations included numerous enclosures with exposed protruding nails, shredded and splintered wood, and broken wires with sharp protruding edges.

USDA cited Serenity Springs for failing to provide effective drainage to prevent diseases in all animal enclosures. They were cited four times over five years for failing to correct the drainage issues.

Likewise, Serenity Springs received at least eight citations for failing to maintain sanitary conditions to prevent other disease hazards. The facility was cited at least eleven times for failing to maintain a perimeter fence, which would effectively restrict animals with contagious diseases from entering the facility.

USDA cited Serenity Springs at least five times for failing to administer a proper pest control program. The agency warned that “these pests could potentially spread disease to the animals at this facility.”

USDA observed an open bag of animal food on the ground “around fecal material with flies swarming around the bag.” This was at least the 7th time they had been cited for improper handling of food. An accumulation of feces was also observed in animal feed on multiple occasions.

USDA cited Serenity Springs for failing to provide adequate “protection from the direct sunlight” to fifty-two animals in twenty-five enclosures. This was a repeat violation 2 years later when several of the animals with insufficient shade were observed heavily panting. What that indicates is that cats were clearly in distress, due to the heat and lack of shade, but two years later it still had not been corrected.

Serenity Springs’ tiger enclosures,which house multiple tigers, are as small as 800 square feet. For comparison, the AZA’s recommendation for minimum enclosure size is 1200 square feet for one tiger with a fifty-percent increase in square footage for each additional tiger.

Failure to Allow Inspections or Provide Records

The facility is also facing pending charges for maintaining inadequate disposition records, including for tiger cubs born at Serenity Springs.

USDA cited Serenity Springs for failing to provide its inspectors access to the facility and animals. According to the inspection report, “the licensee was contacted by APHIS officials via phone. When the inspector stated that they needed access to conduct an inspection, the licensee refused to come to the facility, have any other representative come to the facility, or allow anyone present at the facility to conduct an inspection.” This was at least the tenth time that the agency had cited Serenity Springs for failing to provide access to inspectors.

The likely reason so many records go missing is to cover up illegal transfers and activities. In 2003 the Captive Wildlife Safety Act made it illegal to sell big cats, across state lines as pets. It is a federal violation of the Endangered Species Act to transfer big cats across state lines unless both parties are USDA licensed, or the receiving party is a sanctuary that does not buy, breed, sell nor allow public contact.

Likely Violations of the Endangered Species Act

There was no indication that the requisite ESA permits were obtained by Serenity Springs or the sellers, indicating that in all likelihood these entities repeatedly engaged in unlawful activities in violation of the ESA.

Serenity Springs acquired fifteen tigers from Wes-A-Geh-Ya, in MO, in 2008.

Serenity Springs acquired two tigers from Michael Giles of Las Vegas, NV in 2008. Michael Giles is not and was not a USDA-licensed facility at the time of this transfer. Thus, regardless of whether these tigers were donated or sold, their transfer across state lines likely violated the Captive Wildlife Safety Act.

Nick Sculac Keeps Company With Other Animal Exploiters

Also indicative of Serenity Springs’s lack of involvement in protection of endangered species are the close associations that Serenity Springs has with other exhibitors who have well-documented histories of abusing and neglecting animals, including endangered species, and violating applicable state and federal laws.

Among these owners of exotic animals are the notorious Joe Schriebvogel Maldonado of GW Exotics in Oklahoma, the disgraced and now defunct Wesa-A-Geh-Ya facility in Missouri, and Las Vegas-based entertainer Dirk Arthur, who breeds, transfers and uses tigers as props in a magic act. Sculac claimed to have 7 of Dirk Arthur’s cast off tigers and an ongoing deal with Arthur whereby Sculac provides him cubs, which are returned when they get too hard to handle on stage.

Sculac admits that he has obtained at least eighteen animals from “GW Exotic Animal,” operated by Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado, aka “Joe Exotic.” Of these eighteen animals, twelve were reportedly tigers (of whom eight were reportedly cubs or juveniles). GW Exotic and Schreibvogel (collectively, “GW Exotics”) have notorious reputations for exploitation of animals.

USDA Sues Nick Sculac and Serenity Springs

for Many Violations of the Animal Welfare Act

 

Download 2012 filing:  USDA Sues Nick Sculac and Serenity Springs for Many Violations of the Animal Welfare Act

and apparently USDA sues Nick Sculac again in 2015 even though they haven’t completed the first trial.

Download 2013 Comments Opposing Serenity Springs’s CBW Permit Application from the posting in the Federal Register in July 2013.  The following is much of the 50 page text, without footnotes.  The footnotes are included in the download above.

Comments of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Opposition to PRT-05161B Submitted by Nick Sculac d/b/a Serenity Springs

 

  1. I.               Introduction

 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”) urges the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (“FWS”) to reject Nick Sculac’s (“Sculac”) (d/b/a Serenity Springs) (“Serenity Springs”)  application for a captive-bred wildlife permit (PRT-05161B) (the “application”) because Serenity Springs has failed to demonstrate that its breeding activities will enhance the survival of the species in the wild; has made material false and misleading statements on its application; fails to demonstrate a showing of responsibility—especially given its egregious chronic violations of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2131 et seq. (“AWA”), which have resulted in a now-pending enforcement action—and its likely violations of federal and state law; lacks the expertise, resources, and facilities to implement a true conservation breeding program; and has failed to provide required information.  In light of the foregoing, as detailed herein and documented by the accompanying exhibits, the FWS should deny Serenity Springs’s permit application and, instead, initiate an investigation into its likely violations of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq. (“ESA”), and the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, Pub. L. 108-191 (“CWSA”), and its submission of false statements to the agency.

Pursuant to 50 C.F.R. § 17.22(e)(2), should the agency decide to issue the permit despite our objections, we hereby request notice of that decision at least ten days prior to the issuance of the permit via e-mail to DelciannaW@petaf.org or telephone to 202-309-4697.

  1. II.             Legal Background

 

The ESA establishes a national policy “that all Federal departments and agencies shall seek to conserve endangered species and threatened species and shall utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of [the Act].”  16 U.S.C. § 1531(c).  In relevant part, the ESA prohibits persons from taking endangered species.  The ESA defines the term “take” to include “harass, harm, . . . wound, kill, . . . or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”  Id. § 1532(19).  “Harass” is defined by regulation as “an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.”  50 C.F.R. § 17.3.  As it pertains to captive animals,[1] such as the tigers and other endangered species at issue, the definition of “harass” expressly exempts “generally accepted” animal husbandry practices and breeding procedures.  Id.  “Harm” means “an act which actually kills or injures wildlife.”  Id.

Although the ESA regulations do not define “wound,” the verb means “to cause a wound to or in” or “to inflict a wound.”  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2011) (Definition of “Wound” (Verb)). The noun is defined as “an injury to the body (as from violence, accident, or surgery) that typically involves laceration or breaking of a membrane (as the skin) and usually damage to underlying tissues.” Id. (definition of “Wound” (Noun)); see also The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed. 2009) (definition of “Wound” (Noun)) (defining “wound” as “[i]njury to a part or tissue of the body, especially one caused by physical trauma and characterized by tearing, cutting, piercing, or breaking of the tissue”).  The Act’s prohibitions on taking, transporting, shipping, and selling endangered species apply to the captive tigers and other endangered species that Serenity Springs maintains.

Section 10 of the ESA gives the FWS limited authority to issue permits to allow otherwise prohibited activities like “takes,” transport, shipment, and sale only “for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.” 16 U.S.C. § 1539(a)(1)(a) (emphasis added).  FWS regulations provide an exemption from § 10’s prohibitions for foreign species that are captive-bred in the U.S. if the “purpose” of taking, transporting, shipping, or selling the captive-bred species “is to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.”  50 C.F.R. § 17.21(g)(ii) (emphasis added).  Persons who seek to engage in any of these activities must apply for, and obtain, a captive-bred wildlife permit. Id.

An applicant for a CBW permit must include information specified in 50 C.F.R. § 17.22(a)(1), including “[a] full statement of the reasons why the applicant is justified in obtaining a permit including the details of the activities sought to be authorized by the permit.”  Id. § 17.22(a)(1)(vii).  In deciding whether to grant a CBW permit, the FWS “shall consider” the issuance criteria specified in § 17.22(a)(2), including whether “the expertise, facilities, or other resources available to the applicant appear adequate to successfully accomplish the objectives stated in the application.”  Id. § 17.22(a)(2)(vi).  A CBW applicant/registrant must also comply with the general permit conditions set forth in § 13 of the regulations, including that it “maintain[]” any “live wildlife possessed under a permit . . . under humane and healthful conditions.”  Id. §§ 13.3, 13.41.  In addition, § 13.42 provides that “[t]he authorizations on the face of a permit are to be strictly interpreted and will not be interpreted to permit similar or related matters outside the scope of strict construction.”[2]

 

  1. III.           Argument

 

  1. A.    Serenity Springs Captive Breeding Activities Do Not Enhance the Propagation or Survival of the Species.
    1. 1.     Serenity Springs’s “conservation breeding program” is woefully inadequate.

 

As the FWS has made clear, CBW permits authorize otherwise prohibited activities “provided that the principle purpose [of those activities] is to facilitate conservation breeding.”  FWS, Captive-bred Wildlife Registration under the U.S. Endangered Species Act 2 (Jan. 2012) (emphasis added); see also id. (“The registration may be issued when the applicant documents that his activities will serve to enhance propagation or survival of endangered or threatened species, as defined in 50 CFR 17.3 . . . and the principal purpose of the activities is captive breeding for conservation purposes.” (emphasis added)).

As defined by the ESA, the term “conservation” means “to use and the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this chapter are no longer necessary.” 16 U.S.C. § 1532(3).

  1. a.     Serenity Springs does not currently have a conservation breeding program.

As evidenced by the list of births that Serenity Springs submitted with its CBW permit application, while the facility seeks a permit to breed lemurs, cheetahs, three species of leopards, tigers, and hyenas, of this list, the only type of animals that Serenity Springs has bred in the past five years is tigers.

Moreover, Serenity Springs’s tiger breeding does not constitute conservation breeding. As the FWS has explained elsewhere:

We do not believe that breeding inter-subspecific crossed or generic tigers provides a conservation benefit for the long-term survival of the species.  Inter-subspecific tiger crosses and animals of unknown subspecies cannot be used for maintaining genetic viability and distinctness of specific tiger subspecies.  Generic tigers are of unknown genetic origin and are typically not maintained in a manner to ensure that inbreeding or other inappropriate matings of animals do not occur.

FWS, Proposed Rule, U.S. Captive-Bred Inter-Subspecific Crossed or Generic Tigers, 76 Fed. Reg. 162 (Aug. 22, 2011).  Similarly, in correspondence to Serenity Springs regarding its permit application, a FWS biologist advises that “white tigers are hybrids and should not be bred” and that “hybridization of listed species i[s] prohibited under both the CBW and ESA.”  App. 13; see also id. (“generic tigers . . . are not suitable for species conservation and cannot be authorized under the CBW”); see also FWS, Captive-Bred Wildlife Registration under the Endangered Species Act 2 (Jan. 2012) (“The registration may not be issued or used to sell protected species as pets or for hybridization of any listed species.”).

Serenity Springs’s website features a hybrid white tigers, including a white tiger cub, see, e.g., Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, http://www.serenityspringswildlife.org/ (featuring images of a white tiger cub being bottle fed and an adult white tiger).  Moreover, even the non-white tigers bred by Serenity Springs—at least twelve in the past five years, according to its application, App. 34—are almost certainly generic, hybrid mixed subspecies.

Experts agree that tigers who are not managed as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’s (“AZA”) Species Survival Plan (“SSP”) Program—which the tigers held by Serenity Springs are not—are in all likelihood generic—and must be presumed to be.  Statement of Dr. Ron Tilson, Senior Conservation Advisor to the Minnesota Zoo Foundation (Oct. 20, 2011) [hereinafter “Dr. Tilson Statement”].

As experts Dr. Ronald L. Tilson—who served as Coordinator of the AZA’s SSP for tigers for nineteen years and who is now Senior Conservation Advisor to the Minnesota Zoo Foundation—and Philip Nyhus—an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies with particular interest and expertise in tiger conservation who has published extensively in the area—explain, the vast majority of captive-bred tigers in the United States are generic; “[t]hey are no longer Amur or Sumatran or Bengal tigers. They are tiger soup,” and thus breeding these animals serves no conservation purpose.  Philip J. Nyhus et al., Thirteen Thousand and Counting: How the Growing Captive Tiger Populations Threaten Wild Tigers, in Tigers of the World, 2ded., pp. 236 (2010).  Dr. Steve Olson, Vice President of Federal Relations for the AZA, concurs: “To our knowledge, there are no captive tigers in the U.S. that are purebred subspecies with known pedigrees traceable to their wild-caught founders other than those managed within the AZA Tiger SSP.”  See Letter to Tim Van Norman, Chief, Branch of Permits, Division of Management Authority (“DMA”), FWS, from Steve Olson, AZA (Aug. 30, 2011).  And Serenity Springs has down nothing to rebut this presumption—indeed, despite the FWS’s request for information regarding the specific subspecies of tigers he intends to breed, and for an assurance that hybrids will not be bred, App. 13, the application materials indicate that the applicant has furnished none of this information.

Indeed, a brief look at the commercial sources from which Serenity Springs has obtained tigers in the past makes it clear that it is not working with pure subspecies.  For example, according to its application, of the current tigers it holds, Serenity Springs has obtained nineteen of these from GW Exotic Animal Foundation (“GW Exotic”), see App. 23-27—including at least one white tiger.  (Serenity Springs also obtained a liger from GW Exotic.  App. 26.)  Joe Schreibovgel, owner of GW Exotic has established a “breeding program” with tigers and claims to be “in the final 2 years of an experimental stage of coming up with a new species. . . . All natural with no interference of man.”  GW Exotic Memorial Park, Breeding Program.[3]  Despite this clear disregard for true species conservation, Serenity Springs obtained tigers from GW Exotic as recently as last year, App. 17, and indicated on its CBW permit application that it intends to continue to acquire animals from this facility, despite the fact that GW Exotic does not have a CBW permit.[4]

Serenity Springs also lists Dirk Arthur as the source of seven of the tigers it currently holds—including at least four white tigers.  According to Serenity Springs’s website, one of these white tigers, Bianca, “was born in Dirk Arthur’s endangered species breeding program.” Serenity Springs, The Tigers of Serenity Springs, http://www.serenityspringswildlife.org/tigers.php. Needless to say after the foregoing discussion, a true endangered species breeding program does not breed white tigers.  Yet not only has Serenity Springs acquired three white tigers from Dirk Arthur as recently as last year, see. App. 27, it has also recently transferred a tiger cub to Arthur, App. 34.  Arthur exhibits multiple white tigers, as well as a hybrid liger.  See Dirk Arthur Wild Magic, Co-Stars, http://dirkarthur.net/costars.  Arthur touts his so-called “endangered species breeding program,” claiming that “Dirk Arthur’s White Bengal Tigers and Snow Tigers are indisputably one of the Earth’s most striking and noteworthy species.”  Endangered Species Preservation Program.  As the FWS recognized in correspondence to Serenity Springs, however, “[t]here is no ‘snow tiger.’”  App. 13.  So-called “snow tigers” are hybrids with recognized health problems.  Id.

Indeed, it does not appear that any of the facilities from which Serenity Springs has obtained tigers is a member of the AZA SSP, making it all but a foregone conclusion that it is engaging exclusively in unlawful breeding of hybrid generic tigers

For the reasons explained above, Serenity Springs has no current conservation breeding program. To the contrary, as recognized by the FWS and elaborated further below, Serenity Springs is engaging in breeding practices that are harmful to conservation and contrary to the ESA.

  1. b.     Serenity Springs’s permit application fails to propose a conservation breeding program with sufficient detail.

Not only does Serenity Springs currently lack any semblance of a breeding program, it has failed to describe with any level of specificity a proposed conservation breeding program, and for this reason alone the permit must be denied.

CBW permits, like all ESA permits, must be “specific”—they “describe certain circumscribed transactions,” setting forth “specific times, dates, places, methods of taking or carrying out the permitted activities, numbers and kinds of wildlife or plants, location of activity, and associated activities that must be carried out.”  50 C.F.R. § 13.42.

Serenity Springs’s CBW permit application is so lacking in details that it makes it impossible to issue the sort of specific, circumscribed permit that is required.

The CBW permit application requires an applicant to “[p]rovide a specific description of how your proposed activities are going to facilitate captive breeding of the species identified . . .  , including your long term goals and intended disposition of any progeny.”  App. 2 (emphasis in original).  Serenity Springs utterly fails to provide a specific description of the required information.  Serenity Springs’s response to this request is purportedly included in Attachment D, see App. 2, 28.  Attachment D, however, fails to adequately describe what Serenity Springs’s proposed activities even are in the first instance, let alone how they will facilitate captive breeding.  Rather than a description of a breeding program, Attachment D purports to be a bullet point list of “some of the . . . ways” that one can “help fund wildlife preserves.” App. 28. The majority of this document describes projects that do not involve captive breeding and that are spearheaded by groups other than Serenity Springs. The full description of Serenity Springs’s “conservation breeding plan” appears to be:

Through out specific breeding program and working with organizations listed above and to begin a relationship with the AZA and their Species Survival Plan we plan to increase numbers of individuals within each recognized endangered species and subspecies. Maintain the number and diversity of the subspecies currently recognized. Preserve genetic diversity at both species and subspecies levels recognizing the crucial role of both in situ and ex situ approaches for this.

App. 29-30.

This does not describe a program and it certainly does not constitute a “specific description of how your proposed activities are going to facilitate captive breeding of the species identified.”  App. 2 (emphases added).  Indeed, this description does not even make reference to specific species, which is particularly concerning given that Serenity Springs initially submitted an application for a permit to breed twenty-six different species—a number of which it does not even possess.

  1. i.      Acquisition of Animals

 

Serenity Springs’s failure to sufficiently describe how it intends to acquire even the now-shorter list of species it intends to breed and where it intends to house these animals further evidences its fundamental lack of a plan.  For instance, brown hyenas, lemurs, and cheetahs are amongst the species for which Serenity Springs seeks a CBW permit to breed, Receipt of Applications for Permit, 78 Fed. Reg. 38731 (June 27, 2013), yet, according to the current inventory submitted with its application, Serenity Springs does not currently possess any animals of these species, App. 23-27.[5]  Nor does it specify how it intends to obtain these animals.  Instead, Serenity Springs has submitted a laundry list of animal exhibitors, dealers, and breeders, unaware whether any of them possess the requisite CBW permit and, if so, for which species.  See App. 11; see also id. at 12 (“There are other facilities we work with and will be working with to acquiring [sic] other specimens but have not been able to reach a couple of them to get their USDI#.”).  In fact, review of the most recent list of CBW permitees made available to PETA by the FWS, CBW Registrant List, reveals that four of the six entities identified do not have CBW permits, and that none of the listed entities are permitted to breed cheetahs or brown hyenas.  At an absolute minimum, then, Serenity Springs must be denied permission to breed these species.

                                            ii.     Space for Animals

 

Equally unclear is where Serenity Springs intends to put any additional animals it acquires—or any animals it breeds.  As the FWS explained to Serenity Springs in response to its application, “You have asked for species in addition to those you currently hold but, I am unable to see any space for any additional animals as it appears that all exhibits have animals in residence.  We could not authorize any additional species until facilities were available.”  App. 13.  According to the records that the FWS provided to PETA, Serenity Springs did respond to this observation—except possibly with regard to snow leopards.  The applicant has not made clear where it intends to house lemurs, cheetahs, or brown hyenas.  Given Serenity Springs’s failure to meet the requirement that it provide “[a] detailed description, including size, construction materials, and protection from the elements, and photographs or detailed diagrams . . . clearly depicting your existing facilities where the wildlife will be maintained,” App. 3 (emphasis in original), the application should be denied.  That Serenity Springs is not prepared to take on these additional species is evinced by the fact that, while the application includes enclosure descriptions for a number of species, it does not include descriptions for hyena, lemur, or cheetah enclosures.  See App. 43-44.  At a bare minimum, then, Serenity Springs should be denied a CBW permit for these species.  But given the overall lack of space at this facility, the permit application should be denied in its entirety—especially given Serenity Springs’s history of failing to meet the minimum AWA standards for separating incompatible animals:  The applicant currently faces, amongst dozens of other charges for AWA violations, a charge for violating this requirement vis a vis tigers.  See In re Nick Sculac, AWA Docket No. 12-00223, at ¶ 12 (Feb. 1, 2012) [hereinafter “USDA Complaint”].[6]  In addition, in the past five years, two tigers have been killed by cage mates, according to Serenity Springs’s application.  See App. 34-35.

Complete denial of the permit application is further warranted on this basis because even the enclosures that Serenity Springs does have are, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”), which administers the AWA, in serious disrepair, as detailed in § III.E.5, infra.  For example, just earlier this year the USDA cited Serenity Springs for no fewer than eleven inadequate enclosures, which hold a total of twenty-two animals. USDA Inspection Reports (Jan. 7, 2013, at 2-3).  The citation notes that this is a repeat violation from inspections conducted on twenty-two separate occasions.  Id. at 10.  The violations included numerous enclosures with exposed protruding nails, shredded and splintered wood, and broken wires with sharp protruding edges.  Id. at 9-10.

                                             iii.  Genetic Vitality

 

The application form additionally requires the applicant to supply “documentation showing how your captive population is being managed to maintain its genetic vitality.”  App. 2.  Serenity Springs provides no such documentation whatsoever—instead it states, without supporting documentation:

Our facility currently manages our captive documentation through written and online reports as well as completed medical records for all animals.  Any offspring are documented through a detailed birth record.  All animals residing at the facility are also photographed for their record.  We are also just beginning a program to microchip all animals as well.

App. 30.  Again, these assertions are left unsupported, as, notably unlike most CBW permit applicants, Serenity Springs does not actually attach any of the documents showing the lineage of the animals it intends to breed, instead simply attaching a single blank form.  See App. 32. Further, Serenity Springs currently faces charges for failing to “keep and maintain records of the acquisition and disposition” of seven animals, USDA Compl. ¶ 8.c.—including at least four tigers who were born onsite, compare id. (listing names), with App. 24 (identifying named animals as tigers born onsite)—indicating that it is in fact not capable of  ensuring genetic vitality.  See also, e.g., USDA Inspection Reports at 3-4 (May 23, 2013, at 2-3; Jan. 7, 2013, at 1-2) (citations for failure to maintain acquisition and disposition records).

Serenity Springs’s failure to ensure genetic vitality is further apparent from its intentional breeding of white tigers, which experts recognize are all highly inbred, and its acquisition of animals from entities with similar unprofessional breeding practices, such as GW Exotic and Dirk Arthur, see § III.A.1.a, supra.  In addition, Serenity Springs attributes two recent tiger cub deaths to “possible genetic issues.” App. 35.  Serenity Springs’s recent transfer of a cub to Dirk Arthur further erodes confidence in Serenity Springs’s commitment to an acquisition and disposition protocol that promotes conservation.

                                              iv.  Disposition Plans

 

For these same reasons, Serenity Springs’s vague statement that “[t]he disposition of the offspring of this project will be to established facilities working within the organizations listed” (i.e., the “AZA, ZAA, RSF, USZA, PAAZB, FCF”) is not a specific description of its intended disposition of any progeny, as required.  Moreover, it makes clear yet again Serenity Springs’s lack of commitment to true species conservation and genetic vitality.  For example, this incredibly vague “plan” allows Serenity Springs to continue dealing with irresponsible breeders like GW Exotic, whose owner Joe Schreibvogel is the president of the deceptively named U.S. Zoological Association (“USZA”).  See, e.g., Vince Grzegorek, United States Zoological Association President Thinks Zanesville Exotic Animal Owner Was Murdered in a Conspiracy, Cleveland Scene, Apr. 17, 2012. 

The equally misleadingly named Zoological Association of America (“ZAA”) advertises itself in the Animal Finders Guide, a trade publication that caters to exotic animal breeders and dealers, hunting ranches, and the pet trade, with the stated purpose of assisting “breeders to show a profit.”  Animal Finders Guide 8 (July 2013).  And the ZAA’s “accreditation” is widely regarded as dubious at best as the ZAA has “accredited” numerous facilities that do not adhere to minimum animal husbandry standards—let alone breeding standards.

Likewise, the Feline Conservation Federation (“FCF”) has accredited GW Exotic, see FCF, GW Exotic Animal Memorial Park, , despite its irresponsible practice of routinely breeding hybrid animals including ligers and white tigers, see, e.g., GW Zoo Animal Gallery, Ligers, ; GW Zoo Animal Gallery, Tigers, , and its lengthy USDA enforcement history, including a pending investigation, as discussed on page 7 n.5.

The Rare Species Fund (“RSF”) fares no better.  This entity was created by and is directed notorious tiger exhibitor and breeder “Doc” Antle of T.I.G.E.R.S., see RSF, http://www.rarespeciesfund.org/.  Not only does T.I.G.E.R.S. have an atrocious USDA enforcement history, it has also irresponsibly hybridized endangered species for many years.  Indeed, the RSF’s brochure repeatedly touts white tigers, including in an image promoting T.I.G.E.R.S. featuring “four color variations of tigers: . . . standard Bengal, golden tabby, snow white, and royal white”; an image featuring public handling of a white tiger cub described as an “ambassador” for conservation; an image of an adult white tiger at T.I.G.E.R.S.; and a promotion for a show that “features many rare and unique varieties of big cats, including four fantastic colors of Tigers.”  RSF, In Support of Outstanding Wildlife Conservation Initiatives.  The brochure even features Doc Antle with a liger.  Id.

In short, virtually every organization that Serenity Springs lists as part of its disposition plan has a documented record of irresponsibility.  To issue a CBW permit authorizing such dispositions would contravene the fundamental purpose of the ESA.

And while Serenity Springs lists the AZA for potential disposition, the fact of the matter is that, for the reasons discussed in § III.A.1.c.ii, Serenity Springs simply cannot qualify for AZA accreditation or non-member status and, as such, is not authorized to participate in its breeding programs.

