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

Karl and Kayla Mitchell All Acting Animals AKA Big Cat Encounters

Karl and Kayla Mitchell All Acting Animals AKA Big Cat Encounters

Karla and Kayla Mitchell


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Copies of the appeal are available upon request.


About ALDF

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

About PETA

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

About Lions, Tigers, & Bears

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

About Keepers of the Wild

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

About Big Cat Rescue

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

Sept 5, 2015

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

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

By Selwyn Harris

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

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

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

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

Mitchell did not mince words when talking about the decision.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

By Mark Waite
Pahrump Valley Times  November 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 27, 2014 is Nye County Hearing Date.

8 News NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Animal Intervention Show


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

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

Karl Mitchell All Acting Animals AKA Big Cat Encounters

Karl Mitchell All Acting Animals AKA Big Cat Encounters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Exotic animal owner applies for new tiger sanctuary permit


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on13 June 2012.

By Mark Waite


Fined $68,625.00 by USDA in 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mitchell faces USDA fine, eviction

Posted on 24 September 2010 By MARK WAITE

Shaquille the Leopard Was Beaten in the Face by Mitchell

Shaquille the Leopard Was Beaten in the Face by Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nye County has also been dealing with Mitchell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitchell to appear of Animal Planet TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

By Angie Wagner


1:37 p.m. March 2, 2005


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Big Cat Rescue Note:

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


March 4, 2005

Exotic animals in town rescued




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To: National Desk

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Posted on Sep 18, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Dade City Wild Things – Kathy Stearns

Dade City Wild Things – Kathy Stearns

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

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

UK Independent


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:


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.

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.


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


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 Sep 15, 2015 in Browse by Name | 0 comments

Tigers of India Josip Marcan

Tigers of India Josip Marcan

Josip Marcan, is the owner of Adriatic Animal Attractions and Tigers of India and probably Bengal Tiger Encounter

It looks like the Bengal Tiger Encounter is just another alias for Josip Marcan who also travels under the name Tigers of India and Adriatic Animal Attractions.  Josip Marcan claims to be a veterinarian but he can not be found as licensed here


Those who have been rescuing tigers from Marcan since the 90’s will tell you that he is a prolific breeder but he only has kept under a dozen of the tigers he has bred, at his “preserve.”  It is not open to public scrutiny, but those who have worked there in the past have been quoted as saying the cats are kept in small cages and sometimes rotated through an exercise pen.  This is not a true sanctuary.


Legal Name (DBA):
Customer No: 3207
Certificate No: 58-C-0270
Certificate Status: ACTIVE
Status Date: Apr 6, 1990

I cannot find a business registered in FL by that name. Some similar, but not exact.

I cannot find a charity listed with the state as approved to solicit funds in FL by that name.

There are only three USDA facilities in N. Ft. Myers and none have cats according to USDA’s 2011 records:

Linda Cardinale, Peggy Mendez and the Nature Park at the Shell Factory

I can’t find any USDA facility on the USDA site by that name or in N. Ft. Myers.

The tabby tigers are most often in Josip Marcan’s acts and the guy looks like one of the Marcan trainers.  They are in N. FL and go by the names Tigers of India and Adriatic Animal Attractions.   He has 10 tigers, but no elephant.

This link makes the connection between Capitol Intl and Marcan so I am pretty sure he is the one.

At the Salem fair the photo looks exactly like the Marcan transport vehicle that was at MOSI.

This same outfit was in GA in July 2011

Same group here in May 2010

In their 2009 promo video they show the same trailer as Marcan and the woman in the act says the trainer’s name is Terry and that he has been working with Dumbo their female elephant for his entire adult life.


This tip came in to facebook in 2011:

Gulf Shores in Alabama, back at the end of January 2011, we visited the Gulf Coast Zoo and they had a baby white tiger cub named Sita that was born at the Marcan Tiger Preserve on Nov 7, 2010. They were charging $50 for a 30 minute encounter with her. The story they were pitching was that she was born to a new mother, her sibling had died at birth and the mother was not wanting to take care of her so the Gulf Coast Zoo was asked to take her and raise her until she was big enough to go back to the preserve.


From the PeTA files:

01-13-2009, 3:02 PM

Tiger in cage

What might have been just another story of shoddy circus animal handling came to a karmic conclusion last week when a tiger trainer, Josip Marcan, agreed to pay nearly 1 million bucks to settle a lawsuit resulting from a huge traffic accident. The accident was apparently caused when one of Marcan’s tigers escaped into the wilds of NYC—in this case, the Jackie Robinson Parkway—while traveling with the Cole Bros. Circus.

Demonstrating the spirit that has made the business of using and abusing animals in circuses the very definition of heartlessness, Marcan blamed everyone but his own whiny self. He called the injured drivers “reckless” and slammed the NYPD officers on the scene, saying “they just wanted to shoot the tiger.”

Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for the tiger, Apollo, who was captured and returned to circus life.

Written by Jeff Mackey

Tiger owner has to cough up 935G in scratch


Wednesday, January 7th 2009, 12:43 AM

The owner of a 450-pound tiger that caused traffic mayhem on the Jackie Robinson Parkway after bolting from a circus is coughing up a lot more than fur balls these days.

Josip Marcan has agreed to pay $935,500 to two drivers who were seriously injured after his cat Apollo got loose in 2004, according to a filing this week in Brooklyn Federal Court.

The settlement ends a nasty legal fight in which Marcan blamed everyone but Apollo for a five-car pileup that ensued on July 31, 2004, as startled motorists slammed on their brakes at the sight of the white tiger.

“A reckless driver, careless and reckless, blaming her recklessness on the poor tiger that was not even close to the highway,” Marcan said, according to a transcript of his deposition. “Trying to blame a tiger to get some kind of money from that.”

Apollo slipped out of his cage in Forest Park and was on the loose for 30 minutes before he was captured by circus handlers.

Marcan even trashed brave NYPD cops who held their fire.

“I don’t know where the New York police got the training on catching a tiger, but they just wanted to shoot the tiger,” Marcan, 70, ranted. “Just so some police comes home and say, ‘Ah, what I did today, I shot a tiger, you know. I’m a hero.'”

The victims, Maureen O’Malley – an off-duty cop forced to retire due to her injuries – and Wanda Colon will split the six-figure lump sum, and also receive $75,000 from the circus and a motorist, under the terms of the settlement.

Marcan’s attorney, Kathi Peisner, hotly disputed claims that Apollo was in the roadway and had leaped over the highway divider like some “old, dopey deer.”

Read more:


FL:Tiger bites man said to be drunk (Josip Marcan’s tiger) USDA 58-C-0270

Article published Mar 20, 2006
Tiger bites man said to be drunk

The trucker who pulled a caged tiger to the Putnam County Fair left in a helicopter with a bitten arm early Sunday morning.

Jason Wayne Hardin, 25, of Westville, was attacked after he stuck his arm into the sleeping tiger’s cage about 2:25 a.m., said Major Keith Riddick of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.

Riddick said Hardin’s sister, Heather Bass, alerted a deputy working at the fair that she needed help transporting her injured brother, who she said was very drunk.

Hardin was taken to the Putnam County Hospital and then flown to Shands at the University of Florida, where he was treated and released for severed tendons in his forearm, said Kat Kelley, a public information officer for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

She said a deputy spotted Hardin stumbling down a flight of stairs earlier that night and told him to go sleep it off. On his way to his trailer