  1. c.     Additional problems with Serenity Springs’s purported conservation breeding

 

  1. i.      There have been an unacceptable number of mortalities among tigers bred at Serenity Springs.

 

There have also been an unacceptable number of mortalities among tigers bred at Serenity Springs.  Although the application lists two tiger cubs born on August 17, 2011, App. 34, it appears from the list of mortalities that three were born, see id. at 3 (listing three cubs of the “same litter” who would have been born in August 2011).  These three cubs died at two-months, six-months, and one-year of age of “possible genetic issues,” which is obviously of great concern to a program one of the purposes of which is to maintain genetic diversity.  Id.  In addition, the application reports the death of another cub born at the facility in 2010.  Id. at 2.

In a recent USDA inspection report, it was noted that an employee had observed a female tiger in labor and contacted the attending veterinarian, who instructed the employee to monitor the tiger.  The next day the mother and her cub were found dead.  According to the inspector, the employee did not appear to have monitored the tiger, as ordered by the veterinarian, “in order to prevent the death of this tiger and her cub.”  USDA Inspection Reports (May 23, 2013, at 1-2).  Serenity Springs was cited for failing to perform “[d]aily observation of all animals to assess their health and well-being . . . to ensure that timely and accurate information on problems of health, behavior, and well-being is conveyed to the attending veterinarian.”  Id. at 2.

Two additional tigers born at Serenity Springs were put down in 2003 after attacking a volunteer, who had entered their enclosure while they were present.  Eileen Kelley, Cat-Refuge Worker Survives Attack of 2 Tigers, Denver Post, July 1, 2003, at B03.  (This incident is discussed more fully in § III.E.2.)

Also of great concern, numerous other infant animals have died at Serenity Springs as a result of likely negligence and lack of appropriate veterinary care.  For example, Serenity Springs states that a five-week-old black bear cub who died on March 14, 2009 was the “runt of litter died of pneumonia.”  Id. at 2.  However, the USDA Complaint asserts that two bear cubs, including the cub that ultimately died, developed aspiration pneumonia, from inhaling milk into their lungs, as a result of the cubs’ poor handling.  USDA Compl. ¶ 20.  Moreover, as Dr. Mel Richardson, who has more than thirty years of experience caring for captive wild animals, explains, attributing a cub’s death “to the fact the cub was the runt of the litter . . . is a sign of incompetence.  Runts of the litter when hand raised have just as good a chance at survival as the larger cubs . . . .”  Statement of Dr. Mel Richardson 2 (July 29, 2013) [hereinafter “Dr. Richardson Statement”].  And, according to Dr. Richardson, aspiration pneumonia “is always directly related to the caretakers’ experience.  Aspiration pneumonia is always the fault of the handler.  Improper technique and feeding too much volume at too long of a feeding interval is the primary cause.  If this facility is allowing aspiration pneumonia to occur, they should not be breeding wild animals.  In other words their permit should not be renewed.”  Id.

Two seven-month-old tigers further died of feline panleukopenia in 2009.  App. 34.  Since at least 2002, the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (“AAZV”) has recommended that tigers never before vaccinated for panleukopenia receive at least two and preferably three booster vaccines approximately three weeks apart after six weeks of age, as well as an annual booster.  AAZV, Tiger SSP Vaccination Recommendations, http://www.aazv.org/?273.  It is highly unlikely that two tiger cubs would have died of this viral disease had they been appropriately vaccinated.  Dr. Richardson Statement 1.

Serenity Springs has failed to adequately address how it intends to prevent such mortalities in the future.  With respect to the deaths of tiger cubs from panleukopenia, for instance, the facility asserts that “we now have a complete veterinary facility with the ability to quarantine animals.”  App. 34.  But the best method of prevention is clearly vaccinating tiger and other big-cat cubs for panleukopenia and other viral diseases.   Likewise, the facility states that the bear cub who was the “runt of the litter” died of pneumonia, but fails to mention that the pneumonia developed as a result of the cub aspirating milk into his lungs, and that it resulted from the facility’s negligence.  Therefore, the application fails to discuss how Serenity Springs now trains and monitors staff and volunteers to ensure that this will not happen again.

The application further reports that the parents of the three tiger cubs who died of “possible genetic issues” have now “been neutered and spayed.”  Id. at 3.  But it does not discuss how Serenity Springs selects breeding pairs to minimize the risk of genetic issues, particularly as so many captive tigers are inbred; whether it performs any genetic testing, or the like.

Serenity Springs’s disturbing record of infant mortalities, and its apparent failure to develop appropriate methods of preventing such mortalities in the future, belies its claim to run a legitimate conservation breeding program.

  1. ii.    Serenity Springs is not a member of an Species Survival Plan.

 

The application form requires applicants to indicate whether they “are participating in an organized breeding program, such as a Species Survival Plan, or contributing data to a studbook” and, if so, to “provide documentation describing the objectives and goals of the program.”  App.  2.  Serenity Springs is not a member of either the AZA or any of its SSPs, nor does it appear to participate in any other organized breeding program or contribute data to a studbook.

The AZA administers SSPs, the “mission” of which are “to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population[s],” ranging from giant pandas and California condors to African and Asian elephants and lowland gorillas.  AZA, Species Survival Plan Programs.  An SSP’s primary functions include overseeing the development of a studbook, which documents the pedigree and demographic history of each individual species member held by participants in the SSP; monitoring and documenting all ex situ birth, death, and transfer information; recommending breeding decisions to enhance genetic diversity; and developing a breeding and transfer plan.  Id.; AZA, Studbooks.

CBW registration may be issued only “when the applicant documents that his activities will serve to enhance propagation or survival of endangered species . . . and the principal purpose of the activities is captive breeding for conservation purposes.”  FWS, Captive-Bred Wildlife Registration under the Endangered Species Act 2 (Jan. 2012) (emphases added).  The “original intent” of the CBW system was “the encouragement of responsible breeding that is specifically designed to help conserve the species involved.”  Captive-Bred Wildlife Regulation, 63 Fed. Reg. 48634, 48635 (Sept. 11, 1998) (emphasis added).  The FWS has previously voiced concern that “captive-bred animals . . . might be used for purposes that do not contribute to conservation.”  Captive-Bred Wildlife Regulation, 57 Fed. Reg. 548-01, 550 (Jan. 7, 1992).  Participating in an SSP suggests that the purpose of a breeding program is in fact “for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species,” 16 U.S.C. § 1539(a)(1)(A), as well as that the program is taking appropriate steps to maintain genetic diversity, see App. 2 (requiring applicants to provide “documentation showing how your captive population is being managed to maintain its genetic vitality”).

Serenity Springs claims that it plans to “begin the process of working with the AZA and their SSP.”  App. 30; see also id. at 29 (“[T]o begin a relationship with the AZA and their Species Survival Plan we plan to increase numbers of individuals within each recognized endangered species and subspecies.”).  However, it is extremely unlikely that the facility is qualified to work with the AZA or any of its SSPs.

Organizations can participate in an SSP in one of three ways: (1) as an AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium; (2) as a Certified Related Facility; or (3) as an Approved Non-Member Participant.  Because Serenity Springs is open on a regularly scheduled, predictable basis, see Guided Tour Information, http://www.serenityspringswildlife.org/gptours.php, the facility can only participate as an accredited zoo.  AZA, The Guide to Certification of Related Facilities 10 (2013 ed.); AZA Approved Non-Member Participation in SSP Programs.

To obtain accreditation, Serenity Springs must meet the AZA accreditation standards.  AZA, The Accreditation Standards and Related Policies 3 (2013 ed.) [hereinafter “AZA Accreditation Standards”].  Serenity Springs fails, or is likely to fail, to meet numerous accreditation standards, including, but not limited to:

  • Standard 1.1.1 requires that institutions “comply with all relevant local, state, and federal laws and regulations, including those specific to wildlife.”  As discussed throughout these comments, there is compelling evidence that Serenity Springs has routinely violated the AWA and other laws and regulations, including many specific to wildlife.  A USDA complaint is currently pending against the facility for numerous alleged violations of the AWA, seeking suspension or revocation of Serenity Springs’s AWA exhibitor license.  See supra p. 7 n.5.  The facility is also facing pending charges for maintaining inadequate disposition records, including for tiger cubs born at Serenity Springs.  In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently fined Serenity Springs $7,000 for a “willful” violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (“OSH Act”), for requiring employees to get into the enclosures with tigers, after a volunteer was seriously injured by one.  See §§ III.D.1-2, III.D.5, III.E.2, III.E.5.    

 

  • Standard 1.4.1 requires that “[a]n animal inventory must be compiled at least once a year and include data regarding acquisitions and dispositions at the institution.”  Id.  As we previously discussed in § III.A.1.b.iii, the facility is facing pending charges for maintaining inadequate disposition records, including for tiger cubs born at Serenity Springs.  The USDA has also cited the facility for failing to keep complete disposition and acquisition records for multiple animals.  USDA Inspection Reports (May 23, 2013, at 3; Jan. 7, 2013, at 1-2; June 25, 2007, at 2; July 6, 2006, at 1).

 

  • Standard 1.5.2 requires that “[a]ll animals” be held “in appropriate groupings.”  Serenity Springs reports that two tigers have died due to separate fights with enclosure mates within a four-year period.  App. 29-30.  Dr. Mel Richardson, who has more than thirty years of experience as a keeper and veterinarian caring for and studying many species of captive wild animals, including tigers, confirms that it is neither usual nor acceptable for a facility to have this record of deaths from fighting.  Dr. Richardson Statement 1.

 

  • Standard 2.4.1 provides that “[t]he veterinary care program must emphasize disease prevention.”  The USDA Complaint alleges that, between May 2007 and April 2009, Serenity Springs failed to vaccinate animals against distemper, “or to take steps to eliminate or reduce their risk of contracting the disease,” leading to the deaths of a four-month-old lion, a seven-month-old tiger, two other young tigers, two twelve-week-old lions, an eleven-month-old lion, two one-year-old lions, and a ten-week-old black bear.  USDA Compl. ¶ 7.  Additionally, as aforementioned, two seven-month-old tigers further died of feline panleukopenia in 2009.  App. 34.  Since at least 2002, the AAZV has recommended that tigers never before vaccinated for panleukopenia receive at least two and preferably three booster vaccines approximately three weeks apart after six weeks of age, as well as an annual booster.  AAZV, Tiger SSP Vaccination Recommendations, http://www.aazv.org/?273.  It is highly unlikely that two tiger cubs would have died of this viral disease had they been appropriately vaccinated.  Dr. Richardson Statement 1. Furthermore, on May 18, 2009, the USDA cited Serenity Springs for failing to “[p]rovide effective drainage to . . . prevent the potential for . . . diseases in all animal enclosures.”  USDA Inspection Reports (May 18, 2009, at 4).  This was a repeat violation from inspections done on January 20, 2009; September 17, 2007; April 6, 2007; and May 12, 2004.  Id.  The facility still had not corrected the drainage problem almost five years after the original date of correction.  Id.  Likewise, Serenity Springs received at least eight citations for failing to maintain sanitary conditions, “to prevent possible . . . disease hazards,” between June 2007 and March 2010.  Id. (Mar. 9, 2010, at 6-7; Sept. 17, 2007, at 3-4; June 25, 2007, at 4).  The facility was also cited at least eleven times for failing to maintain a perimeter fence, which would “effectively restrict   . . . animals with contagious diseases from entering the facility.”  Id. (Feb. 7, 2012, at 1; Sept. 7, 2011, at 4-5; Jan. 19, 2011; Nov. 15, 2010; Mar. 11, 2010; Apr. 8, 2010; Mar. 9, 2010; Jan. 19, 2010; Oct. 1, 2009; May 18, 2009, at 5; Sept. 17, 2007).  In addition, the USDA cited Serenity Springs at least five times for failing to administer a proper “pest control program” and/or maintaining conditions that harbored pests.  Id. (Sept. 7, 2011, at 1, 5, 6; May 18, 2011, at 5; June 2, 2010; June 25, 2007, at 4-5).  The agency warned that “[t]hese pests could potentially spread disease to the animals at this facility.”  Id. (June 25, 2007, at 5).

 

  • Standard 2.4.2 provides that “keepers should not diagnose illnesses nor prescribe treatment.”  According to the USDA Complaint, on August 24, 2008, Sculac, who has no veterinary training, diagnosed a tiger, Nala, as having cancer.  He unsuccessfully attempted to inject her with euthanasia solution, before ultimately killed her by cutting her throat.  USDA Compl. ¶ 15.b.  The Complaint also asserts that a leopard and her enclosure mate died tragically in January or February 2010, after the female was observed in “obvious distress,” because Sculac incorrectly diagnosed her as being in labor and failed to contact the attending veterinarian.  Id. ¶ 7.

 

  • Standard 2.6.1 requires that “[a]animal food preparation and storage . . . meet all applicable laws and/or regulations.”  On September 7, 2011, a USDA inspector observed an open bag of animal food on the ground “around fecal material with flies swarming around the bag.”  USDA Inspection Reports (Sept. 7, 2011, at 5).  This was a repeat violation from inspections on November 15, 2010; March 11, 2010; January 19, 2010; October 2, 2009; May 20, 2009; and September 17, 2007.  Id.  An accumulation of feces was also observed in animal feed on multiple occasions.  Id. (Jan. 7, 2013, at 3).

 

  • Standard 2.8.1 requires institutions to administer “[p]est control management programs   . . . in such a manner that the animals . . . are not threatened by the pests [or] contamination for pests . . . .”  Serenity Springs was cited by the USDA for failing to administer an adequate “pest control program” on May 18, 2011 and June 25, 2007.  Id. (May 18, 2011, at 5; June 25, 2007, at 4-5).  The agency also cited the facility multiple times for maintaining conditions with the potential to harbor pests.  Id. (Sept. 17, 2011, at 1, 5, 6; May 18, 2011, at 5; June 2, 2010; June 25, 2007).

 

  • Standard 9.1 provides that, “[t]he institution, regardless of whether operating on a profit or nonprofit basis, must provide sufficient evidence of its financial support.”  As § III.E.1 details, Serenity Spring lacks the financial stability to become an AZA-member zoo.  The facility’s most recent IRS Form 990, for the year 2011, shows net assets or fund balances of -$3,238 at the beginning of the year and -$43,096 at the end.  2011 Form 990.  And this is hardly an aberration:  The 990 for 2007 shows a balance of -$301,015 at the beginning of the year and -$351,401 at the end.  2007 Form 990.

 

  • Standard 10.1.1 requires that “[g]ood housekeeping [b]e regularly practiced.”  Serenity Springs utterly fails to meet this standard.  The USDA has cited it innumerable times for poor housekeeping, including, but not limited to, maintaining conditions with the potential to harbor pests; keeping food near fecal matter; failing to dispose of expired drugs; allowing standing water with scum and slime to form in animal enclosures; maintaining unsanitary contaminations; and allowing animals’ water to become contaminated.  USDA Inspection Reports (Sept. 17, 2011, May 18, 2011; Nov. 14, 2010; June 2, 2010; Mar. 9, 2010; Jan. 19, 2010; Oct. 2, 2009; May 18, 2009; Sept. 17, 2007; June 25, 2007; Apr. 6, 2007; Oct. 8, 2004; May 12, 2004).

 

  • Standard 10.3.4 requires that “[w]hen sunlight is likely to cause overheating of or discomfort to the animals, sufficient shade (in addition to shelter structures) must be provided by natural or artificial means to allow all animals kept outdoors to protect themselves from direct sunlight.”  On May 18, 2009, the USDA cited Serenity Springs for failing to provide adequate “protection from the direct sunlight” to fifty-two animals in twenty-five enclosures.  USDA Inspection Reports (May 18, 2009, at 4).  This was a repeat violation from June 25, 2007, when “[s]everal of the animals with insufficient shade were observed heavily panting.”  Id. (June 25, 2007, at 3).

 

  • Standard 11.1.1 requires that the institution “be in compliance with all applicable laws and/or regulations regarding employee training for safety in the workplace.”  Again, OSHA recently fined Serenity Springs $7,000 for a “willful” violation of the OSH Act, for requiring employees to get into the enclosures with tigers, after a volunteer was seriously injured by one.

 

  • Standard 11.3.3 provides, in relevant part, that “[a]nimals maintained where they will be in contact with the visiting public must be carefully monitored.”  On July 7, 2011, the USDA cited Serenity Springs for exhibiting a tiger on a leash that was not large enough, while only a rope and a fifty-inch space separated the tigers from the public.  USDA Inspection Reports (July 7, 2011, at 1).  On August 29, 2007, the agency again cited the facility for failing to restrain African lion cubs who were in direct contact with the public at photo shoots.  Id. (Aug. 29, 2007, at 1).  Serenity Springs was also cited for placing insufficient distance between the public and two large cats—a leopard and an adult tiger, while each cage was only monitored by one handler.  The handlers apparently failed to stop the adult cats from reaching their paws out of the cages or the public from sticking fingers into a cage holding tiger cubs.  Id. (Nov. 10, 2006, at 1).  And, on April 30, 2004, the USDA cited Serenity Springs for holding animals in open crates during public exhibition.  The animals continually jumped out of the crates, into which the public was also able to reach.  Id. (Apr. 30, 2004, at 2).

 

  • Standard 11.8.1 requires perimeter fencing, which is “constructed,” in part, “so that it protects the animals in the facility by restricting animals outside the facility.”  Serenity Springs has been cited at least eleven times for failing to maintain a perimeter fence, which would “effectively restrict . . . animals with contagious diseases from entering the facility.”  Id. (Feb. 7, 2012, at 1; Sept. 7, 2011, at 4-5; Jan. 19, 2011; Nov. 15, 2010; Mar. 11, 2010; Apr. 8, 2010; Mar. 9, 2010; Jan. 19, 2010; Oct. 1, 2009; May 18, 2009, at 5; Sept. 17, 2007).

 

Furthermore, although Serenity Springs contends that it wants “to begin the process of working with the AZA and their SSP,” App. 30, none of the facilities that it claims that it “works with and will be working with to acquir[e] other specimens” for its breeding program are members of SSPs, see App. 5, 12-13. 

 

  1. iii.  Sculac has arranged to acquire endangered wildlife from, and dispose of them to, disreputable breeders. 

 

Also indicative of Serenity Springs’s lack of involvement in protection of endangered species are the close associations that Serenity Springs has with other exhibitors who have well-documented histories of abusing and neglecting animals—including endangered species—and violating applicable state and federal laws.  Among these owners of exotic animals are the notorious Joe Schriebvogel of GW Exotic in Oklahoma, the disgraced and now defunct Wesa-A-Geh-Ya facility in Missouri, and Las Vegas-based entertainer Dirk Arthur, who breeds, transfers and uses tigers as props in a magic act.

  1. 1.     GW Exotic/Joe Schreibvogel (Wynnewood, OK)

 

In his application, Sculac notes that—in the past four years alone—he has obtained at least eighteen animals from “GW Exotic Animal,” operated by Joe Schreibvogel, aka “Joe Exotic.”  Of these eighteen animals, twelve were reportedly tigers (of whom eight were reportedly cubs or juveniles). GW Exotic and Schreibvogel (collectively, “GW Exotic”) have notorious reputations for abuse and neglect of animals.

GW Exotic has been cited repeatedly by the USDA for violating the minimum standards of care set forth in the federal AWA and was charged with more than sixty violations of the AWA in 2005.  Compl., In re: Joe Schreibvogel, et al., AWA Docket No. 05-0014 (Apr. 14, 2005).  In January 2006, GW Exotic’s USDA license was suspended, it was put on probation for eighteen months, and it agreed to pay a $25,000 civil penalty to settle USDA charges that included dangerous animal handling practices, filthy transport conditions, failure to provide animals with drinking water, insufficient staffing, and verbally abusing federal officials, as well as many charges of filthy, wet, unsafe, and dilapidated enclosures.  Consent Decision and Order, In re: Joe Schreibvogel et al., AWA Docket No. 05-0014 (Jan. 26, 2006).  The agency noted that GW Exotic had demonstrated “a consistent disregard for, and unwillingness to abide by, the requirements” of the AWA and a “lack of good faith.”  Compl., In re: Joe Schreibvogel, et al., AWA Docket No. 05-0014, at ¶ 6 (Apr. 14, 2005).

Following these citations, PETA conducted an undercover investigation of GW Exotic.  PETA’s investigator found dead, dying, and injured animals; extremely crowded conditions; a serious lack of basic necessities, such as food, water, and veterinary care; inadequate cages; and untrained and incompetent staff who were intentionally cruel to numerous animals.  The problems that we documented included the following:

  • Many animals went unfed for days at a time.
  • Animals were routinely hit, kicked, sprayed with cold water, struck with rakes and shovels, and blasted with fire extinguishers to break up frequent fights.
  • Two healthy adult tigers were killed, and their teeth were reportedly cut out to be given away as gifts.
  • Lion and tiger cubs born at the facility were removed from their mothers immediately after birth and then were often declawed—a practice that the USDA has now banned—and taken on the road.
  • Lit cigarettes and cigars were given to primates.
  • Employees were instructed to falsify paperwork required by the USDA regarding animal feeding schedules and environmental enrichment for primates.
  • Animals frequently escaped because of the inadequate cage security and careless personnel.
  • Incompatible animals were not separated, and many incurred serious injuries from fighting.

Photos from the investigation are attached and are also available here.  Since PETA’s investigation, GW Exotic has continued to violate the AWA and has been repeatedly cited by the USDA.  In fact, as of 2012, the USDA had “three ongoing cases” involving GW Exotic for its continued disregard for minimum standards of care.  Letter from USDA Staff Veterinarian to Anna Barry, Senior Biologist, DMA, FWS, Apr. 4, 2012.

 

  1. 2.     Wesa-A-Geh-Ya (Warrenton, MO)

The application shows that Sculac obtained at least eight tigers from a squalid and unlicensed roadside zoo called Wesa-A-Geh-Ya in Warrenton, Missouri, prior to the facility’s closure in 2008. Wesa-A-Geh-Ya also transferred tigers to Schreibvogel at that time.

The transfer of animals from Wesa-A-Geh-Ya to Sculac and Schreibvogel in 2008 occurred more than two years after Wesa-A-Geh-Ya’s federal exhibitor’s license had been revoked by the USDA.  Indeed, on March 1, 2006, Wesa-A-Geh-Ya owners Kenneth and Sandra Smith signed a Consent Order agreeing to the permanent revocation of their USDA license after the USDA filed administrative charges for the Smiths’ willful violations of the AWA.  See Consent Decision and Order, In re: Sandra Smith et al., AWA Docket No. 05-0004.  As discussed later in § III.D.4, these interstate transfers violated the CWSA.[7]

Wesa-A-Geh-Ya’s closure was prompted after a  volunteer was attacked by a tiger and lost his leg above the knee, Sarah Whitney, Tigers Head Out, Suburban Journal, Sept. 17, 2008, and came about a year after the Warren County Sheriff’s Department cited Wesa-A-Geh-Ya’s owners for violating Missouri law by failing to register prohibited animals, see Offense Report, Warren County Sheriff’s Department, June 1, 2007.

  1. 3.     Dirk Arthur (Las Vegas, NV)

 

Despite publicly representing that Serenity Springs keeps tigers “until they die” and that Sculac and Serenity Springs “don’t breed” and “neuter [any animal] that comes in,” see Sarah Whitney, Tigers Head Out, Suburban Journal, Sept. 17, 2008, Sculac provided a tiger cub who had been born at Serenity Springs in April 2011 to entertainer Dirk Arthur, who uses tigers for a magic act called “Dirk Arthur’s Wild Magic” in Las Vegas, App. 34.  Sculac has also obtained exotic cats from Arthur.  Id. at 25-26.

 

Arthur has been cited by the USDA on numerous occasions for failing to comply with AWA regulations, including unsanitary facilities, and numerous instances in which tigers were kept in hot metal cages in direct sunlight where temperatures reached up to 127 degrees.  USDA Inspection Reports for Illusioneering, Inc. and Dirk Arthur, Jan. 15, 2008, June 20, 2007, Aug. 31, 2006, and July 14, 2005.

  1. B.    Serenity Springs’s Purported “Educational” Activities Do Not and Cannot Justify Its Application for a CBW Permit. 

In response to the requirement that it provide “a specific description of how your proposed activities are going to facilitate captive breeding of the species,” for which a permit is sought, App. 2, Serenity Springs makes vague, general comments about how it “educate[s] the public on the plight of species on five continents and what we, as humans need to do to help fund wildlife preserves.”  Id. at 28.  This is not only untrue—it is irrelevant.  The CBW regulations provide that “[p]ublic education activities may not be the sole basis to justify issuance of a registration.”  50 C.F.R. § 17.21(g)(3); see also FWS, Captive-Bred Wildlife Registration under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (“Please note that registrations are not issued for conservation education only.”).  When the agency amended the CBW regulations to codify this policy in 1993, it voiced concern that, in the absence of such limitation, “captive-bred animals . . . might be used for purposes that do not contribute to conservation, such as . . . for entertainment.”  Captive-Bred Wildlife Regulation, 57 Fed. Reg. 548-01, 550 (Jan. 7, 1992) (emphasis added).  In the preamble to the final rule, the agency explained that it has “sincere doubts about the relative conservation benefits that are provided to non-native species in the wild from the public exhibition of living wildlife.”  Captive-Bred Wildlife Regulation, 58 Fed. Reg. 68323, 68324 (Dec. 27, 1993) (emphasis added).

The rule that “[p]ublic education activities may not be the sole basis to justify issuance of a registration,” 50 C.F.R. § 17.21(g)(3), also reflects the near consensus in the scientific community that using endangered species in exhibitions and entertainment has no impact on public attitudes about conservation.  For example:

  • In 2001, the AZA set out to measure the impact of zoo visits on visitors’ “conservation-related knowledge, attitude, affect and behavior.”  Lynn D. Dierking, Visitor Learning in Zoos and Aquariums: Executive Summary, AZA, at i (2001-2002).  The study concluded that claims that zoos might have the potential to impact positively guests’ conservation knowledge, affect and behavior, “were not substantiated or validated by actual research.”  Id.

 

  • A survey at Rosamond Gifford Zoo reported in AZA’s Communiqué in 2003 by the zoo’s then-president, Dr. Anne Baker, showed that the zoo’s guests were not looking for a serious educational experience.  Instead, the public reported overwhelmingly that a visit to the zoo meant quality time with family members and fun.  Lisa Kane, Contemporary Zoo Elephant Management: Captive to a 19th Century Mission, in An Elephant in the Room: The Science and Well-Being of Elephants in Captivity 87, 94 (Debra L. Forthman et al. eds., 2009) (citing Anne Baker, From the President, 3 Communiqué (Dec. 2003)).

 

  • In 2006, a comprehensive study was conducted at five UK zoos aimed at directly measuring the educational impact of a zoo visit.  Visitors were asked questions before and after a visit to assess their (1) conservation knowledge; (2) commitment to conservation; and (3) capacity to get involved.  No statistically significant changes were measured across the five sites, with the exception of one zoo in which visitors seemed to have a heightened awareness of how they might contribute to conservation.  This anomaly was later thought to be an artifact of visitors being in a hurry to enter and therefore being less accurate in their first round of answers than they would have been otherwise, so that it appeared that their knowledge improved after the visit more than it had.  Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Welfare State: Measuring Animal Welfare In The UK 2006, at 95-96 (2006).

 

  • Another study conducted at Lincoln Park Zoo’s gorilla and chimpanzee exhibits showed that frequent exhibit visitors were no more knowledgeable than first-time visitors and found, no change in attitudes about gorillas or chimpanzees.  This lack of improved attitude was absent whether zoo guests were first-time or frequent visitors.  K. E. Lukas & S. R. Ross, Zoo Visitor Knowledge and Attitudes Gorillas and Chimpanzees, 36 Journal of Environmental Education 33, 33-34, 41, 46-47 (2005).

 

  • In terms of affecting zoo guest action, a study at Brookfield Zoo failed to detect a significant effect on visitors’ intent to get involved in conservation even after multiple visits to an exhibit called The Swamp.  Carol D. Saunders & H. Elizabeth Stuart Perry, Summative Evaluation of the Swamp: a Conservation Exhibit with a Big Idea, XII Visitor Behavior 4, 5-6 (1997).

 

  • Zoo Atlanta investigated whether its interactive elephant exhibit encouraged active support for elephant conservation.  Visitors leaving the zoo were asked to take an already stamped postcard and send it to the White House expressing their views on whether or not the United States should continue its moratorium on the ivory trade.  Only 5.9 percent of those who saw the zoo’s elephant show and experienced the interactive elephant display at the zoo mailed the cards.  Zoo visitors who saw neither returned the cards at a rate of 3.8 percent.  Jeffrey S. Swanagan, Factors Influencing Zoo Visitors’ Conservation Attitudes and Behavior, 31 Journal of Environmental Education 26, 26-30 (2000).

 

  • A study of visitors to Monterey Bay Aquarium found that any improved commitment to conservation amongst visitors this had disappeared several months after their visit to the facility.  L. Adelman et al., Impact of National Aquarium in Baltimore on Visitors’ Conservation Attitudes, Behavior, and Knowledge, 43 Curator 33-61 (2000).

 

  • Visitors to San Francisco’s UnderWater World Aquarium were asked if they thought that they had learned anything (rather than directly testing their knowledge) and a majority, 78%, felt they had not.  Aline H. Kidd & Robert M. Kidd, Aquarium Visitors’ Perceptions and Attitudes toward the Importance of Marine Biodiversity, 81 Psychological Reports 1083-88 (1997).

Therefore, Serenity Springs’s so-called educational programs do nothing to enhance the propagation and survival of the species, as the ESA and its regulations require.

  1. C.   Serenity Springs Has Made False Statements as to Material Facts in Connection with Its Application.

In addition to its failure “to disclose material information required,” discussed infra, Serenity Springs “has made false statements as to . . . material fact[s], in connection with [its] application.”  50 C.F.R. 13.21(b)(2).  This alone warrants denial of Serenity Springs’s permit application.  See id.

Specifically, Serenity Springs has made numerous false and misleading statements regarding the causes of mortalities at its facility. For example:

  • In its permit application Serenity Springs attributes the February 2010 deaths of two leopards—species for which it now seeks a permit to breed—to “old age,” without elaboration.  App. 34.  According to the USDA, however, these leopards died as a result of Serenity Springs’s willful failure to provide adequate veterinary care and failure to properly handle animals.  USDA Compl. ¶ 25.  The USDA found that, rather than obtain veterinary care for a female leopard who was in obvious distress, Sculac opined that the animal was giving birth.  According to the USDA, “the leopard was discovered dead and hour later.”  Id.  The animal’s body was then left overnight in an enclosure she shared with a male leopard.  According to the USDA:

The following morning, the male leopard was discovered lying on top of the female, vocalizing and in distress, whereupon . . . Sculac administered tranquilizers to the male leopard and affixed a noose around his neck to remove him from atop the dead female leopard. . . . Sculac then injected the male leopard  with a reversal drug, and removed the noose.  The male leopard entered the shelter, appeared to have trouble breathing, and was bleeding from his nose and mouth.  He was discovered dead the following morning.

Id.

  • In its permit application Serenity Springs similarly attributes the July 2009 death of a cougar to “old age” and the death of a tiger—another species that the facility seeks a permit to breed—the same day to “old age put down by vet had cancer.”  App. 34.  In fact, according to the USDA, both of these animals were euthanized by a volunteer veterinary technician.  USDA Compl ¶ 23.b.  The USDA found that these deaths were caused by Serenity Springs’s failure to provide adequate veterinary care to these two animals, who had “obvious medical problems.”  Id.
  • In its permit application Serenity Springs describes the January 2010 death of a lynx as follows: “13yr old- impaction/died during surgery.”  App. 34.  According to the USDA, however, the cause of death was likely septicemia, arising from a denial of veterinary care.  See USDA Compl. ¶ 24.  Specifically, the USDA found that Serenity Springs:

failed to obtain veterinary care for a female lynx (Phoebe) suffering from a prolapsed uterus.  [Serenity Springs] did not seek veterinary care for Phoebe for one week.  Surgery revealed several inches of impacted feces including wood shavings.  Phoebe died in [Serenity Springs’s] custody following surgery.  The attending veterinarian reported that the suspected cause of death was septicemia due to the length of time of impaction.

Id.

  • In its permit application Serenity Springs attributes the death of a bear cub in March 2009 to “runt of litter died of pneumonia.”  App. 34.  According to the USDA, this cub died as a result of willful improper handling by Serenity Springs, which “fed the bears with a bottle in such a manner that both developed aspiration pneumonia, from inhaling milk into their lungs, which caused the death of one of the bears.”  USDA Compl. ¶ 20The USDA further reports that a second cub died at Serenity Springs on April 9, 2009, of distemper, id.—a death that does not even appear on the list of mortalities submitted to the FWS by Serenity Springs.
  • Serenity Springs appears to have failed to include at least one other mortality from the list that it submitted as part of its CBW permit application:  According to the USDA, on August 24, 2008, Sculac, who is not a veterinarian, diagnosed a tiger named Nala as having cancer and then, rather than obtain veterinary care for her, gave the tiger “three doses of a sedative, unsuccessfully attempted to inject Nala with a euthanasia solution, and ultimately killed her by cutting her throat, and reported to Colorado officials that Nala had died of natural causes.”  Id. ¶ 15.b.  Serenity Springs has not listed any tiger deaths on our around this date in the application that it submitted to the FWS.  See App. 34.

The FWS should also be skeptical of Serenity Springs’s assertions that many of its mortalities are due to “old age.”  Aside from the fact that this is not a cause of death—and that as noted above the applicant has clearly made false and misleading statements about some of these deaths—just earlier this year the USDA inspector found a tiger at Serenity Springs who was “extremely thin such that all his ribs were visible and his hip bones were protruding.”  USDA Inspection Reports (Jan. 7, 2013, at 1).  The inspector reported: “When asked about this animal, the licensee initially said it was an older animal but, on review of records, this animal was noted to be born in 2007 and acquired by the licensee on 8/26/12.”  Id.

Because Serenity Springs has made numerous false and misleading statements to the FWS in its CBW permit application—statements that bear directly on its ability to properly care for the animals it seeks a permit to breed—the application should be denied outright.

  1. D.   Serenity Springs “has failed to demonstrate a valid justification for the permit and a showing of responsibility.”

The FWS must reject the application because Serenity Springs “has failed to demonstrate . . . a showing of responsibility.”  50 C.F.R. § 13.21(b)(3).  A “showing of responsibility” is a demonstration that the applicant is “capable” of successfully operating a captive-breeding program.  OSG Prod. Tankers LLC v. United States, 82 Fed. Cl. 570, 575 (Fed. Cl. 2008) (discussing a “showing of responsibility” in the context of government contracts).  “Responsibility determinations are practical, not legal determinations based primarily on the [applicant]’s suitability for a particular job.”  Id. (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted) (quoting Peter Kiewit Sons’ Co. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs, 714 F.2d 163, 167 n.18 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (same)).

 

  1. 1.     The mortalities at Serenity Springs demonstrate that it is unqualified to receive a CBW permit. 

 

The number and causes of animal mortalities at Serenity Springs make the facility utterly unsuitable to receive a CBW permit.  The facility lists an astonishing fifty-nine deaths in the past five years.  If approximately 140 animals are at the facility “at all times,” as the Application claims, this means that almost thirty percent of the animals maintained by Serenity Springs in the past five years have died.  See App. 34-35.    

Many of the animals at Serenity Springs have died as a result of poor veterinary care, negligence, and improper handling.  For example, according to the USDA Complaint, on August 24, 2008, Sulac, who has no veterinary training, diagnosed a tiger, Nala, as having cancer.  He unsuccessfully attempted to inject her with euthanasia solution, before ultimately killing her by cutting her throat.  USDA Complaint ¶ 15.b.  On March 10, 2009, two bear cubs purportedly developed aspiration pneumonia, from inhaling milk into their lungs, as a result of their poor handling.  One of the cubs died.  Id. ¶ 20.  In addition, the USDA complaint alleges that, between May 2007 and April 2009, Serenity Springs failed to vaccinate animals against distemper, “or to take steps to eliminate or reduce their risk of contracting the disease,” leading to the deaths of a four-month-old lion, a seven-month-old tiger, two other young tigers, two twelve-week-old lions, an eleven-month-old lion, two one-year-old lions, and a ten-week-old black bear.  Id. ¶ 7.  According to the USDA, Serenity Springs also failed to provide any veterinary care for two cats—a tiger and a cougar—“with obvious medical problems.”  Id. ¶ 23.b.  Instead, without notifying a veterinarian, the facility had a volunteer “euthanize” the animals himself.  Id.   Again, according to the USDA, on January 19, 2010, Serenity Springs did not provide veterinary care for a lynx, Phoebe, with a painful prolapsed uterus, which caused impaction.  “Surgery revealed several inches of impacted feces including wood shavings.”  Id. ¶ 24.  Phoebe died of septicemia after surgery, likely “due to the length of time of impaction.”  Id.  The USDA complaint also asserts that two leopards died tragically in January or February 2010, because Serenity Springs failed to obtain veterinary care despite their “obvious distress.”  Id. ¶ 7.  And tigers were killed in fights with enclosure mates on two separate occasions.  App. 34-35 (listing deaths on October 10, 2008 and May 15, 2012).  Dr. Richardson confirms “[t]hat this is unacceptable and indicates poor management and husbandry practices.”  Dr. Richardson Statement 1.

Serenity Springs also states that a five-week-old black bear cub who died on March 14, 2009 was the “runt of litter died of pneumonia.”  App. 34.  Again, however, as Dr. Richardson, who has more than thirty years of experience caring for captive wild animals, explains, attributing a cub’s death “to the fact the cub was the runt of the litter . . . is a sign of incompetence.  Runts of the litter when hand raised have just as good a chance at survival as the larger cubs . . . .”  Dr. Richardson Statement 2.

Furthermore, two seven-month-old tigers died of feline panleukopenia in 2009.  Serenity Springs asserts that “we now have a complete veterinary facility with the ability to quarantine animals.”  Attachment E to the Application 2.  But, as far back as at least 2002, the AAZV has recommended that tigers never before vaccinated for panleukopenia receive at least two and preferably three booster vaccines approximately three weeks apart after six weeks of age, as well as an annual booster.  AAZV, Tiger SSP Vaccination Recommendations, http://www.aazv.org/?273.  It is highly unlikely that two tiger cubs would have died of this viral disease had they been appropriately vaccinated.  Statement of Dr. Richardson 1. 

Serenity Springs also reports that a tiger was “put down” due to a “very large hygroma,” which was impossible to treat.  App. 35.  However, as Dr. Richardson explains, “there is no reason other than negligence or lack of proper veterinary care that a tiger’s hygroma should get so large that the tiger needs to be euthanized.  Hygromas are essentially caused by poor management.”  Statement of Dr. Richardson 1.

In a recent USDA inspection report, inspectors noted that the facility acquired three-day-old white tiger cubs.  One died within twenty-four hours of arriving at Serenity Springs, while another was euthanized.  The reported cited the facility for transporting and handling “very young and unhealthy animals,” which likely caused the cubs trauma and unnecessary discomfort and “may have contributed to these animals’ deaths.”  USDA Inspection Reports (May 23, 2013, at 3).

In the same inspection report, it was noted that an employee had observed a female tiger in labor and contacted the attending veterinarian, who told the employee to monitor the tiger.  The next day the mother and her cub were found dead.  According to the inspector, the employee did not appear to have monitored the tiger, as ordered by the veterinarian, “in order to prevent the death of this tiger and her cub.”  Id. (May 23, 2013, at 1-2).

Finally, the June, 2, 2010 inspection report states that a male tiger died three days after beginning to show signs of declining health, such as losing weight rapidly, drinking lots of water, and having difficulty walking.  The staff attempted to contact the veterinarian, but was unable to make contact for four days.  During that time, the facility failed to make any attempts to contact another veterinarian.  According to the inspector, there was no provision for backup or emergency veterinary care in the written program of veterinary care.  Id. (June 2, 2010, at 1).

Serenity Springs cannot possibly demonstrate a “showing of responsibility” in light of its history of negligently and inhumanely causing the deaths of numerous animals.

  1. 2.     Serenity Springs’s chronic and egregious AWA violations

 

Serenity Springs cannot demonstrate a “showing of responsibility” because it has a history of improperly handling animals; failing to provide animals with veterinary care; maintaining animals in unsafe and unhygienic conditions; failing to adequately guard the public safety; and failing to grant USDA inspectors access to its facilities—all in violation of the AWA.  In addition to the egregious alleged violations detailed in the last subsection, Serenity Springs has committed the following AWA violations, among many others:

 

  • On May 31, 2013, the USDA cited Serenity Springs for failing to provide its inspectors access to the facility and animals.  According to the inspection report, “[t]he licensee was contacted by APHIS officials via phone.  When the inspector stated that they needed access to conduct an inspection, the licensee refused to come to the facility, have any other representative come to the facility, or allow anyone present at the facility to conduct an inspection despite having allowed facility employees to accompany inspectors on inspection in the past.”  Id. (May 31, 2013).  This was at least the tenth time that the agency had cited Serenity Springs for failing to provide it access.  See also id. (Apr. 15, 2013; Mar. 20, 2013; Dec. 7, 2011; Sept. 3, 2010; Aug. 25, 2009; Apr. 3, 2009; Mar. 9, 2007; Dec. 6, 2006; Nov. 14, 2002).  

 

  • On May 23, 2013, a tiger was observed limping.  Sculac claimed that he had first noticed the tiger’s condition “last night,” but “no records were made or available for review at the time of the inspection and no contact had been made with a veterinarian to diagnose or treat the condition.”  USDA Inspection Reports (May 23, 2013, at 1).  This was a repeat violation.  Id. 

 

  • Also on May 23, 2013, the inspector observed that a second tiger was lame.  The facility had previously contacted the veterinarian about the tiger “losing weight,” and the veterinarian had started her on antibiotics after finding ulcers in her mouth and a broken tooth.  Id.  However, the tiger had not had a follow-up visit from the veterinarian for at least thirty-three days.  “No plan for follow-up on this animal’s condition was made,” nor had anyone “noticed the abnormal gait nor reported it to the veterinarian.”  Id.  This was another repeat violation.  Id. 

 

  • On January 7, 2013, the USDA inspector observed that a male white Bengal tiger was “extremely thin such that all his ribs were visible and his bones protruding.”  Id. (Jan. 7, 2013, at 1).  When asked, Sculac told the inspector that the tiger was an “older animal” but, on review of the records, it was learned that the tiger was born in 2007.  No one at Serenity Springs had noted the tiger’s condition or contacted the veterinarian.  Id. 

 

  • Also on January 7, 2013, the USDA inspector reported:  “No documentation/records were available to show the disposition of 1 adult Paca which was still listed in the book for current animals on hand.  Licensee stated the animal had passed away but could not provide a date or identify which of the two Pacas (the acquisition record listed 1 male and 1 female) had died.”  Id. (Jan. 7, 2013, at 2). 

 

  • Serenity Springs was repeatedly cited by the USDA for allowing animals’ food to become contaminated.  See id. (Jan. 7, 2013, at 3; Sept. 12, 2011; Nov. 15, 2010; Mar. 9, 2010; Jan. 19, 2010; Oct. 1, 2009; May 18, 2009). 

 

  • On November 5, 2010, the USDA cited the facility for failing to follow veterinary instructions.  Three tigers had corneal opacities and changes to their eyes, “for which the AV recommended providing increased shade to minimize potential pain and distress from these conditions and to prevent further worsening of these conditions.”  Id. (Nov. 5, 2010, at 1).  No changes were made.  This was a repeat violation from June 2, 2010; May 18, 2009; and June 25, 2007.  Id.  More than three years had elapsed since the original correction date.  Id. 

 

  • Again on November 5, 2010, Serenity Springs was cited for failing to follow the attending veterinarian’s directions.  The veterinarian had prescribed two medications to treat a sore on a male leopard’s tail, but the facility appears to have discontinued treatment without seeking her advice.  Id. 

 

  • Also on November 5, 2010, the facility was cited for failing to provide over ninety days of prescribed analgesic treatment to a male leopard with “severe right forelimb swelling of the elbow, despite the veterinarian’s direction to continue treatment.  Id.  Sculac informed the USDA that he planned to schedule euthanasia “due to a lack of improvement in [the leopard’s] condition.”  Id. 

 

  • On June 2, 2010, the USDA cited Serenity Springs for failing to make provision for backup or emergency veterinary care in the written program of veterinary care, after a tiger who had gone without treatment for days died.  Id. (June 2, 2010, at 1). 

 

  • On March 9, 2010, the USDA once again cited the facility for inadequate veterinary care.  The attending veterinarian prescribed medication for two juvenile tigers suspected of having ringworm, but there were no records showing that the tigers were receiving this medication, nor was medication available to review during the inspection.  In addition, two other tigers who showed signs of ringworm were being given only half the prescribed dose of medication.  The attending veterinarian had not seen the tigers in two months, and there did not appear to be any improvement in their condition during that period.  Id. (Mar. 9, 2010, at 1). 

 

  • Again on March 9, 2010, staff told the USDA inspector that they had first noted a male mountain lion’s “significant” lameness three days earlier and that the attending veterinarian had instructed them to “watch it for now.”  Id. (Mar. 9, 2010, at 2).  However, “[d]uring an interview with the attending veterinarian shortly after the inspection was performed, she stated that she had not been notified of this animal’s condition.  There were no records kept at the facility that indicated the staff had attempted to notify the attending veterinarian as stated.”  Id. 

 

  • Also on March 9, 2010, “[a] female leopard, Casey, was noted to have hair loss, reddened tissue, and bone exposed at the tip of her tail.  The condition of this lesion [was] serious as the risk of infection into the vertebral column and adjacent tissues [was] high.”  Id.  However, “[t]he attending veterinarian had not been notified of this animals [sic] worsening condition by the licensee.”  Id.  A male leopard housed with Casey was also noted to have “multiple reddened, erosive areas on both nostrils and on his lower right lip.”  Id.  The condition had been reported during the previous inspection, on January 19, 2010, yet Serenity springs had yet to notify the attending veterinarian.  Id.  In addition, the USDA inspector noted that three coatimundis had “significant hair loss on their tails, backs, and sides.”  Id.  Although staff had notified the attending veterinarian, they had not relayed to her “the extent of the hair loss . . . so she was unaware how severely these animals were affected.”  Id.  Finally, the USDA inspector observed a female mountain lion and a female tiger with “hair loss and reddened skin.”  Id.  Staff had not notified the attending veterinarian, even though they were aware of the condition and claimed to be treating it with a Betadine spray.  Id.  

 

  • That same day, several leopards were observed to be exhibiting “self-inflicted lesions on their tails.”  Id. (Mar. 9, 2010, at 3).  Sculac told the inspector that the leopards were receiving the prescribed treatment, but there was no communication with the attending veterinarian as to whether they had responded to the treatment since the veterinarian’s last visit to the facility two months earlier.  Id. 

 

  • On March 9, 2010, the USDA inspector reported:  “Two leopards died (one on 2/12/2010 and the other on 2/14/10 according to disposition records) but the attending veterinarian had not been notified of any problems with these animals and only learned that the animals had died during a facility board meeting.”  Id.

 

  • The USDA has repeatedly cited Serenity Springs for unsanitary conditions, including providing animals with unsanitary water.  See, e.g., id. (three citations on Mar. 9, 2010, at 6-7; two citations on Sept. 17, 2007, at 3-4; three citations on June 25, 2007, at 4). 

 

  • On January 19, 2010, Serenity Springs was cited for failing to provide veterinary care to six tigers and three leopards with hair loss, “thin body appearance,” limping, cloudy corneas, and lesions, among other conditions.  Id. (Jan. 19, 2010, at 1-2).  The facility failed to notify the attending veterinarian about any of these animals’ conditions.  Id.   

 

  • On January 20, 2009, the USDA inspector reported:  “The program of veterinary care is not always being maintained effectively.  Timely and accurate information on problems of animal health and well-being is not always being conveyed to the attending veterinarian.”  Id. (Jan. 20, 2009, at 1).  As evidence, the inspector noted that staff had not detected during the required daily observation, nor had the attending veterinarian been notified about, the condition of one tiger with abrasions, hair loss, and “inflamed and red colored skin” and a second tiger with an “open wound about 2 wide by 5 long o her belly by her back legs.”  Id. 

 

  • On January 2, 2008, a leopard, Rosebud, was observed “hunched over in an abnormal posture with poor hair coat and open wound on the tail.”  Id. (Jan. 2, 2008, at 1).  Another, Thunder, was observed with “open wounds on the tail.”  Id.  There was no evidence that Serenity Springs staff had detected the leopards’ conditions during the required daily observation, nor had the attending veterinarian been called.  Id. 

 

  • On September 17, 2007, the USDA inspector observed that a tiger, Sitara, had “several puncture wounds on the inside thigh of the rear right leg with some swelling and an open wound about 1” on the outside of the left leg.”  Id. (Sept. 17, 2007, at 1).  Another tiger, Eragon, was limping “with obvious swelling.”  Id.  There was no evidence that Serenity Springs staff had detected the tigers’ conditions during the required daily observation, nor had they contacted the attending veterinarian.  Id.   

 

  • The USDA has repeatedly cited Serenity Springs for exhibiting dangerous animals in a manner that places the public’s safety at risk.  See, e.g., id. (July 7, 2011, at 1; Aug. 29, 2007, at 1; Nov. 10, 2006, at 1; Apr. 30, 2004, at 2). 

 

  • On June 25, 2007 and October 8, 2004, the USDA cited Serenity Springs for failing to dispose of expired medication.  Id. (June 25, 2007, at 1; Oct. 8, 2004, at 1). 

 

As we discuss in § III.E.5, the USDA has also cited Serenity Springs numerous times for risking injury to the wildlife by failing to maintain its facilities in good repair.

 

  1. 3.     Serenity Springs’s likely violations of the ESA
    1. a.     Likely unlawful transfers of endangered animals

Tigers are listed as endangered pursuant to the implementing regulations of the ESA, see 50 C.F.R. § 17.11, and the ESA prohibits the “sale or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce any

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species,” and also makes it unlawful to deliver, receive, carry, transport, or ship in interstate or foreign commerce, by any means whatsoever and in the course of a commercial activity, any such species,” 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(E).

The ESA allows for exceptions to these prohibitions in strictly limited circumstances, but reflects a policy of “institutionalized caution,” Tenn. Valley Auth. v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 194 (1978), and was carefully drafted “to limit substantially the number of exemptions that may be granted under the Act, . . . given that these exemptions apply to species which are in danger of extinction.”  Cong. Research Serv., 97th Cong., Legislative History of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as Amended in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1980, at 156 (Comm. Print 1982) (H.R. Report 93-412 (July 27, 1973)) (emphases added).  Accordingly, § 10 allows Defendants to issue permits for export and import only “for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.” 16 U.S.C. § 1539(a)(1)(a).  A narrow regulatory exemption authorizes one to, in pertinent part, “export or re-import; deliver, receive, carry, transport or ship in interstate or foreign commerce, in the course of a commercial activity; or sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce” tigers bred in captivity in the United States if (a) they are  “inter-subspecific crossed or ‘generic’” and (2) “the purpose of such activity is to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected exempted species.”  50 C.F.R. § 17.22(g).  If one does not qualify for this exception, then it is legally required to apply for a permit to sell any tiger, receive any tiger in the course of a commercial activity, and so forth. 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(E).

Yet, as Serenity Springs CBW permit application makes clear, it has acquired tigers from numerous commercial entities over the years including, as previously discussed in § III.A.1.a, at least nineteen tigers from GW Exotic and at least seven tigers from Dirk Arthur, amongst others.  In all likelihood, these animals were sold and then received by Serenity Springs “in the course of a commercial activity”—i.e., the sale.  Because, as also discussed in § III.A.1.a, these transactions involved white tigers and other tigers who were almost certainly “generic,” they by definition have no conservation value, so the purpose of their purchase was not to enhance the propagation or survival of the species.  Accordingly the generic tiger exemption would not have applied.  And yet there is no indication that the requisite ESA permits were obtained by Serenity Springs or the sellers, indicating that in all likelihood these entities repeatedly engaged in unlawful activities in violation of the ESA.

  1. b.     Unlawful takes of endangered species

Serenity Spring has also taken endangered wildlife, in violation of the ESA.  The ESA establishes a national policy “that all Federal departments and agencies shall seek to conserve endangered species and threatened species and shall utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of [the Act].”  16 U.S.C. § 1531(c).  In relevant part, the Act prohibits persons from taking endangered species.  Id. § 1538(a)(1)(B)-(C).  The ESA defines the term “take” to include “harass, harm, . . . wound, kill, . . . or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”  Id. § 1532(19).  “Harass” is defined by regulation as “an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.”  50 C.F.R. § 17.3.  As it pertains to captive animals,[8] such as the wildlife at issue, the definition of “harass” expressly exempts “generally accepted” animal husbandry practices and breeding procedures.  Id.  “Harm” means “an act which actually kills or injures wildlife.”  Id.

Although the ESA regulations do not define “wound,” the verb means “to cause a wound to or in” or “to inflict a wound.”  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2011) (Definition of “Wound” (Verb)). The noun is defined as “an injury to the body (as from violence, accident, or surgery) that typically involves laceration or breaking of a membrane (as the skin) and usually damage to underlying tissues.” Id. (definition of “Wound” (Noun)); see also The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed. 2009) (definition of “Wound” (Noun)) (defining “wound” as “[i]njury to a part or tissue of the body, especially one caused by physical trauma and characterized by tearing, cutting, piercing, or breaking of the tissue”).  The Act’s prohibition on taking endangered species applies to the captive wildlife that Serenity Springs maintains.

As previously discussed, the USDA Complaint asserts that, on August 24, 2008, Sulac, who has no veterinary training, diagnosed a tiger, Nala, as having cancer.  He unsuccessfully attempted to inject her with euthanasia solution, before ultimately killed her by cutting her throat.  USDA Compl. ¶ 15.b.  According to the USDA, Serenity Springs also failed to provide any veterinary care for two cats—a tiger and a cougar—“with obvious medical problems.”  Id. ¶ 23.b.  Instead, without notifying a veterinarian, the facility had a volunteer “euthanize” the animals himself.  Id.  Tigers and certain cougar subspecies are listed as endangered under the ESA.  Serenity Springs therefore harmed and killed endangered wildlife, in breach of the ESA’s take prohibitions.  

As the previous subsections illustrate, Serenity Springs has also harmed endangered species, in violation of the ESA’s take prohibitions, by failing to provide them adequate veterinary care, failing to treat them as prescribed, failing to adequately monitor their health, housing them in unsafe and unhygienic conditions, exposing them to the risk of disease, and handling them in a manner that causes them trauma, stress, and unnecessary discomfort.

  1. 4.     Likely CWSA violations

It also appears likely that Serenity Springs has been involved in numerous violations of the CWSA amendment to the Lacey Act, which went into effect in September 2007.  The CWSA makes it unlawful to “import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce” “any prohibited wildlife species,” 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(C), and defines “prohibited wildlife species” as “any live species of lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, or cougar or any hybrid of such a species,” id. § 3371(g).  While it has some exceptions, including for USDA-licensed facilities and for accredited wildlife sanctuaries that do not breed or commercially trade in animals, id. § 3372(e), it is broader than the ESA in that it applies to the prohibited species regardless of whether they are endangered and because it prohibits transfer across state lines even if no commercial activity is involved.  See also FWS, Captive Wildlife Safety Act: What Big Cat Owners Need to Know (Aug. 2007).

Because it appears from Serenity Springs’s own records that it has acquired prohibited wildlife species from out-of-state entities that are not licensed by the USDA on numerous occasions, it is likely that Serenity Springs has been party to numerous violations of the CWSA.  For example:

  • According to the inventory that Serenity Springs submitted to the FWS as part of its application, eight of the tigers it currently holds were acquired from from Wes-A-Geh-Ya in Warrenton, MO, in September 2008.  App. 25.  In fact, according to news reports, Serenity Springs acquired fifteen tigers from Wes-A-Geh-Ya at this time.  See Sarah Whitney, Tigers Head Out, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Sept. 17, 2008 (discussing transfer of ten female and five male tigers).  Wes-A-Geh-Ya’s USDA license was permanently revoked pursuant to a consent decree two-and-a-half years prior to this transfer, see In re Smith et al., No. 05-004, Consent Decision and Order, meaning that in all likelihood the transfer of these tigers across state lines violated the CWSA.

 

  • According to the inventory that Serenity Springs submitted to the FWS as part of its application, it acquired two tigers from Michael Giles of Las Vegas, Nev., on November 14, 2008.  App. 25.  According to the USDA, Michael Giles is not a USDA-licensed facility and was not at the time of this transfer. Thus, regardless of whether these tigers were donated or sold, their transfer across state lines likely violated the CWSA. See 16 U.S.C. § 3372(a)(2)(C); see also FWS, Captive Wildlife Safety Act: What Big Cat Owners Need to Know (Aug. 2007).

 

  1. 5.     OSHA violations

 

In 2009, a volunteer suffered wounds to his wrist, forearm, bicep, and tricep when he was mauled by a tiger at the facility.  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Accused of Theft, The Gazette, Oct. 1, 2010.  Again, OSHA fined Serenity Springs $7,000 for a “willful” violation of the OSH Act, on the basis that “[t]he employer is not furnishing employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”  OSHA Citation, No. 0830600, at 2 (July 14, 2009) (emphasis added).  The agency explained: “Employees are not physically separated from non-domestic felines while employees are cleaning cages. .  . .  To abate this violation, the employer must ensure that employees who clean cages are physically separated from non-domestic felines while the employees clean the cages.”  Id.  And, as discussed in greater detail in § III.E.2, infra, this was not the first time that OSHA had investigated Serenity Springs for a tiger attack on a volunteer.  See Dick Foster, OSHA to Inspect Refuge Where Tigers Mauled Man, Rocky Mountain News, July 2, 2003, at 11A (discussing 2003 attack by two tigers).

 

  1. 6.     Serenity Springs’s inability to comply with applicable federal regulations

 

  1. a.     Inhumane and unhealthy conditions

The FWS cannot issue Serenity Springs the requested permit because the facility subjects endangered wildlife to inhumane and unhealthy conditions.  Demonstrating a “showing of responsibility” means demonstrating that Serenity Springs could meet the requirements of a CBW permit.  See OSG Prods. Tankers LLC, 82 Fed. Cl. at 575.  However, the facility cannot show that it would meet the requirements of a CBW permit because it cannot show that it will comply with 50 C.F.R. § 13.41, which mandates that “[a]ny live wildlife possessed under a permit must be maintained under humane and healthful conditions.”  Id.; see also id. § 13.2 (“The regulations contained in this part provide uniform, rules, conditions, and procedures for the . . . issuance, denial, suspension, revocation, and general administration of all permits issued pursuant to this subchapter B.”).

As these comments amply show, Serenity Springs has a long and egregious history of causing the deaths of animals; failing to provide animals veterinary care; failing to provide prescribed medical treatment to animals; housing animals in unsafe and unhygienic conditions; feeding them food at risk of contamination; providing them contaminated water; failing to perform, or incompetently performing, the required daily observation to monitor their health; and handling the animals in a manner that causes them trauma, stress, and discomfort.  See §§ III.A.1.c.i, III.D.1-2, III.E.5.    

  1. b.     Access

 

The implementing regulations require that “[a]ny person holding a[n ESA] permit . . . shall allow the Director’s agent to enter his premises at any reasonable hour to inspect any wildlife or plant held or to inspect, audit, or copy, any permits, books, or records required to be kept by regulations of this subchapter B.”  50 C.F.R. § 13.47.  In addition, the regulations provide that,

[b]y accepting [a CBW] permit, the permittee consents to and shall allow entry by agents or employees of the Service upon premises where the permitted activity is conducted at any reasonable hour.  Service agents or employees may enter such premises to inspect the location; any books, records, or permits required to be kept by this Subchapter B; and any wildlife or plants kept under authority of the permit.

Id. § 13.21(e)(2).

Serenity Springs also cannot show that it will comply with the requirements that it allow the FWS access to its premises, records, and animals.  As previously discussed, the USDA has cited the facility for failure to provide agency inspectors access at least ten timesSee USDA Inspection Reports (May 31, 2013; Apr. 15, 2013; Mar. 20, 2013; Dec. 7, 2011; Sept. 3, 2010; Aug. 25, 2009; Apr. 3, 2009; Mar. 9, 2007; Dec. 6, 2006; Nov. 14, 2002).  There is no reason to believe that Serenity Springs will be more likely to comply with the ESA regulations, than it is with the AWA regulations.  The FWS should therefore deny Serenity Springs’s application for a CBW permit. 

  1. 7.     Serenity Springs’s inability to comply with conditions of the CBW permit

 

Serenity Springs also cannot satisfy the requirement that it “demonstrate . . . a showing of responsibility,” 50 C.F.R. § 13.21(b)(3), because it cannot show that it will “strict[ly] observ[e]” “all applicable foreign, state, local or other federal law,” as the CBW permit requires and this section amply illustrates.  See, e.g., CBW Permit No. MA808265-0 (“The validity of [this CBW] permit is also conditioned upon strict observance of all applicable foreign, state, local or other federal law.”). 

  1. 8.     Serenity Springs appears to lack the requisite state permits.  

Colorado law prohibits the possession of wildlife unless specifically permitted.  See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 33-6-109(1).  While Serenity Springs has submitted permits for some of the species it seeks a permit to breed, a number of these species are also notably absent from the state permits that were submitted.  Specifically, the application materials provided to PETA indicate that Serenity Springs lacks the requisite state permit for cheetahs, clouded leopards, brown hyenas, and any lemurs other than ring-tailed lemurs.  See App. 16-22; see also Colo. Rev. Stat. § 33-6-109(1). These apparent violations warrant particular scrutiny given that Serenity Springs’s director has previously been cited by “the Colorado Division of Wildlife for illegally keeping bear and tiger cubs off the Serenity Springs property.”  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Accused of Theft, The Gazette, Oct. 1, 2010.

Because it appears from the face of its own application that Serenity Springs lacks the state permits needed to engage in the activities for which it seeks a CBW permit—and given Serenity Springs’s prior violations of state wildlife laws—the FWS should deny its permit application.

  1. 9.     Other laws

 

Sculac was recently convicted of theft, and sentenced to spend six years at a halfway house, in connection with the 2009 attack by a tiger on a volunteer (see § III.D.5, supra).  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Guilty but Avoids Prison Time, The Gazette, Oct. 26, 2010.  Although the USDA was still investigating and had not assessed any fines for the incident, Sculac told the victim of the attack that Serenity Springs had in fact been fined $40,500.  He claimed that he would lose his house, the sanctuary would be shut down, and the animals euthanized if the victim did not pay the fine—which the victim did, delivering a check to Sculac for $40,500.  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Accused of Theft, The Gazette, Oct. 1, 2010; see also USDA Compl. ¶ 3.  Noting Sculac’s two prior felony convictions, 4th Judicial District Judge David Gilbert told him: “You’ve been a con artist.  You’ve been misusing people.  You’ve been picking on people who are in a vulnerable state.”  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Guilty but Avoids Prison Time, The Gazette, Oct. 26, 2010.

This wasn’t the first time Sculac was accused of being a con artist.  In 2002, he was arrested on four counts of theft, accused of taking payment in two businesses for services and supplies that he failed to deliver.  Requesting bail be set at $100,000, a deputy wrote: “[Sculac] has shown proficiency in obtaining large sums of money by deception.”  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Accused of Theft, The Gazette, Oct. 1, 2010.      

  1. E.    Serenity Springs’s Expertise, Facilities, and Other Resources Are Inadequate. 

In considering an application, § 17.21 of the regulations requires the FWS to consider “whether the expertise, facilities or other resources available to the applicant appear adequate to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected wildlife.”  50 C.F.R. § 17.21(g)(3).  Serenity Springs lacks the finances, the expert staff, the breeding experience, and the facilities necessary to operate a successful and humane conservation breeding program.

 

  1. 1.     Serenity Springs lacks the financial resources to qualify for a CBW permit.

Serenity Springs lacks the financial resources to run a conservation breeding program.  Serenity Springs’s most recent IRS Form 990, for the year 2011, shows net assets or fund balances of       -$3,238 at the beginning of the year and -$43,096 at the end.  2011 Form 990.  The 990 for 2010 and 2009 show end balances of -$3,238 and $0, respectively, while the 990 for 2007 shows a balance of -$301,015 at the beginning of the year and -$351,401 at the end.  2010 Form 990; 2009 Form 990; 2007 Form 990.  It does not appear that the facility filed a Form 990 for 2008.  See 990 Finder, Foundation Center, http://990finder.foundationcenter.org/990results.aspx?990_type=&fn=serenity+springs&st=CO&zp=&ei=&fy=&action=Find.

The facility has repeatedly discussed its financial difficulties.  In 2001, Sculac told the Rocky Mountain News that Serenity Springs had “almost run out of meat” and that it had been forced to use “money set aside for the payment on the meat truck” to buy food instead.  Deborah Frazier, Donations Drop, but Big Cats Still Need Meat, Rocky Mountain News, Oct. 10, 2001, at 14A.  Two years later, he told the Denver Post that he had overdrawn the business account by more than $22,000 and, as a result, that the company that delivered food for the animals had stopped its bimonthly delivery.  Eileen Kelley, Cat-Refuge Worker Survives Attack of 2 Tigers, Denver Post, July 1, 2003, at B03.  The Rocky Mountain News described “periodic panics when contributions fall short.”  Deborah Frazier & Gary Gerhardt, Last Refuge for Big Cats?  Colorado Sanctuaries Try to Take up Slack from Sites Elsewhere, Rocky Mountain News, Sept. 9, 2003, at 6A.  Then, again, in 2006, the facility reported that its food supplies were running short.  Deborah Frazier, Big-Cat Sanctuary in a Jam, Rocky Mountain News, June 26, 2006, at 15A.  And, in 2008, Sculac referred to the effort to pay the facility’s $19,000-a-month tab as “[d]ay-to-day.”  Rick Tosches, Sanctuary from the Wild World, Colorado Springs Independent, Sept. 18, 2008, at 8.  Indeed, the “property has been in and out of foreclosure several times.”  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Accused of Theft, The Gazette, Oct. 1, 2010.  In 2006, the facility only survived by selling land.  Deborah Frazier, Exotic Wildlife Sanctuaries Call $100,000 Bond Plan Unbearable, Rocky Mountain News, May 7, 2007, at 20.

Sculac himself has been beset by financial woes.  In 2005, his home was foreclosed and he “lost the contracting business that helped supplement the sanctuary’s $250,000 annual expenses.”  Claire Martin, A Colorado Life: Caring for Big Cats Made Refuge Owner Purr, Denver Post, Aug. 20, 2006, at C06.  He was sued in 2007 by a former attorney for $5,794 in unpaid legal bills.  In 2008, he was sued over $2,700 in unpaid medical bills.  And, in 2010, a motorcycle Sculac bought for $14,000 was repossessed.  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Accused of Theft, The Gazette, Oct. 1, 2010.  

Serenity Springs’s financial vulnerability is a serious concern.  Big-cat sanctuaries regularly close due to funding shortfalls, and placing the animals at other facilities can be a Herculean task.  See, e.g., Jim Douglas, Perilous Times for Big Cat Sanctuary in Wise County, WFAA, July 20, 2010; R. Scott Rappold, Big Cats Running Out of Shelter, The Gazette, Aug. 21, 2006; Deborah Frazier, Big Cats Find Serenity Ranch for Ex-Pets, Zoo Animals Devours Money Like Raw Meat, Rocky Mountain News, May 24, 1998, at 20A; Tamara Lush, Big Cats, Bad Economy, Canadian Press, Jan. 21, 2011; Dan E. Way, Lions and Tigers Transitioning Nicely to Life in Pittsboro, The Herald-Sun, Nov. 17, 2010.  And captive breeding is often prohibitively expensive.  Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 343 (Apr. 1996). 

  1. 2.     Serenity Springs lacks the expert staff necessary to qualify for a CBW permit.

Serenity Springs has also exposed an alarming lack of knowledge about endangered species and their care.  In 2003, for example, a volunteer was attacked when he entered a cage to feed two tigers.  One cat took hold of the volunteer’s legs, and the other jumped him from behind, knocking him down.  Sculac, who had entered the cage with the volunteer, was forced to beat the tigers with a shovel until the other man could escape.  The volunteer was hospitalized for days with deep cuts to his scalp, leg, and arm.  Dick Foster, OSHA to Inspect Refuge Where Tigers Mauled Man, Rocky Mountain News, July 2, 2003, at 11A.  This attack would never have occurred if Serenity Springs had moved the big cats into shifting cages while cleaning and feeding to prevent direct physical contact—as is standard industry practice.  Alan H. Shoemaker et al., Zoo Guidelines for Keeping Large Felids in Captivity.  Instead, “Sculac said the worker invited harm by wearing shorts,” insisting “[t]hey get set off by bare legs,” Andrea Brown, Snow Removal at Big-Cat Ranch near Calhan Cost Nearly $15,000, AP Alert—Colorado, Jan. 25, 2007—a claim which Dr. Mel Richardson, who has thirty years of experience with captive wild animals, called an “outlandish myth[] and legend[].”  Dr. Richardson Statement 1.  Dr. Richardson states:  “[I]f the management of Serenity Springs is claiming this, then in my opinion they do not have the expertise to operate a Captive-Bred Wildlife facility.  This claim is simply not true.”  Id.  Totally ignoring the unpredictability of large predators, Sculac has also made the outrageous claim that “[i]f you spend too much time in the [tigers]’ cage, they’ll let you know.  You kind of get eyes in the back of your head.”  Id.

Unfortunately, this “knowledge” failed Serenity Springs again in 2009 when a volunteer suffered wounds to his wrist, forearm, bicep, and tricep when he was mauled by a tiger at the facility.  R. Scott Rappold, Big Cat Sanctuary Co-Founder Accused of Theft, The Gazette, Oct. 1, 2010.  As previously discussed in § III.D.5, OSHA fined Serenity Springs $7,000 for a “willful” violation of the OSH Act, on the basis that “[t]he employer is not furnishing employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”  OSHA Citation, No. 0830600, at 2 (July 14, 2009) (emphasis added).  The agency explained: “Employees are not physically separated from non-domestic felines while employees are cleaning cages. . . .  To abate this violation, the employer must ensure that employees who clean cages are physically separated from non-domestic felines while the employees clean the cages.”  Id.  The citation identified shifting cages as “one feasible and acceptable method to correct this hazardous practice.”  Id.  Sculac’s woefully deficient knowledge of endangered species and their care directly led to the serious injury to two volunteers.

The other staff also lacks the requisite expertise to run a conservation breeding program.  Most concerning of all is that either a member of the staff or a volunteer without the required expertise caused a bear cub to aspirate milk into his lungs and die of pneumonia as a result.  See USDA Compl. ¶ 20.  According to Dr. Richardson, “this is always directly related to the caretakers’ experience” and “is always the fault of the handler.  Improper technique and feeding too much volume at too long of a feeding interval is the primary cause.  If this facility is allowing aspiration pneumonia to occur, they should not be breeding wild animals.”  Dr. Richardson Statement 2.

Yohani Bagerrela, the head caretaker at Serenity Springs, previously served as an animal handler and caretaker at GW Exotic Animal Park.  App. 36.  As previously discussed discussed in § III.A.1.c.iii.1, GW Exotic has a history of egregious and often intentionally cruel abuse.  The other animal caretaker, Devon DeVries, apparently has only worked in animal care at Serenity Springs, and the application does not include any information about any relevant education or training that DeVries might have.  App. 36.

The head veterinarian, Dr. Melanie Marsden, has been Serenity Springs’s attending veterinarian for fifteen years—a dubious qualification given the numerous times the USDA has cited the facility for failure to provide adequate veterinary care.  Other than her work at Serenity Springs, Dr. Marsden appears to spend the majority of her professional time as a small animal vet in private practice.  Id. at 5.  The junior veterinarian, Dr. Holly Colella, is an equine veterinarian, with specialties in general/emergency medicine, acupuncture, and equine dentistry—none of which obviously qualify her to care for exotic endangered wildlife.  This is particularly concerning since, according to the application, Dr. Colella is taking on a greater role at Serenity Springs as Dr. Marsden “is increasingly busy with her own small animal practice.”  Id.

Critically, none of these staff appears to have experience with conservation breeding or with caring for endangered species in a conservation breeding program.

  1. 3.     Serenity Springs lacks the breeding experience required for a CBW permit.

 

As discussed in great detail in § III.A, Serenity Springs has had relatively little experience breeding tigers, and no experience breeding any other endangered species.  The tigers born at the facility in 2010 were the first born there in six or seven years.  No one realized the mother, Priya, who had been living in the same enclosure with the cubs’ father for five years, was pregnant until two weeks before she was due.  Julie Walker, Serenity Springs’s operations director claimed:  “It’s really hard to tell if they’re pregnant.  Happy accident, we call it.”  Jakob Rodgers, Tiny Tigers Steal the Show in Debut at Big Cat Sanctuary, The Gazette, Apr. 18, 2011.  However, Dr. Richardson disputes this, stating that “[i]t should not be difficult for an exhibitor or dealer to tell if a tiger he holds is pregnant.”  Dr. Richardson Statement 2.  “Happy accident” hardly seems the right approach to breeding for a serious conservation breeding program.

 

  1. 4.     Serenity Springs lacks critical expertise about endangered species. 

 

Serenity Springs’s lack of expertise is evinced in many other ways.  CBW permits are available only for “endangered wildlife” of “a species having a natural geographic distribution not including any part of the United States.”  50 C.F.R. § 17.21(g)(1).[9]  Yet, the application lists twenty-six species and additional subspecies, for which Serenity Springs is seeking a permit, many of which do not qualify, including the Canada lynx, Eastern puma, Florida panther, Ocelot, American Black bear, Grizzly bear, Gray wolf, Bobcat, Serval, African lion, and African golden cat.  App. 4; see also id. at 13 (E-mail from Michael Carpenter, Senior Biologist, DMA, FWS, to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)) (“You have provided an extensive list of species to be included in the CBW however, the CBW is issued ONLY for breeding purposes and only for non-native (exotic) species listed under the ESA, thus a number of the species in your list are not eligible.”).

Serenity Springs’s website and newsletters frequently refer to “White Tigers,” “Snow Tigers,” and “Black Leopards” (or “Asian Black Leopards”), which suggests that these are recognized species or subspecies.  See, e.g., Serenity Springs Newsletter, Dec. 2012 (referring to Jamma as “a beautiful Black Leopard”); Serenity Springs Newsletter, Dec. 2011 (same and referring to Snow Magic as “our beautiful Snow Tiger”);  Serenity Springs Newsletter, Feb. 2012 (stating that Bosco and Keller are “White Tigers”); Serenity Springs Newsletter, Nov. 2011 (claiming that “Snow Magic is one of only 17 Snow tigers in the world” and referring elsewhere to Keller as a “Snow Tiger”); Serenity Springs Newsletter, Nov. 2010 (identifying Sinbad as “a beautiful Asian Black Leopard”); The Leopards of Serenity Springs, http://www.serenityspringswildlife.org/leopards.php (same).   They are not.  See App. 13 (E-mail from Michael Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)) (stating that “[t]here is no ‘snow tiger’ so there can’t be ‘only 17 in the world,’” as it states on the facility’s website).

In fact, both black and white coats are caused by genetic mutations, which are inherited recessively.  ScienceShot: How the White Tiger Got Its Coat, Science (sciencemag.org) May 23, 2013, http://news.sciencemag.org/; Alexsandra Scheider et al., How the Leopard Hides Its Spots: ASIP Mutations and Melanism in Wild Cats, 7 PLoS One (Dec. 12, 2012).  Experts in tiger conservation state with certainty that all white tigers in this country are of mixed heritage, are highly inbred, and represent a genetic aberration—there is no population of white tigers in the wild, nor has there ever been.  Philip J. Nyhus et al., Thirteen Thousand and Counting: How Growing Captive Tiger Populations Threatens Wild Tigers, in Tigers of the World: The Science, Politics and Conservation of Panthera Tigris 223, 234 (Philip J. Nyhus & Ronald Tilson eds., 2nd ed. 2010).  Indeed, according to Nyhus et al., “[a white tiger’s] value to conservation is zero and they are hampering efforts to education the public about true challenges of conserving the world’s wild tigers.”  Id.  Moreover, it is because “the recessive gene for the white color is a deleterious mutation and is thus co-linked to numerous . . . often fatal characteristics” that the neonatal mortality rate is extremely high.  Laren Begany & CL Cricuolo, Accumulation of Deleterious Mutations Due to Inbreeding in Tiger Populations (Apr. 27, 2009).  Experts have noted that, among white tiger cubs who survive infancy, “most have profound birth defects, such as strabismus (cross eyes), retinal degeneration, cleft palates, scoliosis of the spine, clubbed feet, immune deficiencies, and kidney abnormalities.”  Sarda Sahney, The Myth of the Endangered White Tiger, Science 2.0 (Aug. 30, 2007) (emphasis added); see also Ravi Romaiya, Inside America’s Tiger Breeding Farms, The Daily Beast, July 28, 2010; White Tigers: Inbreeding Depression and Genetic Abnormalities, Cat Resource Archive, available at http://www.messybeast.com/genetics/tigers-inbreeding.htm.

Serenity Springs also informs visitors to its website that there are “six species” of tiger and repeatedly references the various “species” of tigers.  See Serenity Springs Newsletter, Apr. 2011.  In fact, these are six subspecies of a single species, Panthera tigris.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (“IUCN”) Red List of Threatened Species, Panthera tigris, http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15955/0.

  1. 5.     Serenity Springs lacks adequate facilities to qualify for a CBW permit.

 

To say that Serenity Springs’s facilities are inadequate to meet the requirements of 50 CFR § 17.22(a)(2)(vi) would be a vast understatement.  The FWS has already acknowledged as much in a direct e-mail communication to Sculac from Mike Carpenter, wherein the agency’s senior biologist states: “You have asked for species in addition to those you currently hold but, I am unable to see any space for any additional animals as it appears that all exhibits have animals I residence.  We could not authorize any additional species until facilities were available.  In fact, I do not see any facility for either jaguar or snow leopard in the current situation.”  App. 13 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)).  More concerning, the USDA Complaint alleges that Serenity Springs “willfully violated the [AWA] Regulations” by, inter alia, failing to meet the minimum housing standards for tigers and other large felids on multiple occasions.  USDA Compl. 2.  According to the USDA, Serenity Springs has repeatedly subjected “over fifty animals” to conditions within enclosures that are hazardous and fall woefully short of meeting minimum standards of care, including exposed electrical wires, structurally unsound fencing, protruding nails, and shredded, splintered wood.  Id. ¶ 26.

Noting that “the gravity of the violations . . . is great,” the USDA’s charging document against Serenity Springs also attributes the deaths of numerous animals housed there—including large felids—to the licensee’s failure to adhere to the attending veterinarian’s housing recommendations.  Id. at 2.

In addition to Serenity Springs’s well-documented failures  to meet minimum housing standards prescribed by the AWA, the application falls woefully short of meeting the facilities’ requirements imposed by 50 C.F.R. § 17.22(a)(2)(vi), insofar as it fails to give adequate descriptions of specific enclosures for each and every species for whom the applicant is seeking a CBW permit and illustrates that the existing enclosures, for which descriptions are provided, do not meet the species-specific needs of the animals.

The application states that the tiger enclosures—which house multiple tigers—are as small as 800 square feet.  For comparison, the AZA’s recommendation for minimum enclosure size is 1200 square feet for one tiger with a fifty-percent increase in square footage for each additional tiger.  AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan® (2013 -in progress). Tiger Care Manual. AZA, Silver Spring, MD. p.100.  A recent inspection performed by an expert in big cat husbandry practices revealed additional serious concerns about tiger enclosures at Serenity Springs, including inadequate shelter from the elements, lack of bedding materials, lack of shade from the sun, and poor facility design that precluded tigers from being shifted securely for purposes of feeding or sanitizing the enclosures.  See Inspection Report of Pat Craig (Mar. 5, 2012).

For these reasons, Serenity Springs lacks “the expertise, facilities [and] other resources” required “to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected wildlife,” 50 C.F.R. § 17.21(g)(3), and the FWS should deny the facility’s permit application.

  1. F.    Serenity Springs Has Failed to Provide Material Required Information.

The FWS must deny Serenity Springs’s application because “[t]he applicant has failed to disclose material information required.”  50 C.F.R. §13.21(b)(2) (“Upon receipt of a properly executed application for a permit, the Director shall issue the appropriate permit unless . . . [t]he applicant has failed to disclose material information required . . . in connection with his application.”); see also 50 C.F.R. § 17.22 (stating that the FWS may only issue a § 10 permit “[u]pon receipt of a complete application”).

On July 26, 2013, Delcianna Winders, Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement at the PETA Foundation, wrote to the FWS detailing material information that was missing from the application and requesting that the agency provide the information or confirm that the facility has not submitted it to the agency.  Letter from Delcianna Winders to Brenda Tapia, Program Analyst/Data Administrator, Branch of Permits, DMA, FWS (July 26, 2013).  The missing required material information includes:

  • “[A]ssurance that no hybrids will be bred.”   In the materials provided to PETA the FWS advised Serenity Springs that the ESA and its regulations prohibit the hybridization of listed species and that hybrids should not be bred, and requested that Serenity Springs provide an assurance that no hybrids will be bred.  App. 13-14.  No such assurance from Sculac is included in the materials that have been provided to PETA.  This is especially concerning given that, as the FWS has noted, Serenity Springs’s website features a number of hybrid animals, including ligers, tigons, and generic tigers—and given that, according to the application, Serenity Springs has a history of repeatedly breeding tigers who, in all likelihood, are mixed subspecies hybrids/generic, including as recently as 2011.

 

  • The specific subspecies of tigers involved.  The application form requires the applicant to provide “[t]he scientific name (genus, species and, if applicable, subspecies) and common name of each species [it is] seeking to have covered by the registration.”  App. 2 (emphasis added).  The correspondence from the FWS to Sculac reiterated that “[i]n order to list tigers we would need to know the specific subspecies involved,” given that “generic tigers (animals of unknown geographical origin) are not suitable for species conservation and cannot be authorized under the CBW[.]”  Id. at 14 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)).     

 

  • State authorization for the family Lemuridae (the application appears to seek a permit for the entire family Lemuridae, but PETA has only received a copy of a state permit for lemur catta); clouded leopards; brown hyenas; and cheetahs.

 

  • Sources for species.  In its initial submission, Serenity Springs indicated its intent to acquire animals from GW Exotic, which does not hold a CBW permit, and Triple D Game Farm, which holds a CBW permit for amur and snow leopards only.  Id. at 5.  The FWS advised Serenity Springs, “You need to provide sources for other species.”  Id. at 13 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)).  This is particularly important considering that the inventory submitted by Serenity Springs indicates that it does not currently hold a number of the species for which it seeks a CBW permit, including lemurs, brown hyenas, and cheetahs.  Nor is it clear from the inventory, which identifies simply “leopards,” whether Serenity Springs already possesses all three of the leopard species for which it seeks a permit.  Id. at 23-27.  Although PETA was provided a supplemental list of entities from which Serenity Springs intends to acquire animals, id. at 11, it is not clear from this list whether these entities possess CBW licenses and, if so, for which species—information that is expressly required by the permit application.  See id. at 2 (“Provide . . . [t]he name, address, and CBW registration number of the person(s) or institution(s) from whom you plan to acquire the wildlife.”).

 

  • Space for additional animals.  In the FWS’s May 6, 2013 correspondence with Serenity Springs, the agency advised it:  “You have asked for species in addition to those you currently hold but, I am unable to see any space for any additional animals as it appears that all exhibits have animals in residence. We could not authorize any additional species until facilities were available.”  Id. at 13 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)).  The materials provided to PETA do not include any information regarding space for additional animals, despite the fact that, as noted above, Serenity Springs seeks a permit for numerous species not currently held—with the possible exception of snow leopards.

 

  • A key to which species are in which enclosures.  The permit application requires “[a] detailed description, including size, construction materials, and protection from the elements, and photographs or detailed diagrams . . . clearly depicting your existing facilities where the wildlife will be maintained.”  Id. (emphasis in original).  As the FWS pointed out to Sculac in its correspondence, in addition to the apparent lack of space for additional animals, the diagram of the facility submitted by Serenity Springs does not indicate the species housed in fifty-two of the exhibits, making it impossible to determine “what is where.”  Id.  No key or other source indicating the species in each enclosure has been provided to PETA.

 

  • Genetic management.  The application form requires permit applicants to provide “[d]ocumentation showing how your captive population is being managed to maintain its genetic vitality.”  Id. at 2.  “The word ‘documentation’ means the use of documentary evidence or a furnishing with documents to substantiate a claim.”  Suarez Corp. v. U.S. Postal Serv., No. 87-358A, 1987 WL 955751, at *13 (N.D. Ohio May 29, 1987) (quoting Random House Dictionary (1975)).  The application provides absolutely no information—much less documentation—of how Serenity Springs is presently managing its captive population to maintain genetic vitality.  The facility does not discuss which tigers it is breeding; how it selects breeding pairs; whether it has a master breeding plan; whether it works with any organizations to make breeding and non-breeding recommendations; how it makes acquisition and disposition decisions; how it acquires tigers for breeding; whether it tracks demographic and genetic information for the tigers in its collection; or whether it contributes to a studbook.  Compare AZA, Species Survival Plan Program Handbook 34, 54 (Mar. 2011); Species Survival Plan Programs; AZA, Regional Collection Plan Handbook 5 (Mar. 2011).  The application states merely that the facility “plan[s] to increase numbers of individuals within each recognized endangered species and subspecies” and “[p]reserve genetic diversity at both species and subspecies levels”; that it would like to “begin a relationship with the AZA and their Species Survival Plan”; and that it “would like to establish a DNA database for endangered species, starting with the Tiger.”  App. 29-30 (emphasis added).  The facility fails to explain how it “plans” to accomplish these ambitious—and expensive—goals.

 

  • Information regarding captive breeding.  The application form requests “a specific description of how your proposed activities are going to facilitate the captive breeding of the species . . . including your long term goals and intended disposition of any progeny.”  Id. at 2 (emphasis in original).  Despite the fact that Serenity Springs seeks a permit for captive breeding, the application materials contain virtually no information about captive breeding.  In response to this request on the application, Serenity Springs directs the agency to “Attachment D.”  Id.  Attachment D, however, does not discuss what Serenity Springs’s proposed activities are, or how they will facilitate captive breeding.  The only reference to captive breeding in Attachment D—which focuses largely on non-breeding activities—is a vague and cursory reference to “our specific breeding program.”  Id. at 29.   In order for PETA to meaningfully comment on—and in order for the FWS to meaningfully evaluate—a CBW-permit application, the requisite specific information regarding proposed captive breeding activities is imperative.

 

  • Detailed description of the existing facilities where the hyenas, cheetahs, and lemurs will be maintained.  As noted above, the application specifically requests this information, as do the regulations.  See  50 C.F.R. § 17.22(a)(1)(v) (requiring that “[a] complete description and address of the institution or other facility where the wildlife sought to be covered by the permit will be used, displayed, or maintained” “must be attained” as part of the application for a § 10 permit); Id. § 17.22(a)(1)(vi) (requiring that “a complete description, including photographs or diagrams, of the facilities to house and/or care for the wildlife” “must be attained” as part of the § 10 permit application).  PETA has not been provided a diagram that indicates where specific species are housed and, while the application includes enclosure descriptions for a number of species, it does not include descriptions for hyena, lemur, or cheetah habitats, all species for which Serenity Springs seeks a permit to breed.

 

  • Mortality information.  The application materials attribute many mortalities to “old age,” without elaboration.  App. 33-34.  The application form requests that the applicant “explain the cause of the mortalities,” and the vague descriptor “old age” is not a concrete cause of death.  Id. at 3.  Nor is “possible genetic issues.”  Id. at 34.  The application form also requests that the applicant identify “measures taken to prevent future mortalities,” id. at 3, but in numerous instances Sculac identifies no such measures, including in the cases of “possible genetic issues” and in the cases of two tigers who were killed by cage mates, apparently due to incompatible housing arrangements, id. at 33-34.

 

Serenity Springs’s failure to provide the above material information disqualifies it from obtaining the requested CBW permit.

 

  1. G.   Serenity Springs’s Proposed Activities Will Not Benefit the Species in the Wild.

The ESA authorizes the FWS to issue permits for otherwise prohibited activities only “for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.”  16 U.S.C. § 1539(a)(1)(a). CBW permits fall within the second of these exceptions (“enhancement”), and, as the FWS has recognized, to qualify for this exception, one must “demonstrate how your proposed activities directly relate to the survival of this species in the wild.”  Fax from Anna Barry to John F. Cuneo, Jr., Hawthorn Corp. (Mar. 12, 2012) (emphasis added).  Because Serenity Springs has not demonstrated—indeed, has not even attempted to demonstrate—that its activities will benefit the survival of species in the wild, its permit application must be denied.

Because Serenity Springs fails to contend that its plans will benefit the species in the wild, it is not necessary to dwell on this issue:  The applicant bears the burden of demonstrating that it qualifies for the exception, see 50 C.F.R. § 13.21(b) (“fail[ure] to demonstrate a valid justification for the permit” warrants denial); see also, e.g.,  Letter from Anna Barry to John F. Cuneo, Jr. (Oct. 14, 2011) (“To meet the requirements under the ESA you need to be able to demonstrate how your proposed activities directly relate to the survival of this species in the wild.” (emphasis added)), and here Serenity Springs has utterly failed to make any such demonstration.

Nevertheless, exploring the reasons why the activities proposed by Serenity Springs will not enhance the survival of species in the wild—and how the activities are in fact likely to operate to the detriment of species in the wild—underscores why this CBW permit application must be denied.

  1. 1.     The generic tigers bred by Serenity Springs do not have conservation value.

First and foremost, as discussed extensively in § III.A.1, supra, and as recognized by the FWS, see, e.g., FWS, Proposed Rule, U.S. Captive-Bred Inter-Subspecific Crossed or Generic Tigers, 76 Fed. Reg. 162 (Aug. 22, 2011); App. 13 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)), the hybrid/generic tigers—the only types of animals Serenity Springs has in fact bred, according to its permit application—lack conservation value.

Further, as Ron Tilson explains,

The argument that privately-owned tigers have any significant conservation value falls flat when viewed from the lens of real need for four reasons.  First, tiger reintroduction is not currently an available conservation tool; reintroduction has never been tried.  Second, if tigers are to be reintroduced into the wild, animals of known genetic origin will be preferred.  Third, the zoo and aquarium associations of North America, Europe, Australasia, and Asia, have more than sufficient tigers to meet any foreseeable need.  Moreover, captive facilities in tiger range states continue to receive “problem” tigers who are removed from the wild by local wildlife authorities when they come into conflict with humans.  Finally, in a rather ironic twist, if the arguments of some private owners that subspecies designation does not matter are accepted, then any perceived limitations in the holdings of the world’s zoos could be made up with translocation from one area of Asia to the other.

Statement of Dr. Tilson.

  1. 2.     Captive-bred animals are ill-suited for reintroduction.

Moreover, even when not generic, captive-bred animals are ill-suited for reintroduction, making it unlikely in most instances that they will enhance the survival of the species.

In its simplest form, the role of captive breeding and reintroduction in conservation is analogous to Noah’s ark. Species threatened with extinction are maintained in captivity, as if aboard an ark escaping the flood, until those factors threatening their existence are removed and they can be returned to the wild.

Andrew E. Bowkett, Recent Captive-Breeding Proposals and the Return of the Ark Concept to Global Species Conservation, 23 Conservation Biology 773, 773 (2009); see also Annenberg Learner, Why Captive Breeding? (“When all of the existing habitat is poor quality or other environmental problems occur, a captive population can be maintained until the problems can be solved or another appropriate habitat can be found for the animal in the wild.  This kind of project allows us to bank a species.”).  A related purpose is to breed members of an endangered species in captivity “as a source of genetic material to infuse diversity into depleted wild populations.”  IUCN, The Ethiopian Wolf: Status Survey, The Ethiopian Wolf: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 64 (2002) (identifying the two purposes for which “the maintenance of viable populations of rare species is important”).

The animals Serenity Springs seeks a permit to breed can never serve these purposes.  First, because they maintain animals in conditions with “little or no opportunity to manage important aspects of their lives (such as quality, quantity, and timing of food and water, choice of mates or other social partners, etc.),” exhibitors like Serenity Springs fail to “provide [animals] with the kinds of experiences they will need to succeed outside of [human] care.”  Kathleen N. Morgan & Chris T. Tromborg, Sources of Stress in Captivity, 102 Animal Behaviour Science 262, 287 (2007) (internal citation omitted); see also M. Elsbeth McPhee, Generations in Captivity Increases Behavioral Variance: Considerations for Captive Breeding and Reintroduction Programs, 115 Biological Conservation 71, 71 (2003); Jennifer L. Kelley et al., The Influence of Rearing Experience on the Behaviour of an Endangered Mexican Fish, Skiffa Multipunctata, 122 Biological Conservation 223, 223 (2005); Javier Alvarez (FWS), Commercial Captive Propagation and Wildlife Conservation, IUCN SSC Commercial Captive Propagation and Wild Species Conservation, Selected Background Papers, Dec. 7-9, 2001; Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 340 (1996).

Second, the chasm between the conditions in captivity and the conditions in nature threaten genetic fitness and the preservation of the species-specific traits necessary for most animals to survive in the wild.  “Evolutionary processes do not stop because species are in cages,” and over time the erosion of species-specific traits can become inscribed in the genetic code of the animal.  Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 341 (1996).

Moreover, the traits selected for in captivity are unlikely to be those necessary for success in the wild.  For example, “captive breeding often results in the inadvertent selection of traits that are favourable in captivity, such as tameness and resistance to stress, or [in] the relaxation of selective forces that are common in nature, such as predation.”  Jennifer L. Kelley et al., The Influence of Rearing Experience on the Behaviour of an Endangered Mexican Fish, 122 Biological Conservation 223, 223 (2005); see Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 341 (1996); Richard Frankham, Genetic Adaptation to Captivity in Species Conservation Programs, 17 Molecular Ecology 325, 326 (2008).

Given the predictability and invariability of the captive environment, as well as its physical limitations, it is unsurprising that “[c]haracteristics selected for under captive conditions are overwhelmingly disadvantageous in the natural environment.”  Richard Frankham, Genetic Adaptation to Captivity in Species Conservation Programs, 17 Molecular Ecology 325, 326 (2008); accord Jennifer L. Kelley et al., The Influence of Rearing Experience on the Behaviour of an Endangered Mexican Fish, 122 Biological Conservation 223, 223 (2005).

Simply stated, the tigers bred at Serenity Springs—and other potential species—cannot be used to augment wild populations, or as a source of genetic material, since they are woefully unrepresentative of their wild counterparts.  See, e.g., Richard A. Griffiths & Lissette Pavajeau, Captive Breeding, Reintroduction, and the Conservation of Amphibians, 22 Conservation Biology 852, 853 (2008).

  1. 3.     Captive breeding fails to address the primary threat to the species in the wild: lack of adequate habitat and human-animal conflict. 

Even if reintroduction were a goal of Serenity Springs—which it is not—adequate habitat for tigers and the other species Serenity Springs seeks permission to breed has declined precipitously and no longer exists in sufficient quantity to support such a goal.  As Jack Woody, who oversaw the endangered species program at the FWS for over twenty years, summarized:  “It’s useless to produce truckloads of [animals] if there’s nowhere to release them.”  Laura Tangley, Captive Propagation: Will It Succeed?, 121 Science News 266, 268 (1982) (quoting Jack Woody).  Captive breeding by Serenity Springs does nothing to reverse this trend, and thus cannot be used as a basis to approve its CBW permit application.

  1. 4.     Serenity Springs’s proposed activities are actually likely to operate to the detriment of endangered species in the wild.

 

  1. a.     The FWS must make an individualized determination as to whether Serenity Springs’s proposed activities are likely to adversely affect the survival of endangered species.

The ESA “requires case-by-case review of exceptions,” which includes “mak[ing] certain findings,” Friends of Animals v. Salazar, 626 F. Supp. 2d 102, 119 (D.D.C. 2009), appeal dismissed, 09-5292, 2010 WL 286806 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 4, 2010) (emphasis added), including that “if granted and exercised [the exception] will not operate to the disadvantage of such endangered species,” 16 U.S.C. § 1539(d)(2) (emphasis added).  The regulations further require the FWS to make an individualized determination that “the authorization requested” does not “potentially threaten[] a wildlife or plant population,” 50 C.F.R. . 13.21(b)(4), as well as to consider “[t]he probable direct and indirect effect which issuing the permit would have on the wild populations of the wildlife sought to be covered by the permit,” id. § 17.22(a)(2)(ii).  Thus, the law mandates that the FWS make an “individualized analysis” of each permit application: including specific findings about specific animals in specific contexts.  See Friends of Animals, 626 F. Supp. 2d at 119-20 (“[T]he text, context, purpose and history of section 10 show a clear Congressional intention that permits must be considered on a case-by-case basis . . . .”).

Accordingly, in considering Serenity Springs’s application, the FWS may not rely on its blanket determination that the taking, transport, shipping, and sale of captive-bred wildlife “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the survival of the species.”  Memorandum from the Chief, Branch of Consultation and Monitoring, Division of Scientific Authority, FWS, to the Chief, Division of Management Authority, FWS (Nov. 17, 2003).  Nor may the agency rely on its earlier, substantially similar blanket determination that there is “no adverse affect,” Memorandum from the Chief, Office of Endangered Species, FWS, to the Chief, Wildlife Permit Office, FWS (Aug. 26, 1981)).

  1. b.     Serenity Springs’s exhibition of animals—and sale of animals for use in entertainment—is particularly detrimental to the species.

 

By breeding and exhibiting captive wildlife, Serenity Springs is not contributing to survival of the species.  By exhibiting captive-bred animals for purposes of “entertain[ing] the public,” App. 30, providing tigers for the entertainment industry, id. at 34, and through its role in “exotic pet dealing and ownership,” id. at 33, Serenity Springs is doing more harm than good to the species.

As discussed previously, Serenity Springs’s exhibition of endangered animals is detrimental to the species because of the serous misimpression it gives the public about the status of the species.  See § III.B.  As Nyhus et al. explain:

 

[Z]oos may actually undermine the continued existence of what they purport to celebrate.

People watch the films, they visit the zoos, and by the mesmeric power of these vicarious

experiences, they come carelessly to believe that the Bengal tiger . . . is alive and well

because they have seen it.
Philip J. Nyhus et al., Thirteen Thousand and Counting: How the Growing Captive Tiger Populations Threaten Wild Tigers, in Tigers of the World, 2ded., pp. 237 (2010); see also id. at 232 (our exposure to tigers as sources of entertainment has led to “the blurring of our awareness of what tigers are and the serious threats wild tigers face to their continued survival”).

This is especially true with regard to the animals bred by Serenity Springs—such as white tigers—that do not even exist in the wild.  Experts agree that people who spend money to see white tigers on exhibit are “actually less—not more—likely to have a meaningful understanding of the real challenges of wild tiger conservation.”  Id. at 237-38.  Nyhus et al. explain, “One logical outcome of the popularity of white tigers is a warped perspective and awareness of what a tiger is and the true threats faced by wild tigers.”  Id. at 234-35.

 

  1. c.     Resources spent by Serenity Springs on captive breeding are better spent on legitimate conservation programs.

Serenity Springs’s captive breeding is also detrimental to the species because it diverts scarce resources from conservation efforts that could have a truly beneficial impact on endangered animals in the wild.  Snyder et al. state that they “have frequently dealt with funding competition between [“in situ efforts” and “captive breeding”] and are acutely aware of how one approach often preempts the other, sometimes to the detriment of crucial in situ needs.”  Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 344 (1996); see also Andrew E. Bowkett, Recent Captive-Breeding Proposals and the Return of the Ark Concept to Global Species Conservation, 23 Conservation Biology 773, 774 (2009) (reviewing the literature); IUCN, The Ethiopian Wolf: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 65 (2002).  This is an especially critical problem given that the cost of captive breeding often exceeds in situ costs “even with intensive protection.”  Andrew E. Bowkett, Recent Captive-Breeding Proposals and the Return of the Ark Concept to Global Species Conservation, 23 Conservation Biology 773, 774 (2009) (citing A. Balmford et al., Parks or Arks: Where to Conserve Large Threatened Mammals?, 4 Biodiversity & Conservation 636 (1995)).

Captive breeding can also be a political, as well as monetary, diversion.  Snyder et al. explain that “[l]ong-term solutions are often politically more difficult than captive breeding solutions, so it is tempting for managers to deemphasize efforts for wild populations once captive populations are in place.”  Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 344 (1996).

Clearly, Serenity Springs’s captive breeding does not provide, and will never provide, a benefit to endangered animals in the wild, and thus its application for a CBW permit must be denied.

  1. H.   Issuance of a Blanket Five-Year Permit Would Violate the ESA.

According to the Federal Register notice of Serenity Springs’s CBW permit application, if granted the permit would “cover[] activities to be conducted by the applicant over a five-year period.” Receipt of Applications for Permit, 78 Fed. Reg. 38731, 38732 (June 27, 2013).  Issuing Serenity Springs a five-year blanket permit to engage in activities that would otherwise require individual permits, and without public notice and an opportunity for comment, see 16 U.S.C. 1539(c), would contravene the letter and the spirit of the ESA, which requires that permits be specific and narrowly tailored.  Congress intended for the ESA to prohibit “[v]irtually all dealings with endangered species, including taking, . . . except in extremely narrow circumstances.”  Tenn. Valley Auth., 437 U.S. at 180 (emphasis added).  Accordingly, the ESA grants the FWS limited authority to authorize “any act otherwise prohibited by section 1538 of this title . . . to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.”  16 U.S.C. § 1539(a)(1)(a) (emphasis added).  The plain language of § 1539(a)(1)(a) (“any act”) contemplates a single, identifiable performance of taking, delivering, receiving, carrying, transporting, or shipping—not any vague, unspecified series of activities involving captive-bred wildlife performed over several years.  See also 50 C.F.R. § 13.42 (providing that ESA permits are “specific” and should “describe certain circumscribed transactions,” setting forth “specific times, dates, places, methods of taking or carrying out the permitted activities, numbers and kinds of wildlife or plants, location of activity, and associated activities that must be carried out.” (emphases added)).  To broadly authorize Serenity Springs to engage in innumerable unspecified and otherwise prohibited activities with unspecified animals would directly contravene this language and would allow the exception to swallow the rule.

Issuing such a broad permit would also directly contravene the public’s right to information under § 10(c) of the ESA.  Section 10(c) mandates:

The Secretary shall publish notice in the Federal Register of each application for an exemption or permit which is made under this section.  Each notice shall invite the submission from interested parties, within thirty days after the date of the notice, of written data, views, or arguments with respect to the application; except that such thirty-day period may be waived by the Secretary in an emergency situation where the health or life of an endangered animal is threatened and no reasonable alternative is available to the applicant, but notice of any such waiver shall be published by the Secretary in the Federal Register within ten days following the issuance of the exemption or permit.  Information received by the Secretary as part of any application shall be available to the public as a matter of public record at every stage of the proceeding.

16 U.S.C. § 1539(c) (emphases added); see Friends of Animals v. Salazar, 626 F. Supp. 2d 102,  113 (D.D.C. 2009); Cary v. Hall, No. C05-4363 VRW, 2006 WL 6198320, at *11 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2006).  Bypassing the act-by-act assessment mandated by the ESA in favor of blanket permission to engage in any and all captive-breeding-related activities over a five-year span deprives the public, including PETA, of information to which it would be entitled “as a matter of public record at every stage of the proceeding,” 16 U.S.C. § 1539(c), but for the FWS’s issuance of the blanket permit.

  1. I.      Should the FWS Nevertheless Issue Serenity Springs a CBW Permit, It Must Be Limited to One Year Given the Pending Enforcement Action for AWA Violations.

 

If, despite the abundant reasons in favor of denying Serenity Springs’s CBW permit application set forth here and supported by the accompanying exhibits, the FWS decides to grant Serenity Springs a CBW permit, such permit should be limited to a term of one year, given that Serenity Springs has an enforcement action currently pending with the USDA.  See Letter from Anna Barry to Ferdinand Hantig (Aug. 20, 2012); USDA Compl.; E-mail from David Sacks, USDA, to Teresa Marshall, PETA Foundation.

  1. IV.           Conclusion

For all of the reasons detailed above, PETA urges the FWS to deny Serenity Springs’s application for a CBW permit and urges the FWS to launch an investigation into Serenity Springs’s apparent violations of the ESA and CWSA, as well as its submission of false material information to the agency as part of its application.

Pursuant to 50 C.F.R. § 17.22(e)(2), should the agency decide to issue the permit despite our objections, we hereby request notice of that decision at least ten days prior to the issuance of the permit via e-mail to DelciannaW@petaf.org or telephone to 202-309-4697.

 


[1] See id. (“Captivity means that living wildlife is held in a controlled environment that is intensively manipulated by man for the purpose of producing wildlife of the selected species, and that has boundaries designed to prevent animal, eggs or gametes of the selected species from entering or leaving the controlled environment. General characteristics of captivity may include but are not limited to artificial housing, waste removal, health care, protection from predators, and artificially supplied food.”).

[2] Although 50 C.F.R. § 13.42 is a general permitting regulation, this provision applies with equal force to CBW permits.  See id. § 13.3 (“The provisions in this part are in addition to, and are not in lieu of, other permit regulations of this subchapter and apply to all permits issued thereunder, including . . . “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants” (Part 17) . . . .  As used in this part 13, the term ‘permit’ will refer to a license, permit, certificate, letter of authorization, or other document as the context may require . . . .”).

[3] Tellingly, Serenity Springs also includes a link to GW Exotic Animal Park on its website, listing it as an “organization[] that support[s]” Serenity Springs, see Serenity Springs, Links, http://www.serenityspringswildlife.org/links.php—one of only three links.

[4] The permit number that Serenity Springs listed on its application as a CBW permit number for GW Exotic was in fact the number of an expired export permit.

[5] It is also unclear whether Serenity Springs already possesses the three species of leopards that it seeks a permit to breed, as it describes only “leopards” without specification on the inventory submitted as part of its application.  See App. 23.

[6] On February 1, 2012, the USDA filed suit against Serenity Springs, alleging willful violations of the AWA, the regulations, and the implementing standards and seeking revocation or suspension of the facility’s license.  USDA Compl.  Noting that no fewer than thirty-one animals died in the facility’s care between May 2007 and January 2010, the agency asserts that “the gravity of the violations here is great, and include the repeated noncompliance with the regulations and failure to meet the minimum standards for veterinary care, housing, and husbandry.”  Id. at 2.

 

[7] Additionally, it appears that the transfer of a big cat from Robin Sherman of Ballentine, MT to Sculac (see App. 25) may similarly have violated the CWSA since we are unable to locate a record of any federal licensure for Sherman.

[8] See id. (“Captivity means that living wildlife is held in a controlled environment that is intensively manipulated by man for the purpose of producing wildlife of the selected species, and that has boundaries designed to prevent animal, eggs or gametes of the selected species from entering or leaving the controlled environment. General characteristics of captivity may include but are not limited to artificial housing, waste removal, health care, protection from predators, and artificially supplied food.”).

[9] The only exception to this requirement is the Laysan duck.  Id. § 17.21(g)(5)(iii).

and they are hampering efforts to education the public about true challenges of conserving the world’s wild tigers.”  Id.  Moreover, it is because “the recessive gene for the white color is a deleterious mutation and is thus co-linked to numerous . . . often fatal characteristics” that the neonatal mortality rate is extremely high.  Laren Begany & CL Cricuolo, Accumulation of Deleterious Mutations Due to Inbreeding in Tiger Populations (Apr. 27, 2009).  Experts have noted that, among white tiger cubs who survive infancy, “most have profound birth defects, such as strabismus (cross eyes), retinal degeneration, cleft palates, scoliosis of the spine, clubbed feet, immune deficiencies, and kidney abnormalities.”  Sarda Sahney, The Myth of the Endangered White Tiger, Science 2.0 (Aug. 30, 2007) (emphasis added); see also Ravi Romaiya, Inside America’s Tiger Breeding Farms, The Daily Beast, July 28, 2010; White Tigers: Inbreeding Depression and Genetic Abnormalities, Cat Resource Archive, available at http://www.messybeast.com/genetics/tigers-inbreeding.htm.

Serenity Springs also informs visitors to its website that there are “six species” of tiger and repeatedly references the various “species” of tigers.  See Serenity Springs Newsletter, Apr. 2011.  In fact, these are six subspecies of a single species, Panthera tigris.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (“IUCN”) Red List of Threatened Species, Panthera tigris, http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15955/0.

  1. 1.     Serenity Springs lacks adequate facilities to qualify for a CBW permit.

 

To say that Serenity Springs’s facilities are inadequate to meet the requirements of 50 CFR § 17.22(a)(2)(vi) would be a vast understatement.  The FWS has already acknowledged as much in a direct e-mail communication to Sculac from Mike Carpenter, wherein the agency’s senior biologist states: “You have asked for species in addition to those you currently hold but, I am unable to see any space for any additional animals as it appears that all exhibits have animals I residence.  We could not authorize any additional species until facilities were available.  In fact, I do not see any facility for either jaguar or snow leopard in the current situation.”  App. 13 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)).  More concerning, the USDA Complaint alleges that Serenity Springs “willfully violated the [AWA] Regulations” by, inter alia, failing to meet the minimum housing standards for tigers and other large felids on multiple occasions.  USDA Compl. 2.  According to the USDA, Serenity Springs has repeatedly subjected “over fifty animals” to conditions within enclosures that are hazardous and fall woefully short of meeting minimum standards of care, including exposed electrical wires, structurally unsound fencing, protruding nails, and shredded, splintered wood.  Id. ¶ 26.

Noting that “the gravity of the violations . . . is great,” the USDA’s charging document against Serenity Springs also attributes the deaths of numerous animals housed there—including large felids—to the licensee’s failure to adhere to the attending veterinarian’s housing recommendations.  Id. at 2.

In addition to Serenity Springs’s well-documented failures  to meet minimum housing standards prescribed by the AWA, the application falls woefully short of meeting the facilities’ requirements imposed by 50 C.F.R. § 17.22(a)(2)(vi), insofar as it fails to give adequate descriptions of specific enclosures for each and every species for whom the applicant is seeking a CBW permit and illustrates that the existing enclosures, for which descriptions are provided, do not meet the species-specific needs of the animals.

The application states that the tiger enclosures—which house multiple tigers—are as small as 800 square feet.  For comparison, the AZA’s recommendation for minimum enclosure size is 1200 square feet for one tiger with a fifty-percent increase in square footage for each additional tiger.  AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan® (2013 -in progress). Tiger Care Manual. AZA, Silver Spring, MD. p.100.  A recent inspection performed by an expert in big cat husbandry practices revealed additional serious concerns about tiger enclosures at Serenity Springs, including inadequate shelter from the elements, lack of bedding materials, lack of shade from the sun, and poor facility design that precluded tigers from being shifted securely for purposes of feeding or sanitizing the enclosures.  See Inspection Report of Pat Craig (Mar. 5, 2012).

For these reasons, Serenity Springs lacks “the expertise, facilities [and] other resources” required “to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected wildlife,” 50 C.F.R. § 17.21(g)(3), and the FWS should deny the facility’s permit application.

  1. A.    Serenity Springs Has Failed to Provide Material Required Information.

The FWS must deny Serenity Springs’s application because “[t]he applicant has failed to disclose material information required.”  50 C.F.R. §13.21(b)(2) (“Upon receipt of a properly executed application for a permit, the Director shall issue the appropriate permit unless . . . [t]he applicant has failed to disclose material information required . . . in connection with his application.”); see also 50 C.F.R. § 17.22 (stating that the FWS may only issue a § 10 permit “[u]pon receipt of a complete application”).

On July 26, 2013, Delcianna Winders, Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement at the PETA Foundation, wrote to the FWS detailing material information that was missing from the application and requesting that the agency provide the information or confirm that the facility has not submitted it to the agency.  Letter from Delcianna Winders to Brenda Tapia, Program Analyst/Data Administrator, Branch of Permits, DMA, FWS (July 26, 2013).  The missing required material information includes:

  • “[A]ssurance that no hybrids will be bred.”   In the materials provided to PETA the FWS advised Serenity Springs that the ESA and its regulations prohibit the hybridization of listed species and that hybrids should not be bred, and requested that Serenity Springs provide an assurance that no hybrids will be bred.  App. 13-14.  No such assurance from Sculac is included in the materials that have been provided to PETA.  This is especially concerning given that, as the FWS has noted, Serenity Springs’s website features a number of hybrid animals, including ligers, tigons, and generic tigers—and given that, according to the application, Serenity Springs has a history of repeatedly breeding tigers who, in all likelihood, are mixed subspecies hybrids/generic, including as recently as 2011.

 

  • The specific subspecies of tigers involved.  The application form requires the applicant to provide “[t]he scientific name (genus, species and, if applicable, subspecies) and common name of each species [it is] seeking to have covered by the registration.”  App. 2 (emphasis added).  The correspondence from the FWS to Sculac reiterated that “[i]n order to list tigers we would need to know the specific subspecies involved,” given that “generic tigers (animals of unknown geographical origin) are not suitable for species conservation and cannot be authorized under the CBW[.]”  Id. at 14 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)).     

 

  • State authorization for the family Lemuridae (the application appears to seek a permit for the entire family Lemuridae, but PETA has only received a copy of a state permit for lemur catta); clouded leopards; brown hyenas; and cheetahs.

 

  • Sources for species.  In its initial submission, Serenity Springs indicated its intent to acquire animals from GW Exotic, which does not hold a CBW permit, and Triple D Game Farm, which holds a CBW permit for amur and snow leopards only.  Id. at 5.  The FWS advised Serenity Springs, “You need to provide sources for other species.”  Id. at 13 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)).  This is particularly important considering that the inventory submitted by Serenity Springs indicates that it does not currently hold a number of the species for which it seeks a CBW permit, including lemurs, brown hyenas, and cheetahs.  Nor is it clear from the inventory, which identifies simply “leopards,” whether Serenity Springs already possesses all three of the leopard species for which it seeks a permit.  Id. at 23-27.  Although PETA was provided a supplemental list of entities from which Serenity Springs intends to acquire animals, id. at 11, it is not clear from this list whether these entities possess CBW licenses and, if so, for which species—information that is expressly required by the permit application.  See id. at 2 (“Provide . . . [t]he name, address, and CBW registration number of the person(s) or institution(s) from whom you plan to acquire the wildlife.”).

 

  • Space for additional animals.  In the FWS’s May 6, 2013 correspondence with Serenity Springs, the agency advised it:  “You have asked for species in addition to those you currently hold but, I am unable to see any space for any additional animals as it appears that all exhibits have animals in residence. We could not authorize any additional species until facilities were available.”  Id. at 13 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)).  The materials provided to PETA do not include any information regarding space for additional animals, despite the fact that, as noted above, Serenity Springs seeks a permit for numerous species not currently held—with the possible exception of snow leopards.

 

  • A key to which species are in which enclosures.  The permit application requires “[a] detailed description, including size, construction materials, and protection from the elements, and photographs or detailed diagrams . . . clearly depicting your existing facilities where the wildlife will be maintained.”  Id. (emphasis in original).  As the FWS pointed out to Sculac in its correspondence, in addition to the apparent lack of space for additional animals, the diagram of the facility submitted by Serenity Springs does not indicate the species housed in fifty-two of the exhibits, making it impossible to determine “what is where.”  Id.  No key or other source indicating the species in each enclosure has been provided to PETA.

 

  • Genetic management.  The application form requires permit applicants to provide “[d]ocumentation showing how your captive population is being managed to maintain its genetic vitality.”  Id. at 2.  “The word ‘documentation’ means the use of documentary evidence or a furnishing with documents to substantiate a claim.”  Suarez Corp. v. U.S. Postal Serv., No. 87-358A, 1987 WL 955751, at *13 (N.D. Ohio May 29, 1987) (quoting Random House Dictionary (1975)).  The application provides absolutely no information—much less documentation—of how Serenity Springs is presently managing its captive population to maintain genetic vitality.  The facility does not discuss which tigers it is breeding; how it selects breeding pairs; whether it has a master breeding plan; whether it works with any organizations to make breeding and non-breeding recommendations; how it makes acquisition and disposition decisions; how it acquires tigers for breeding; whether it tracks demographic and genetic information for the tigers in its collection; or whether it contributes to a studbook.  Compare AZA, Species Survival Plan Program Handbook 34, 54 (Mar. 2011); Species Survival Plan Programs; AZA, Regional Collection Plan Handbook 5 (Mar. 2011).  The application states merely that the facility “plan[s] to increase numbers of individuals within each recognized endangered species and subspecies” and “[p]reserve genetic diversity at both species and subspecies levels”; that it would like to “begin a relationship with the AZA and their Species Survival Plan”; and that it “would like to establish a DNA database for endangered species, starting with the Tiger.”  App. 29-30 (emphasis added).  The facility fails to explain how it “plans” to accomplish these ambitious—and expensive—goals.

 

  • Information regarding captive breeding.  The application form requests “a specific description of how your proposed activities are going to facilitate the captive breeding of the species . . . including your long term goals and intended disposition of any progeny.”  Id. at 2 (emphasis in original).  Despite the fact that Serenity Springs seeks a permit for captive breeding, the application materials contain virtually no information about captive breeding.  In response to this request on the application, Serenity Springs directs the agency to “Attachment D.”  Id.  Attachment D, however, does not discuss what Serenity Springs’s proposed activities are, or how they will facilitate captive breeding.  The only reference to captive breeding in Attachment D—which focuses largely on non-breeding activities—is a vague and cursory reference to “our specific breeding program.”  Id. at 29.   In order for PETA to meaningfully comment on—and in order for the FWS to meaningfully evaluate—a CBW-permit application, the requisite specific information regarding proposed captive breeding activities is imperative.

 

  • Detailed description of the existing facilities where the hyenas, cheetahs, and lemurs will be maintained.  As noted above, the application specifically requests this information, as do the regulations.  See  50 C.F.R. § 17.22(a)(1)(v) (requiring that “[a] complete description and address of the institution or other facility where the wildlife sought to be covered by the permit will be used, displayed, or maintained” “must be attained” as part of the application for a § 10 permit); Id. § 17.22(a)(1)(vi) (requiring that “a complete description, including photographs or diagrams, of the facilities to house and/or care for the wildlife” “must be attained” as part of the § 10 permit application).  PETA has not been provided a diagram that indicates where specific species are housed and, while the application includes enclosure descriptions for a number of species, it does not include descriptions for hyena, lemur, or cheetah habitats, all species for which Serenity Springs seeks a permit to breed.

 

  • Mortality information.  The application materials attribute many mortalities to “old age,” without elaboration.  App. 33-34.  The application form requests that the applicant “explain the cause of the mortalities,” and the vague descriptor “old age” is not a concrete cause of death.  Id. at 3.  Nor is “possible genetic issues.”  Id. at 34.  The application form also requests that the applicant identify “measures taken to prevent future mortalities,” id. at 3, but in numerous instances Sculac identifies no such measures, including in the cases of “possible genetic issues” and in the cases of two tigers who were killed by cage mates, apparently due to incompatible housing arrangements, id. at 33-34.

 

Serenity Springs’s failure to provide the above material information disqualifies it from obtaining the requested CBW permit.

 

  1. B.    Serenity Springs’s Proposed Activities Will Not Benefit the Species in the Wild.

The ESA authorizes the FWS to issue permits for otherwise prohibited activities only “for scientific purposes or to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.”  16 U.S.C. § 1539(a)(1)(a). CBW permits fall within the second of these exceptions (“enhancement”), and, as the FWS has recognized, to qualify for this exception, one must “demonstrate how your proposed activities directly relate to the survival of this species in the wild.”  Fax from Anna Barry to John F. Cuneo, Jr., Hawthorn Corp. (Mar. 12, 2012) (emphasis added).  Because Serenity Springs has not demonstrated—indeed, has not even attempted to demonstrate—that its activities will benefit the survival of species in the wild, its permit application must be denied.

Because Serenity Springs fails to contend that its plans will benefit the species in the wild, it is not necessary to dwell on this issue:  The applicant bears the burden of demonstrating that it qualifies for the exception, see 50 C.F.R. § 13.21(b) (“fail[ure] to demonstrate a valid justification for the permit” warrants denial); see also, e.g.,  Letter from Anna Barry to John F. Cuneo, Jr. (Oct. 14, 2011) (“To meet the requirements under the ESA you need to be able to demonstrate how your proposed activities directly relate to the survival of this species in the wild.” (emphasis added)), and here Serenity Springs has utterly failed to make any such demonstration.

Nevertheless, exploring the reasons why the activities proposed by Serenity Springs will not enhance the survival of species in the wild—and how the activities are in fact likely to operate to the detriment of species in the wild—underscores why this CBW permit application must be denied.

  1. 1.     The generic tigers bred by Serenity Springs do not have conservation value.

First and foremost, as discussed extensively in § III.A.1, supra, and as recognized by the FWS, see, e.g., FWS, Proposed Rule, U.S. Captive-Bred Inter-Subspecific Crossed or Generic Tigers, 76 Fed. Reg. 162 (Aug. 22, 2011); App. 13 (E-mail from Mike Carpenter to Nick Sculac (May 6, 2013)), the hybrid/generic tigers—the only types of animals Serenity Springs has in fact bred, according to its permit application—lack conservation value.

Further, as Ron Tilson explains,

The argument that privately-owned tigers have any significant conservation value falls flat when viewed from the lens of real need for four reasons.  First, tiger reintroduction is not currently an available conservation tool; reintroduction has never been tried.  Second, if tigers are to be reintroduced into the wild, animals of known genetic origin will be preferred.  Third, the zoo and aquarium associations of North America, Europe, Australasia, and Asia, have more than sufficient tigers to meet any foreseeable need.  Moreover, captive facilities in tiger range states continue to receive “problem” tigers who are removed from the wild by local wildlife authorities when they come into conflict with humans.  Finally, in a rather ironic twist, if the arguments of some private owners that subspecies designation does not matter are accepted, then any perceived limitations in the holdings of the world’s zoos could be made up with translocation from one area of Asia to the other.

Statement of Dr. Tilson.

  1. 2.     Captive-bred animals are ill-suited for reintroduction.

Moreover, even when not generic, captive-bred animals are ill-suited for reintroduction, making it unlikely in most instances that they will enhance the survival of the species.

In its simplest form, the role of captive breeding and reintroduction in conservation is analogous to Noah’s ark. Species threatened with extinction are maintained in captivity, as if aboard an ark escaping the flood, until those factors threatening their existence are removed and they can be returned to the wild.

Andrew E. Bowkett, Recent Captive-Breeding Proposals and the Return of the Ark Concept to Global Species Conservation, 23 Conservation Biology 773, 773 (2009); see also Annenberg Learner, Why Captive Breeding? (“When all of the existing habitat is poor quality or other environmental problems occur, a captive population can be maintained until the problems can be solved or another appropriate habitat can be found for the animal in the wild.  This kind of project allows us to bank a species.”).  A related purpose is to breed members of an endangered species in captivity “as a source of genetic material to infuse diversity into depleted wild populations.”  IUCN, The Ethiopian Wolf: Status Survey, The Ethiopian Wolf: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 64 (2002) (identifying the two purposes for which “the maintenance of viable populations of rare species is important”).

The animals Serenity Springs seeks a permit to breed can never serve these purposes.  First, because they maintain animals in conditions with “little or no opportunity to manage important aspects of their lives (such as quality, quantity, and timing of food and water, choice of mates or other social partners, etc.),” exhibitors like Serenity Springs fail to “provide [animals] with the kinds of experiences they will need to succeed outside of [human] care.”  Kathleen N. Morgan & Chris T. Tromborg, Sources of Stress in Captivity, 102 Animal Behaviour Science 262, 287 (2007) (internal citation omitted); see also M. Elsbeth McPhee, Generations in Captivity Increases Behavioral Variance: Considerations for Captive Breeding and Reintroduction Programs, 115 Biological Conservation 71, 71 (2003); Jennifer L. Kelley et al., The Influence of Rearing Experience on the Behaviour of an Endangered Mexican Fish, Skiffa Multipunctata, 122 Biological Conservation 223, 223 (2005); Javier Alvarez (FWS), Commercial Captive Propagation and Wildlife Conservation, IUCN SSC Commercial Captive Propagation and Wild Species Conservation, Selected Background Papers, Dec. 7-9, 2001; Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 340 (1996).

Second, the chasm between the conditions in captivity and the conditions in nature threaten genetic fitness and the preservation of the species-specific traits necessary for most animals to survive in the wild.  “Evolutionary processes do not stop because species are in cages,” and over time the erosion of species-specific traits can become inscribed in the genetic code of the animal.  Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 341 (1996).

Moreover, the traits selected for in captivity are unlikely to be those necessary for success in the wild.  For example, “captive breeding often results in the inadvertent selection of traits that are favourable in captivity, such as tameness and resistance to stress, or [in] the relaxation of selective forces that are common in nature, such as predation.”  Jennifer L. Kelley et al., The Influence of Rearing Experience on the Behaviour of an Endangered Mexican Fish, 122 Biological Conservation 223, 223 (2005); see Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 341 (1996); Richard Frankham, Genetic Adaptation to Captivity in Species Conservation Programs, 17 Molecular Ecology 325, 326 (2008).

Given the predictability and invariability of the captive environment, as well as its physical limitations, it is unsurprising that “[c]haracteristics selected for under captive conditions are overwhelmingly disadvantageous in the natural environment.”  Richard Frankham, Genetic Adaptation to Captivity in Species Conservation Programs, 17 Molecular Ecology 325, 326 (2008); accord Jennifer L. Kelley et al., The Influence of Rearing Experience on the Behaviour of an Endangered Mexican Fish, 122 Biological Conservation 223, 223 (2005).

Simply stated, the tigers bred at Serenity Springs—and other potential species—cannot be used to augment wild populations, or as a source of genetic material, since they are woefully unrepresentative of their wild counterparts.  See, e.g., Richard A. Griffiths & Lissette Pavajeau, Captive Breeding, Reintroduction, and the Conservation of Amphibians, 22 Conservation Biology 852, 853 (2008).

  1. 3.     Captive breeding fails to address the primary threat to the species in the wild: lack of adequate habitat and human-animal conflict. 

Even if reintroduction were a goal of Serenity Springs—which it is not—adequate habitat for tigers and the other species Serenity Springs seeks permission to breed has declined precipitously and no longer exists in sufficient quantity to support such a goal.  As Jack Woody, who oversaw the endangered species program at the FWS for over twenty years, summarized:  “It’s useless to produce truckloads of [animals] if there’s nowhere to release them.”  Laura Tangley, Captive Propagation: Will It Succeed?, 121 Science News 266, 268 (1982) (quoting Jack Woody).  Captive breeding by Serenity Springs does nothing to reverse this trend, and thus cannot be used as a basis to approve its CBW permit application.

  1. 4.     Serenity Springs’s proposed activities are actually likely to operate to the detriment of endangered species in the wild.

 

  1. a.     The FWS must make an individualized determination as to whether Serenity Springs’s proposed activities are likely to adversely affect the survival of endangered species.

The ESA “requires case-by-case review of exceptions,” which includes “mak[ing] certain findings,” Friends of Animals v. Salazar, 626 F. Supp. 2d 102, 119 (D.D.C. 2009), appeal dismissed, 09-5292, 2010 WL 286806 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 4, 2010) (emphasis added), including that “if granted and exercised [the exception] will not operate to the disadvantage of such endangered species,” 16 U.S.C. § 1539(d)(2) (emphasis added).  The regulations further require the FWS to make an individualized determination that “the authorization requested” does not “potentially threaten[] a wildlife or plant population,” 50 C.F.R. . 13.21(b)(4), as well as to consider “[t]he probable direct and indirect effect which issuing the permit would have on the wild populations of the wildlife sought to be covered by the permit,” id. § 17.22(a)(2)(ii).  Thus, the law mandates that the FWS make an “individualized analysis” of each permit application: including specific findings about specific animals in specific contexts.  See Friends of Animals, 626 F. Supp. 2d at 119-20 (“[T]he text, context, purpose and history of section 10 show a clear Congressional intention that permits must be considered on a case-by-case basis . . . .”).

Accordingly, in considering Serenity Springs’s application, the FWS may not rely on its blanket determination that the taking, transport, shipping, and sale of captive-bred wildlife “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the survival of the species.”  Memorandum from the Chief, Branch of Consultation and Monitoring, Division of Scientific Authority, FWS, to the Chief, Division of Management Authority, FWS (Nov. 17, 2003).  Nor may the agency rely on its earlier, substantially similar blanket determination that there is “no adverse affect,” Memorandum from the Chief, Office of Endangered Species, FWS, to the Chief, Wildlife Permit Office, FWS (Aug. 26, 1981)).

  1. b.     Serenity Springs’s exhibition of animals—and sale of animals for use in entertainment—is particularly detrimental to the species.

 

By breeding and exhibiting captive wildlife, Serenity Springs is not contributing to survival of the species.  By exhibiting captive-bred animals for purposes of “entertain[ing] the public,” App. 30, providing tigers for the entertainment industry, id. at 34, and through its role in “exotic pet dealing and ownership,” id. at 33, Serenity Springs is doing more harm than good to the species.

As discussed previously, Serenity Springs’s exhibition of endangered animals is detrimental to the species because of the serous misimpression it gives the public about the status of the species.  See § III.B.  As Nyhus et al. explain:

 

[Z]oos may actually undermine the continued existence of what they purport to celebrate.

People watch the films, they visit the zoos, and by the mesmeric power of these vicarious

experiences, they come carelessly to believe that the Bengal tiger . . . is alive and well

because they have seen it.
Philip J. Nyhus et al., Thirteen Thousand and Counting: How the Growing Captive Tiger Populations Threaten Wild Tigers, in Tigers of the World, 2ded., pp. 237 (2010); see also id. at 232 (our exposure to tigers as sources of entertainment has led to “the blurring of our awareness of what tigers are and the serious threats wild tigers face to their continued survival”).

This is especially true with regard to the animals bred by Serenity Springs—such as white tigers—that do not even exist in the wild.  Experts agree that people who spend money to see white tigers on exhibit are “actually less—not more—likely to have a meaningful understanding of the real challenges of wild tiger conservation.”  Id. at 237-38.  Nyhus et al. explain, “One logical outcome of the popularity of white tigers is a warped perspective and awareness of what a tiger is and the true threats faced by wild tigers.”  Id. at 234-35.

 

  1. c.     Resources spent by Serenity Springs on captive breeding are better spent on legitimate conservation programs.

Serenity Springs’s captive breeding is also detrimental to the species because it diverts scarce resources from conservation efforts that could have a truly beneficial impact on endangered animals in the wild.  Snyder et al. state that they “have frequently dealt with funding competition between [“in situ efforts” and “captive breeding”] and are acutely aware of how one approach often preempts the other, sometimes to the detriment of crucial in situ needs.”  Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 344 (1996); see also Andrew E. Bowkett, Recent Captive-Breeding Proposals and the Return of the Ark Concept to Global Species Conservation, 23 Conservation Biology 773, 774 (2009) (reviewing the literature); IUCN, The Ethiopian Wolf: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 65 (2002).  This is an especially critical problem given that the cost of captive breeding often exceeds in situ costs “even with intensive protection.”  Andrew E. Bowkett, Recent Captive-Breeding Proposals and the Return of the Ark Concept to Global Species Conservation, 23 Conservation Biology 773, 774 (2009) (citing A. Balmford et al., Parks or Arks: Where to Conserve Large Threatened Mammals?, 4 Biodiversity & Conservation 636 (1995)).

Captive breeding can also be a political, as well as monetary, diversion.  Snyder et al. explain that “[l]ong-term solutions are often politically more difficult than captive breeding solutions, so it is tempting for managers to deemphasize efforts for wild populations once captive populations are in place.”  Noel F.R. Snyder et al., Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery, 10 Conservation Biology 338, 344 (1996).

Clearly, Serenity Springs’s captive breeding does not provide, and will never provide, a benefit to endangered animals in the wild, and thus its application for a CBW permit must be denied.

  1. C.   Issuance of a Blanket Five-Year Permit Would Violate the ESA.

According to the Federal Register notice of Serenity Springs’s CBW permit application, if granted the permit would “cover[] activities to be conducted by the applicant over a five-year period.” Receipt of Applications for Permit, 78 Fed. Reg. 38731, 38732 (June 27, 2013).  Issuing Serenity Springs a five-year blanket permit to engage in activities that would otherwise require individual permits, and without public notice and an opportunity for comment, see 16 U.S.C. 1539(c), would contravene the letter and the spirit of the ESA, which requires that permits be specific and narrowly tailored.  Congress intended for the ESA to prohibit “[v]irtually all dealings with endangered species, including taking, . . . except in extremely narrow circumstances.”  Tenn. Valley Auth., 437 U.S. at 180 (emphasis added).  Accordingly, the ESA grants the FWS limited authority to authorize “any act otherwise prohibited by section 1538 of this title . . . to enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.”  16 U.S.C. § 1539(a)(1)(a) (emphasis added).  The plain language of § 1539(a)(1)(a) (“any act”) contemplates a single, identifiable performance of taking, delivering, receiving, carrying, transporting, or shipping—not any vague, unspecified series of activities involving captive-bred wildlife performed over several years.  See also 50 C.F.R. § 13.42 (providing that ESA permits are “specific” and should “describe certain circumscribed transactions,” setting forth “specific times, dates, places, methods of taking or carrying out the permitted activities, numbers and kinds of wildlife or plants, location of activity, and associated activities that must be carried out.” (emphases added)).  To broadly authorize Serenity Springs to engage in innumerable unspecified and otherwise prohibited activities with unspecified animals would directly contravene this language and would allow the exception to swallow the rule.

Issuing such a broad permit would also directly contravene the public’s right to information under § 10(c) of the ESA.  Section 10(c) mandates:

The Secretary shall publish notice in the Federal Register of each application for an exemption or permit which is made under this section.  Each notice shall invite the submission from interested parties, within thirty days after the date of the notice, of written data, views, or arguments with respect to the application; except that such thirty-day period may be waived by the Secretary in an emergency situation where the health or life of an endangered animal is threatened and no reasonable alternative is available to the applicant, but notice of any such waiver shall be published by the Secretary in the Federal Register within ten days following the issuance of the exemption or permit.  Information received by the Secretary as part of any application shall be available to the public as a matter of public record at every stage of the proceeding.

16 U.S.C. § 1539(c) (emphases added); see Friends of Animals v. Salazar, 626 F. Supp. 2d 102,  113 (D.D.C. 2009); Cary v. Hall, No. C05-4363 VRW, 2006 WL 6198320, at *11 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2006).  Bypassing the act-by-act assessment mandated by the ESA in favor of blanket permission to engage in any and all captive-breeding-related activities over a five-year span deprives the public, including PETA, of information to which it would be entitled “as a matter of public record at every stage of the proceeding,” 16 U.S.C. § 1539(c), but for the FWS’s issuance of the blanket permit.

  1. D.   Should the FWS Nevertheless Issue Serenity Springs a CBW Permit, It Must Be Limited to One Year Given the Pending Enforcement Action for AWA Violations.

 

If, despite the abundant reasons in favor of denying Serenity Springs’s CBW permit application set forth here and supported by the accompanying exhibits, the FWS decides to grant Serenity Springs a CBW permit, such permit should be limited to a term of one year, given that Serenity Springs has an enforcement action currently pending with the USDA.  See Letter from Anna Barry to Ferdinand Hantig (Aug. 20, 2012); USDA Compl.; E-mail from David Sacks, USDA, to Teresa Marshall, PETA Foundation.

  1. I.               Conclusion

For all of the reasons detailed above, PETA urges the FWS to deny Serenity Springs’s application for a CBW permit and urges the FWS to launch an investigation into Serenity Springs’s apparent violations of the ESA and CWSA, as well as its submission of false material information to the agency as part of its application.

Pursuant to 50 C.F.R. § 17.22(e)(2), should the agency decide to issue the permit despite our objections, we hereby request notice of that decision at least ten days prior to the issuance of the permit via e-mail to DelciannaW@petaf.org or telephone to 202-309-4697.

 

 

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Nick Sculac of Big Cats of Serenity Springs Wildlife Center Faces Prison

In 2010 their website claims they house 120 big cats and this 2010 article says they house 138 big cats.  Most of these pseudo sanctuaries continue to buy, breed and “rescue” big cats despite their inability to care for the ones they already have.

Gets 6 years with community corrections

Big cat sanctuary co-founder guilty but avoids 6 years prison time

 

October 27, 2010 8:36 AM
R. SCOTT RAPPOLD
THE GAZETTE

Nick Sculac, co-founder of the Calhan-area big cat sanctuary Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, was led out of court in handcuffs Tuesday after being sentenced for theft.

But his stay behind bars will be short. Under the terms of a plea agreement, he was sentenced to serve six years at community corrections, a halfway house. His attorney said Sculac could be allowed to live outside the facility within six to eight months.

Sculac, 60, pleaded guilty to bilking a volunteer at the center out of $40,500. The volunteer was mauled by a tiger, and Sculac falsely claimed the money was needed to pay fines related to the attack, according to  court documents.

“You’ve been a con artist,” 4th Judicial District Judge David Gilbert told Sculac, noting his two prior felony convictions. “You’ve been misusing people. You’ve been picking on people who are in a vulnerable state.”

The sanctuary is one of the largest in the state, and it exists largely on donations – $122,358 in 2007, according to tax records.

The judge said Sculac used peoples’ concern for the 138 big cats at the sanctuary to get money from people and line his own pockets.

“It’s criminal, but it’s just plain wrong. It’s immoral,” he said.

Gilbert also noted Sculac has done good work at the sanctuary, caring for animals that might not otherwise have a home. He said community corrections was appropriate, but added: “If you find yourself back in front of us again, you’ll be looking at spending potentially the rest of your life in prison.”

Sculac was silent during the sentencing. His attorney, Mark Menscher, told the judge Sculac was worried about being fined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and losing the sanctuary.

“He did tell (the volunteer) he had already been fined and he was wrong to do so,” Menscher said. “He was worried about getting closed down.”

The USDA is still investigating the April 2009 mauling and has not issued a fine. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the sanctuary $7,000.

The volunteer, Michael McCain, traveled from the Western Slope to testify Tuesday.

“We did not want anything to happen to the sanctuary, so I accepted all responsibility (for the mauling),” said McCain, who was in an area volunteers were not supposed to visit when a tiger grabbed his arm, pulled him against a cage and bit.

“(Sculac) had the chance to reel me in and he did because he knew how much we loved the animals,” McCain said.

McCain said he would have preferred Sculac spend time in prison, but he was still satisfied with the sentence.

Sculac was ordered to pay the money back.

The six-year sentence was the maximum under the plea agreement – he could have received two years…

Read more: http://www.gazette.com/news/sculac-106960-sanctuary-theft.html#ixzz13f0h0PMj

 

founder of a big-cat sanctuary faces up to six years in prison
10/4/2010 COLORADO SPRINGS — The co-founder of a big-cat sanctuary faces up to six years in prison after he admitted stealing from a volunteer who was mauled by a 400-pound Bengal tiger.

 

 

Nick Sculac, 60, of the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center in Calhan pleaded guilty in July to bilking a volunteer for $40,500 after the volunteer followed an employee into an off-limits area and was bitten on the arm.

 

Sculac told the volunteer he owed the $40,500 for “his share” of a federal fine over the mauling. After the volunteer paid Sculac the money, the volunteer discovered that a fine was under investigation but hadn’t been imposed.

 

The sanctuary later was fined $7,000, though the sanctuary is contesting the fine.
Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_16245274?source=rss#ixzz11PFyVgYq

 

 

 

Big cat sanctuary co-founder accused of theft

 

Nick Sculac, of Serenity Springs in Calhan, to be sentenced Tuesday

October 04, 2010 8:40 AM

R. SCOTT RAPPOLD

THE GAZETTE

NOTE: A previous version of this story stated the Colorado Division of Wildlife allows breeding of exotic animals. More accurately, the DOWrecognizes that Serenity Springs’ licenses and permits allow the breeding of some animals at the facility.

 

At the Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, a big-cat sanctuary near Calhan, donations keep the 100-plus tigers, lions and other animals alive. Most of these wild predators have been rescued from appalling circumstances, and live in enclosures on the generosity of others.

The public has responded to many pleas over the years  (including in The Gazette)  for volunteer work and donations — $122,358 in 2007, according to tax records.

But when a volunteer was mauled by a tiger last year, co-founder Nick Sculac bilked the man out of $40,500 by falsely claiming — according to court documents — that he faced fines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and that amount was “his share.”

Sculac is scheduled to be sentenced in court Tuesday after pleading guilty in July to one count of theft. He also faces an unrelated misdemeanor citation from the Colorado Division of Wildlife for illegally keeping bear and tiger cubs off the Serenity Springs property.

It will be the latest in a long string of court appearances for the 60-year-old Sculac, who founded the sanctuary with his late wife, Karen, in 1993. Court records show he was charged with theft in 1984, 1991, 1993, 2001 and 2002, and he has repeatedly battled with creditors.

Now he faces 2 to 6 years in prison and up to $500,0000 in fines. Neither Sculac nor his attorney responded to interview requests for this story.

Tiger bite

Michael McCain admits it was his fault.

“It was stupid on my part,” he told an El Paso County Sheriff’s Office investigator, according to a sheriff’s case report. (Read the entire report by clicking on the link on the upper right of this page.)

A Telluride-area resident, he came to Serenity Springs to volunteer after a mountain lion he and his wife had helped raise at another facility was moved here.

On April 24, 2009, he followed an employee into an area off-limits to volunteers, where gates to the pens have 12-inch openings. McCain strayed too close to one opening, and a 400-pound Bengal tiger reached through, grabbed his arm and pulled him against the cage in a manner he described as “playful.” When he tried to pull his arm out, the tiger bit in.

Employees hit the tiger with a shovel until it let go, and McCain was treated for wounds to his wrist, forearm, bicep and tricep, according to the sheriff’s office report.

A month later, recovering at home, his arm still in a cast, he got a message from Sculac, which he later played for a sheriff’s office detective. According to an arrest affidavit, Sculac told him he had to pay a fine by Friday. McCain returned the call.

According to the affidavit, Sculac told McCain the U.S. Department of Agriculture had fined him $40,500. He had the money in escrow, but he would lose his house if he used that money, and the sanctuary would be shut down and the animals killed.

The next day McCain, pooling money from his business and friends and family, wired Sculac the money. When he called the USDA a few weeks later, he was told the investigation was under way, but a fine had not been imposed, the affidavit states.

He called the sheriff’s office. On June 22, a detective confirmed with the USDA that no fine had been issued. Sculac was interviewed July 16. He said while no fines had been issued, he expected the sanctuary would be fined, and that he told McCain $40,500 was “his share” in order to come back to Serenity Springs, according to the affidavit.

Asked how much of the money was left, Sculac said $15,000.; the rest was spent to improve and pay off the property.

Sculac was arrested Dec. 7, and is free on $10,000 bail. (Read the entire arrest affidavit by clicking on the link on the upper right of this page.)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued Serenity Springs a $7,000 citation July 14, 2009. Serenity Springs is contesting the fine.

The USDA has not issued a fine. An agency spokesman said the investigation into the mauling is ongoing.

McCain declined to be interviewed, citing the sentencing, where he plans to testify.

Past offenses

The Sculacs’ wildlife refuge started small, just a handful of animals on the Sculacs’ ranch. But as sanctuaries around the country closed, and the number of people adopting big cats they couldn’t handle increased, so did the number of cats.

Karen Sculac handled the financial and business side of the sanctuary, the Sculacs told The Gazette in 2002. That’s the year Nick Sculacwas arrested on four counts of theft, accused of taking money for projects in his contracting business and not carrying out the work and also taking payment for medical supplies in another business and not delivering. A deputy requested bail to be set at $100,000.

“(Sculac) has shown proficiency in obtaining large sums of money by deception, (Sculac) made it clear to victim in one case that he has a .44-magnum that he carries and can use it,” the deputy wrote.

The charges were eventually dropped and Sculac paid restitution.

Karen Sculac died of a sudden illness in 2006, and Nick Sculac decided to keep the sanctuary going. But his financial and legal problems continued. He was sued in 2007 by a former attorney, who claimed he owed $5,794 in legal bills. In 2008, Memorial Hospital sued him for $2,700 over unpaid medical bills. In April, a motorcycle he bought for $14,000 was repossessed. The property has been in and out of foreclosure several times.

It is unclear how the theft case will affect the sanctuary, one of the largest in Colorado.

Sculac no longer owns the property, following a series of real estate transfers. The name was changed from Big Cats of Serenity Springsto Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, formed in 2008 by Julie Walker, who owns the home on Constitution Avenue that Sculac listed as his home address in court records.

The most recent tax return available, from 2007, lists Sculac as president, with three other family members on a six-person board of directors. He also continues to write in the sanctuary’s newsletter, and a former employee said Sculac is heavily involved in fund-raising for the center.

Not an accredited sanctuary

The center has a valid USDA permit, issued in August and good for one year. It has a zoological permit and an exhibitor’s permit from the ColoradoDivision of Wildlife, said agency spokesman Michael Seraphin.

Sculac is also scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday for the misdemeanor citation of keeping animal cubs off the sanctuary property, issued in December.

The sanctuary is not listed as an accredited facility by the American Sanctuary Association, said association director Vernon Weir, because the association disapproves of breeding, which apparently goes on at Serenity Springs. Serenity Springs’ permits allows some breeding of animals.

“Legitimate animal sanctuaries are taking in these animals because there’s nowhere else for them to go,” Weir said. “It’s to keep them from being killed, but they’re not in favor of private ownership. Wild animals belong in the wild, not in peoples’ backyards.”

The association also questioned if Serenity Springs was financially stable, he said.

Despite Sculac’s legal and financial troubles, the sanctuary seems to be doing OK. It offers tours of the sanctuary for $10 a person, takes photos with cubs for $25, and receives food donations regularly. Its Facebook page has 897 people who like it.

“Due to our generous donors, our meat freezers are full,” says a voice message on the sanctuary’s phone line.
Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/big-105633-cat-center.html#ixzz11PJBbMO5

 

 

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Posted on Jun 29, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Most Wanted | 0 comments

Wildlife Rescue and Rehab Vernon Yates

Wildlife Rescue and Rehab Vernon Yates

Vernon Yates Wildlife Rescue and Rehab

Because Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Inc., is located in Seminole, FL and its owner, Vernon Yates is often set up in parking lots with his tigers in circus wagons for people to gawk at, we get a lot of angry mail from people asking us if this was our display. Big Cat Rescue does NOT take exotic cats offsite and we do not condone it. There is no way to insure the cat’s safety, nor the public’s safety in such situations and it shows disrespect for the animals to treat them like props. If you see people using animals this way, please take photos, videos and document when, where and what the conditions were. Send it to us at MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org and we will use it to try and get laws passed so that animals cannot be abused this way.

The vet for Vernon Yates is Dr. Don Woodman of Safety Harbor.

 

Check for yourself to see if Vernon Yates of Wildlife Rescue and Rehab meets the sanctuary standards for an accredited animal refuge. Vernon will argue that he is a shelter and not a sanctuary to overcome that shortcoming, but what does that really mean? There is no good place for these cats to go as the accredited sanctuaries are full so where do his cats go if he is just a temporary shelter as he claims?

 

At the following link is a story that ran on CNN about 5 tigers and a lion who were being starved and were more than 100lbs underweight. The Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) was reported to have been investigating the owner for two years and believed the cats were starving but couldn’t prove it. The owner, Susan MacKay, was said to have a tiger in her freezer that she was feeding to these cats, and still the FWC did nothing. When the FWC did finally take action they called Yates because he will pick up anything they ask him to take. He already has 200 exotic animals on 2.5 acres in a residential neighborhood next door to an elementary school.

 

In the clip you can see Yates yelling at the obviously stressed cats who were being kept, two to a cage, in circus wagons. If Yates cannot control his temper in front of a CNN camera crew, it is depressing to think how he must behave when no one is looking, which is most of the time.

 

One tiger appears to have lost half of her tail and the cats are roaring at each other, baring their teeth and threatening violence. In the video Vernon claims that if he gets the cats he will “find a new home for them,” but legitimate zoos don’t want castoffs from the pet trade, so the only buyers will likely be similar or worse situations than where the cats came from.

 

In person and in video interviews, his lack of intelligence, compassion or patience is abundantly clear, so why does the FWC call him? It is most likely because he will make their immediate problem go away. No one wants to be the bad guy and euthanize an animal, but there are not nearly enough true sanctuaries to take in the exploding population of lions and tigers. If the FWC were to tighten up the rules on who could possess these cats, Vernon Yates wouldn’t have a market for them and wouldn’t have any way to bail out the FWC.

 

This link is to a County Commission meeting where Vernon Yates accuses a County Commissioner and others of lying and demands that they apologize to him and the tiger that he carries all over town in the back of his pick up truck.

http://www.pinellascounty.org/media/bcc022205/Results.htm

In the photos at right you can see the awful concrete and steel prisons that are jammed together on less than 2.5 acres in a residential neighborhood, near a school. Big cats are not designed to live on concrete and need far more space than is provided at places that just meet minimum state requirements. Vernon Yates started Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in 1980 and is reported to have more than *40 big cats in the back yard of his residential home located in Seminole, FL.

 

*an article from 1998 said he had 40 big cats, Vernon Yates has claimed to have 48 big cats, but as of 11/11/07 he only has 14 tigers and a lion in his collection of 200 exotics. Where did all of the other exotic cats go?

 

Nov 10, 2011:  A complaint was filed with USDA and the Florida Wildlife Commission based on Vernon Yates’ flagrant disregard for the law that requires a barrier between the public and tigers.  As of 2011 Vernon Yates Wildlife Rescue has failed to post the required $10,000 liability bond which became law in FL in 2007.  Despite that the FWC continues to renew his permits each year and Yates continues to behave in the reckless manner described by witnesses below:

 

“On Saturday, November 5th, 2011 around 2:30pm on Park Blvd. in Pinellas County (close to Starkey and Seminole Blvds), my son and I were driving west and spotted something odd being pulled by a truck. As we approached the vehicle, we were amazed to see two large tigers in a single cage. The cage was on a flat, open trailer. The two cats were moving around on a bed of what appeared to be a fresh bed of hay. The cage had bars so, the tigers were able to stretch their legs through. The trailer was pulled by a very nice, white pick up truck. On the door read “Shelter for Wild Life and Exotic Pets and Rehabilitation” with a tag number on the trailer: X76863.”

 

If the USDA and FWC do not take action on these violations, it makes us wonder what else is not being enforced.

 

 

Vernon Yates figured his Siberian tiger, Tai, was owed an apology.

February 27, 2005
Section: PINELLAS
Page: 6

CARLOS MONCADAcmoncada@tampatrib.com

By CARLOS MONCADA cmoncada@tampatrib.com

CLEARWATER — Vernon Yates figured his Siberian tiger, Tai, was owed an apology.

Yates characterized the big cat as a victim of circumstance when the outspoken wildlife trapper had an altercation with county Commissioner Ken Welch last year. Welch saw Yates driving the golden, white and black tiger in the back of a pickup truck in the commissioner’s south St. Petersburg neighborhood one morning in September. He called the number on the truck and talked to Yates, who was behind the wheel. What happened next depends on which version you believe.

 

Welch told his colleagues at a meeting in January that Yates and Tai apparently had been visiting in the neighborhood overnight, as he spotted them at 7:30 a.m. while taking his daughter to school. On Tuesday night, with county commissioners set to act on setback requirements for outdoor wildlife cages,

Yates showed up and angrily confronted Welch about the phone call and comments the commissioner made in January. Yates said the incident happened at 9 a.m., that he wasn’t in Welch’s neighborhood all night and that he was there picking up animals, not visiting. He said the commissioner told him over the phone several times, “Do you know who I am?” “I don’t think it’s right for any government person to scream at anybody, “Do you know who I am?’ ” Yates said.

Yates also took issue with Pinellas animal services director Kenny Mitchell, who told commissioners he saw children coming up to Yates‘ truck at Bardmoor Shopping Center in Seminole and putting their hands on Tai‘s steel cage. Yates said no children touched his tiger‘s cage. He said Mitchell should have reported the incident to the state if he believed the public was in danger.

“My tiger was totally within his legal rights to be where it was,” Yates said. “I think some people here owe me and my tiger an apology.” Welch denied asking Yates whether he knew who he was. The commissioner said he did identify himself and asked Yates why he had a tiger in the back of his truck. “At no point did I say, “Do you know who I am?’ ” Welch said. “Most of your statements are patently false.” As for an apology, Welch said, “You won’t get it from me.” Reporter Carlos Moncada can be reached at (727) 823-3412.

Cutline: Vernon Yates Confronted county Commissioner Ken Welch at meeting Tuesday Tribune photo by MARK GUSS This caged Siberian tiger caught the attention of county Commissioner Ken Welch one morning as it rode in the back of Vernon Yates‘ Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation truck.

Vernon Yates’ tiger breaks off her teeth on chain link cage:

Re: “The Tiger and My Dentist” (aka My Dentist, Animal Hero), this issue. I received the following email from Dr. Craddock’s chief nurse and significant other….

SONG is a 200 lb. Siberian tiger who lives at the Seminole Wildlife Rescue and Preserve. Vernon Yates is the owner of Wildlife Rescue and also happens to be one of our dental patients.

Several months back, Vernon Yates approached Dr. Craddock and explained that he had a problem with one of his Siberian Tigers. The tiger, 11-year-old SONG, had tried to get into a male tiger’s cage by chewing through a chain link fence. In the process of doing so, she broke her canine teeth, and they consequently became abscessed. Thus, she stopped eating and was rapidly losing weight.

The dilemma!

Normal procedure would be to extract infected broken teeth on an animal such a a tiger. However, due to the structure of a tiger’s skull (their roots being so close to their sinuses) removing their teeth can create future sinus problems. Not to mention also making it extremely difficult for them to chew up meat.

In any case, after Vernon Yates explained the problem to Dr. Craddock and myself, we decided to go to work and create instruments long enough that would allow us to do a root canal on her 2.5-inch long canine teeth. We volunteered our time and expertise to do this with the hopes of getting her to eat again. If the root canal was a success, we could then prepare her teeth for crowns.

The first of two precedures was done several months back in May. SONG was placed under general anesthesia at the Bayshore Animal Clinic. Dr. Craddock and I prepared for the 3-hour long surgical root canal procedure. Lo and behold, the root canal was successfully completed and impressions were taken for her new white gold crowns.

Our dental lab, Fox Dental, located in Tampa , donated the white gold for her crowns. They even went so far as to engrave Dr. Craddock’s initials (JEC) into the white gold crowns.

On 9/23/02, SONG was again placed under general anesthesia and prepared for the installation of her new crowned canines.

After 5 long hours, the surgery was another success!!!! Her new white gold crowns were in place!

Last reports from her owner, Mr. Yates: She was once again eating and smiling and very pretty with her four (4) new shiny teeth.

http://www.crazedfanboy.com/nolansnewsstand02/popculturereview131.html

Vernon Yates Calls Commissioner a Liar

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This link is to the entire County Commission meeting where Vernon Yates accuses a County Commissioner and others of lying and demands that they appologize to him and the tiger that he carries all over town in the back of his pick up truck. http://www.pinellascounty.org/media/bcc022205/Results.htm

Vernon Yates Attacks Big Cat Rescue Volunteers

Vernon Yates of Wildlife Rescue and Rehab in Seminole, Florida was barred from exhibiting at Get Rescued in Gulfport after attacking volunteers from Big Cat Rescue.

Later, at a meeting of the Florida Wildlife Commissioners he followed Big Cat Rescue Founder, Carole Baskin, into a meeting screaming obscenities and her and waiving his arms so wildly as he burst into the room that two officers jumped up and headed toward him, causing him to trot off to the parking lot.

At another Florida Wildlife Commission workgroup Vernon Yates slipped up behind a demure female volunteer and began threatening and screaming obscenities at her so loudly that a circus owner (typically not an industry friend to Big Cat Rescue) interceded in what ended up being a knock down, drag out fight on the lawn of the civic center, in order to protect the woman from Yates’ bullying.

To see him fly into a rage, at the drop of a hat, just ask him what he thinks of Big Cat Rescue’s work to end the breeding, buying and selling of exotic cats.

Family dispute turns deadly

After deputies shot the husband with a Taser, he pulls a gun. The deputies shoot, killing him.

Vernon Yates tiger in his truckBy TAMARA EL-KHOURY, NICOLE JOHNSON and DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD
Published January 13, 2006

A Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy investigates the scene of Thursday’s shooting at 1438 Chesterfield Drive in Clearwater . An apparent domestic dispute turned deadly when deputies shot a man who pulled a gun.

Deborah K. Yates and her husband were fighting when deputies responded to a 911 call.

DUNEDIN – Sheriff’s deputies trying to break up a struggle between a husband and wife Thursday shot and killed the man and apparently wounded his wife by accident, authorities said.

Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies heard screams from the couple’s home at 1438 Chesterfield Drive as they responded to a 10:31 a.m. 911 hangup call.

Borrowing a neighbor’s ladder, four deputies climbed over the home’s fence where they found Donald R. Yates, 45, and Deborah K. Yates, 42, fighting in the corner of a screened room at the back of their home.

Mrs. Yates was behind her husband during the struggle, sheriff’s spokesman Mac McMullen said, and the couple did not respond to commands from the deputies. Standing 3 to 4 feet away, Deputy Jason Stibbard hit Donald Yates with a Taser.

The Taser forced Donald Yates away from his wife. That’s when he pointed a .40-caliber Glock semiautomatic handgun at deputies, McMullen said.

From 6 feet away, Deputy Christine Smith and Deputy Christopher White saw the gun pointed at them and feared for their lives, McMullen said.

They fired eight rounds from their .45-caliber handguns. Donald Yates was struck several times in the legs and torso. Mrs. Yates was struck in the left leg.

McMullen said Donald Yates did not fire his weapon. It appeared that two of the deputies’ rounds struck Mrs. Yates, he said.

The shooting took place in a quiet middle class neighborhood of well-kept, well-landscaped ranch homes near the Toronto Blue Jay’s spring training complex. The Yates’ home has wind chimes and a little windmill in the front yard and firewood stacked in front of the garage.

Neighbors said they heard the shots about 10:45 a.m.

“I opened the door, and there was an army out here,” said Marcia Patton, 52. “I heard Debbie screaming. Then I heard pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.”

The couple was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg where Donald Yates died and Deborah Yates was listed in serious condition late Thursday, McMullen said.

McMullen said it appears Deborah Yates was trying to prevent her husband from killing himself.

Both deputies who fired their weapons were placed on nondisciplinary paid administrative leave, McMullen said. A fourth deputy, Cpl. John Davis, was injured climbing over the fence.

None of the deputies have been involved in a shooting before, according to McMullen.

In the past six months, deputies have responded to three calls at the Yates residence. In July, they responded for a report of family trouble. In October, they responded to a reported battery. Information on a third incident in November wasn’t released.

Vernon Yates allows petting of tigerDonald Yates is one of nine children who grew up in St. Petersburg and Gulfport , according to his older brother, local wildlife trapper Vernon Yates. He liked to play the tough guy but would give you the shirt off his back if he liked you. Or he could be your worst nightmare if he didn’t.

“If you look at the family tree it’s a Jerry Springer show,” Vernon Yates said.

Deborah Yates entered the family in 1980 when she married another of Yates’ brothers, Richard Lee Yates. She was 16, he was 17. They divorced three years later but were remarried in 1992. The marriage ended for good in November 1998.

The couple has two sons, Richard Lee Yates Jr. 24, and Alfred Michael Yates, 11.

In February 2004, Deborah Yates married Donald Yates, her former husband’s brother. It was Donald Yates’ third marriage. He has a son and two daughters from his first two marriages.

Donald Yates worked at a dental lab in Oldsmar. After a heart attack about 10 years ago, Vernon Yates said Donald Yates decided to live for today because there may not be a tomorrow.

He bought a couple of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and had his girls decked out in leather Harley garb while they were still toddlers.

His other joy was his 1970 Monte Carlo .

Still, trouble found its way to 1438 Chesterfield Drive . The call deputies responded to Oct. 25 was to arrest Deborah Yates after she hit her son Richard with a fist and plastic telephone, according to records. She pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear in court on that charge March 15.

Vernon Yates doesn’t believe his brother was suicidal. All the Yates boys have gun collections in their homes, he said. Donald Yates seemed fine when they spoke just before Christmas, Vernon Yates said, and his brother loved his kids and his motorcycles.

He said his sympathies went out to his nieces and the sheriff’s deputies who fired.

“Donald, I’m sure, had the option to put the gun down and he didn’t,” he said.

Mrs. Yates skates with the family’s grade school-aged daughters, neighbors said. The family has four dogs, including two bloodhounds, three birds and two ferrets.

“They loved their animals, they were very good to their animals and their children; the kids got everything they wanted,” said neighbor Sherri Pauline, 59. “And if you needed anything, Don was there to help you.”

Times staff writer Jacob H. Fries and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

2005 Vernon Yates has tigers in 90 degree heat in parking lot exhibit:

Tiger cub found along Florida interstate

WTVT’s Stan Jason reports on this unusual find

December 28, 1998

Web posted at: 10:36 p.m. EST (0336 GMT)

LARGO, Florida (CNN) — A Siberian tiger cub spent the weekend recuperating in a sanctuary for rescued animals after the rare feline was discovered by a couple driving on a Florida interstate.

The motorists spotted the cat walking alongside U.S. 275 in Pasco County about three miles north of a rest stop on Friday. Fearing a car might hit the cub, they caught it and called the Florida Fresh Water Fish and Game Commission.

A Chiefland family reported the cub missing several hours later. They told authorities the tiger was being transported by a relative when it apparently escaped a cage inside a horse trailer and then fell or jumped.

The 50-pound (23-kilogram), 5-month-old tiger was en route from Gibsonton, 25 miles south of Tampa , to Chiefland in Levy County .

Tiger will get vet checkup

A wildlife officer alerted Vernon Yates of the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Largo , which has about 40 big cats. Yates, who cares for animals that have been abused or abandoned, took in the cub, named “Jimmy.”

On Monday, wildlife officers planned to send the tiger to a veterinarian, saying it had sores that didn’t appear to be from a fall onto the roadway.

“There’s no real injuries like you expect if it dropped out the back of a trailer,” said Yates. There were some small sores and some bigger sores that had already formed a scab, he said. Otherwise the cat appeared to be healthy.

The Fresh Water Fish and Game Commission is investigating. Authorities say the driver faces charges related to the improper transport of an animal resulting in escape.

Carole Baskin

Buzz on Hunter’s Green panther turns to roar

Though a trapper finds no evidence of a Florida panther or escaped cougar, more residents say they have seen it and parents continue to keep their children inside.

By DAVID PEDREIRA

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2000

HUNTER’S GREEN — The legend of the Hunter’s Green panther continues to grow, but the trapper charged with snaring the elusive beast remains a skeptic.

Vernon Yates 2007While at least two more sightings of a large cat roaming near the community’s golf course have stirred residents anew this week, no one has come up with any clear evidence that the animal is a wild Florida panther or escaped cougar.

There are no tracks and no photographic evidence, said Vernon Yates, a Seminole-based trapper who agreed to try to catch the phantom cat at no charge to the community.

A rooster Yates put in a trap out in the woods more than a week ago to lure the big cat is still crowing away every morning. If a panther were lose, Yates thinks the bird would be in its stomach by now.

“If he was a wild cat, he would shred that trap,” Yates said. “There’s just no hard-core evidence right now.”

A lack of proof hasn’t stopped the panther buzz running through Hunter’s Green.

Many residents are still keeping their children indoors as new sightings get traded from community to community.

Saturday, another resident of tony Heritage Oaks saw a large cat near a pond on the Hunter’s Green golf course. Later in the week, another sighting allegedly occurred at the Vinings apartment complex.

Every time the cat is seen, Yates said, it grows in size and menace. One resident swore the animal topped out at 180 pounds.

“It’s getting bigger,” said Yates, who runs Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation. “But so far, we’ve only caught a possum.”

Ann Johnson, manager of the Hunter’s Green Community Association, said all the people who reported seeing the animal are credible witnesses. The association has told all its residents to stay alert, she said.

“Some people think it’s a panther, some people think it’s a cougar,” Johnson said. “For the most part, people are anxious for us to get the cat contained.”

The Florida panther, or Felis concolor, is one of the most endangered large cats in the world. It is a relative of the western mountain lion.

Panthers, also known as cougars, mountain lions or pumas, usually don’t roam north of Highlands County .

State wildlife officials have visited Hunter’s Green several times in the last few weeks to look for traces of the big beast.

“We still haven’t verified what it is,” said Mike Cundiff, a wildlife officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Yates believes the animal is either a bobcat or a jaguarundi, a south American cat introduced to Florida in the 1940s. He plans to pull up his traps by the end of the weekend if the animal doesn’t appear again.

“If someone had a picture of it today, it would be a different story,” Yates said.

* * *

— David Pedreira can be reached at (813) 226-3463 or pedreira@sptimes.com.

Rising from the bait, rooster now a pet

After the bird languishes in a panther trap for a month, pitying subdivision neighbors bring about its removal.

By MELANIE AVE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 27, 2000

TAMPA — The white-feathered rooster was living in a cage in New Tampa, bait for a phantom panther.

But it was the trapper who got caught.

Someone felt the rooster wasn’t living the good life of his neighbors in the Hunter’s Green subdivision. There was an anonymous complaint, officials came to take away the bird and the trapper ended up accused of neglect.

“We have no problem with trappers leaving their bait,” said Sgt. Lois Wimsett, investigations supervisor with Hillsborough County Animal Services. “But they can’t leave them to emaciate and suffer while they’re waiting to be eaten by a panther. That’s inhumane.”

On Friday, the rooster, unnamed but described as “friendly” in an animal control report, sat in an air-conditioned pen alongside barking stray dogs at the county pound. He was waiting to go to his new home, a farm with a roomy chicken coop with plenty of sawdust and hand-mixed feed.

And trapper Vernon Yates of Seminole was fuming.

Yates said he did not mistreat the rooster and wants to know why it was seized after he left it in the care of two Hunter’s Green residents.

2011 Vernon Yates Tiger In Cage Open Jeep

2011 Vernon Yates Tiger In Cage Open Jeep

“I don’t think they ought to make the statement that I was neglecting it,” Yates said.

The saga of the rooster began in April.

A Hunter’s Green resident saw what she thought was a panther frolicking in her back yard. Weeks later, a neighbor saw a similar large cat as she pulled into her driveway. Another neighbor saw it drinking from a golf course pond.

It has been seen several other times, as recently as last weekend near the Vinings apartment complex.

While no one had seen tracks or photographed the elusive beast, a skeptical Yates agreed to take the case.

“I told them I’d bring the trap and wouldn’t charge them if they agreed to feed” the rooster, he said. “They agreed to do it.”

Yates said he told one of the Hunter’s Green women that the rooster could “eat just about anything”: corn, bread or meat.

For about a month, the rooster waited at one end of the trap, about 4 feet long. He was separated from the main trapping chamber by wire mesh. He had a feed and water bowl.

The rooster attracted two opossums and a raccoon, but no panther.

Wimsett, the animal services supervisor, said her department received an anonymous report May 15 about a confined chicken “without sufficient food, water or exercise.” Animal services left a note on the trap.

A day passed, and Wimsett said she heard nothing from the rooster’s owner. So an officer took the rooster, in good condition but a little hot and underweight, to the animal shelter on Falkenburg Road .

After 10 days without word from the rooster’s owner, Wimsett let Hillsborough County Animal Services employee Linda Smith adopt the rooster. Wimsett said she may cite Yates for abandonment or neglect.

When Yates finally learned his rooster was gone, he drove to Hunter’s Green and collected his trap.

“The game commission, everybody, knew that chicken was there,” he said. “If they had a problem, they knew how to get ahold of me.”

Yates is not going to try to get his rooster back.

“To hell with them,” he said. “As long as the chicken’s being cared for, I don’t care.”

Friday afternoon, Smith prepared to take home the rooster, whom she calls “sweetie” and “pretty boy.” He will be cock of the walk on her 2.5-acre Wimauma farm with 16 chickens, six goats, two cats, three dogs, one guinea pig and one quarter horse.

“I just couldn’t stand to see him euthanized,” said Smith. “I thought, “Hey, I’ve got room for one more animal.’ ”

— Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3473 or melanie@sptimes.com .

http://www.sptimes.com/News/052700/TampaBay/Rising_from_the_bait_.shtml

This pictured appeared in today’s St. Petersburg Times.

For vehicle security, get The Cub

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]

Nen-Nen, a 200-pound, 14-month-old Siberian tiger, waits in the truck of her owner, Vernon Yates, who was attending to another matter. Yates, the director of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, was called to Atlantic Auto Repair in St. Petersburg to assist in the removal of a 6-foot snake from a car. Nen-Nen provided nothing but moral support.

I would have given anything to see the look on the poor Parking Enforcement Officer’s face when they passed this vehicle on their rounds!

Phil Oropesa

One 4th Street North
St. Petersburg , FL 33713

http://www.expo1000.com/parking/contest/cub.htm

on his boat.

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/white_tigers.htm

An unnatural fate

St. Petersburg Times; St. Petersburg , Fla. ; May 27, 2001; LINDA GIBSON;

Abstract:

[Janie], a white Siberian tiger; Taking a cruise last weekend on Lake Seminole are, cubs Teddy and Emily, 5 months and about 75 pounds, and Nini, 11 months and 150 pounds, with owner [Vernon Yates], and his girlfriend Tina Pennington.; This tiger cub,; one of a litter of three – she yellow, the other two white males – was born in December at Wild Bill’s Airboat Tours and Wildlife Sanctuary in Inverness.; [Susan MacKay] of Inverness holds a Siberian tiger cub; Photo: PHOTO, JILL SAGERS, (2); PHOTO, STEVE HASEL, (2)

On Jan. 6, the St. Petersburg Times ran a picture of an Inverness woman bottle-feeding a couple of 4-week-old tiger cubs, who at that age were cute enough to soften the hardest heart.

The photo featured Susan MacKay, who along with her husband, Bill, runs Wild Bill’s Airboat Tours and Wildlife Sanctuary in Citrus County , where they breed tigers.

Readers probably assumed cubs at the sanctuary would stay there for a safe, comfortable life. In reality, they are for sale. And their futures, particularly those of the distinctive-looking white tiger cubs, are fraught with hazard.

Until a few years ago, white tiger cubs were one of the hottest commodities in the wildlife trade. People who work with captive wildlife say a blue-eyed white cub could fetch a price of $50,000 or more.

High prices encouraged frenzied breeding. Females can give birth to litters of two to three cubs up to three times a year. The result is a glut of tiger cubs, both white and yellow. Predictably, prices have plunged. Below is white tiger at Wild Bill’s.

“They were rare. Now everybody’s got them,” said Mitchel Kalmanson, an insurance broker in Maitland who specializes in animal and entertainment coverage. “Values have dropped so drastically on white tigers they’re not worth insuring anymore.”

Now that their dollar value has plummeted, their prospects are gloomy.

Exact numbers are impossible to obtain, but owners of wildlife sanctuaries say there are far more cubs available than suitable places for them to live. Some are bought by people who think they can make pets of them. Sellers often encourage this misperception.

“They get sold to somebody who may be buying them with some degree of innocence,” said Lynn Cuny , founder of Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in Boerne , Texas . “They’ll be given a false bill of goods about how these animals will behave. People really believe that in 10 generations you can breed out millions of years of being an elusive carnivore.”

Cuny says she knows of one dealer who tells potential buyers the animals will remain tame if they’re not fed red meat.

The quest for valuable cubs led to inbreeding of mothers with sons, brothers with sisters. As a result, many white tiger cubs are born with deformities of the eyes, organs, skeletons or digestive tracts. Because of those conditions, “They have absolutely no conservation value whatsoever,” said Ronald Tilson, a Minnesota Zoo executive who coordinates the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s species survival plan for tigers.

In nature, white tigers are rare. Both parents must carry a recessive gene for that color. Normal tiger behavior in the the wild prevents the kind of inbreeding necessary to produce white cubs.

Once captive-bred cubs are grown and become problems for private owners, they face even bleaker prospects. Most zoos and circuses breed their own cats. Sanctuaries already are full of castoffs and routinely turn down people who offer to donate the tigers they bought as cubs.

“We had to turn away 311 cats last year, mostly lions and tigers,” said Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, a sanctuary for big cats in north Hillsborough County .

So what happens when the owners can no longer handle them?

“They end up in roadside zoos where they’ll probably live a wretched life,” Tilson said.

“If they’re lucky, people might call a vet and arrange a humane death,” Cuny said.

Janie’s story is an example of what can happen to a white tiger cub.

When she arrived in 1997 at Vernon Yates’ of Seminole, she was 4 years old and should have weighed about 400 pounds.

She weighed 100 pounds.

“Janie could hardly hold her head up,” Yates said. “You know what a greyhound looks like? You could see her ribs. We didn’t even have to hold her down to put an IV in her.”

Janie’s owner, Bruce Eisenmann, sent her to Yates on orders from an inspector with the state Wildlife Commission. She was one of three tigers in Eisenmann’s possession in Alva, near Fort Myers . The inspector found the cats after a neighbor complained. All were emaciated, with hairless patches of skin and open sores, according to wildlife commission records.

Through his company, Tiger Rescue Foundation, Eisenmann got the tigers to display at schools, churches, nursing homes and civic associations. In June 1997, he pleaded no contest to a charge of animal cruelty and was put on probation.

Yates said Eisenmann told him the tigers had been ill.

“We could never find anything wrong except not enough food,” Yates said.

Eisenmann has moved from Florida , according to his mother in South Carolina . Contacted there, Louise Eisenmann said her son was too ill to discuss the matter. She did not elaborate.

Eisenmann’s Tiger Rescue Foundation no longer exists. Because nobody ever paid Janie’s boarding bill, Yates says, the tiger still lives with him.

So do Nikita and Natasha, whose Jacksonville owner gave up on them as pets; Sunny, the pet of a Fort Lauderdale man who got scared of her; Roslyn, another ex-pet; Calvin, a pet who was going to be euthanized because of medical problems; and Hobbes, who was given to Yates in a shoebox a few hours after his birth; and a number of cubs.

Kalmanson said at least a dozen people in Florida breed white tigers for sale.

The MacKays advertise their cubs in a trade magazine called Animal Finders Guide. Among listings for elk calves, albino groundhogs, wolf cubs and wallabies is theirs:

Two male white and one natural color female tiger babies. Raised in our home on bottles with lots of love, they are real sweet. White tiger babies have blue eyes. Another litter due April 1.

McKay said he hopes to sell the white cubs for $10,000 each.

When the cubs are small, they’re so cute and playful that some people find them irresistible.

But, says Baskin, “After a year or so, people realize they make horrible pets.”

As sexual maturity nears, tigers experience a growth spurt and a change in behavior that can stun unwary owners.

“Suddenly, this person has a several-hundred-pound carnivorous animal in their home,” Cuny said. “It’s not uncommon for people to have dogs, cats and children in the same home.”

Even Yates, who runs the wildlife sanctuary, has had difficulty managing his tigers. Twice in a year, they have had litters of cubs unexpectedly, which he acknowledges shouldn’t have happened. He said he plans to castrate the males or get contraceptive implants for the females. He plans to keep the cubs, not sell them.

There’s one other issue. If tigers aren’t suitable pets, what message does Yates send by taking them for rides on his boat?

“It is a problem,” he said. “When people see that, they see the good side. But I tell them, ‘You’re not seeing the other side. These are large animals, and they can hurt you.’ ”

Yates has a state license to keep tigers and tells people it’s illegal to keep them without one.

The challenges grow along with the animal.

“How do you get a 500-pound tiger to the vet? We have people call us all the time asking, ‘How can we do it?’ ” Baskin said.

People also fail to consider that the vet who treats their dogs and cats probably doesn’t have any experience with tigers.

Tigers live for up to 20 years, Yates said. They’re noisy even after being spayed or neutered. They eat 15 to 20 pounds of raw meat a day.

One of MacKay’s tigers weighs around 800 pounds.

“He’s very friendly,” MacKay said, “but he’s testy if you turn your back on him. He’ll come for you like you’re a toy. He could crush me in a heartbeat.”

He has been hurt just once, he said, when one of his tigers gave him a “love bite.”

“Just a 14-stitcher,” MacKay said. “He put his mouth around my ankle and didn’t release his grip.”

Although MacKay gave an initial interview to the Times about raising cubs, he later would not respond to telephone and fax inquiries regarding the advisability of breeding them or criticisms of the practice by others.

Once owners decide their “pet” isn’t working out, they discover how hard it is to get rid of a grown tiger.

“The first thing they’ll do is call the local zoo,” Cuny said. “Nine times out of 10, the zoo says, ‘No thanks.’ Then they’ll call animal control, which tells them to try a sanctuary. The sanctuary will most likely say, ‘We’d love to help you but we’re full.’ Or, ‘We’re a non-profit. We can take it if you can contribute several thousand dollars toward its lifetime care.’ ”

In Florida , it’s against the law to own a tiger as a pet. But there are loopholes. If you’re going to use a tiger for some commercial purpose, such as as a mascot for a business, or to educate the public, or to be photographed for movies or commercials, you can get a license to own a tiger. The animals also can be sold to buyers from states that don’t regulate private ownership of non-native wildlife, such as Texas or Alabama .

But even within Florida , enforcement is scattered. Florida ‘s Wildlife Commission has only 10 investigators to cover the entire state.

“People hide them from inspectors,” Kalmanson said. “They get thrown in cages that are too small.”

Some people who buy or sell tiger cubs tend to be secretive. Even if properly licensed, they don’t want to attract attention from neighbors or animal-rights activists.

One seller with an ad in Animal Finders Guide listed four Siberian tiger cubs, born April 20, as free to a good home. She listed a phone number in the 727 area code.

She abruptly hung up when she learned her caller was a reporter.

St. Petersburg Times staff writer Linda Gibson can be reached at (813) 226-3382.

Wife Shot, Husband Killed When Deputies Enter Fray

By STEPHEN THOMPSON , The Tampa Tribune

Tampa Bay Online

DUNEDIN – At the front door of Donald Yates’ home, a sign reads, “We Don’t Call 911,” and beneath it dangles a replica of a gun.

At 10:31 a.m. Thursday, someone did dial 911 from the home. Then the call went dead.

When deputies arrived at 1438 Chesterfield Drive , they heard screaming from a screened-in area at the back of the house, Pinellas County sheriff’s spokesman Mac McMullen said.

Four deputies then found themselves in the room, with Deborah K. Yates, 42, on the back of her husband, Donald, 45, who was holding a .40-caliber handgun, McMullen said.

As the struggle continued, deputies shot Donald Yates multiple times, and he died after being flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg .

Deborah Yates was shot once in the leg and was in serious condition at Bayfront, McMullen said.

Neither Yates nor his wife obeyed the deputies’ commands as they attempted to break up the fight, McMullen said. Deputy Jason Stibbard shot his Taser at Donald Yates from three or four feet, he said.

The couple separated, with Donald Yates rolling to the floor, his weapon pointed at the deputies, McMullen said.

Deputies Christine Smith and Christopher White, fearing for their lives, fired their .45-caliber handguns eight times at Donald Yates from about six feet away, the spokesman said.

Yates was hit multiple times in the torso and legs. The bullet that hit Deborah Yates could have come from either deputy’s weapon, McMullen said.

A preliminary investigation suggests Deborah Yates might have been trying to stop her husband from killing himself, McMullen said.

Donald Yates is the brother of Vernon Yates, who runs Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, a Seminole shelter for wildlife that police agencies can’t find homes for anywhere else.

“I find it hard to believe Donald did this,” Vernon Yates said. “It’s almost out of character for him, even though he thought he was a Hell’s Angel biker dude and wore leather.

“I don’t blame the officers,” he said. “I’m sure they told Donald to drop it and he didn’t.”

When Vernon Yates heard media reports about the Chesterfield Drive shooting, he wondered whether it was at his brother’s house “because him and Debbie fight like cats and dogs.”

Deborah Yates was Donald Yates’ third wife, Vernon said. With his first, he had a son, D.J., 26. The two worked in the maintenance department at Knight Dental Group, which makes crowns and bridges for dentists, the company’s chief executive officer said.

Donald Yates also had two daughters, 8 and 5, with his second wife, Cheryle, whom he divorced in 2002. The two shared custody of the girls.

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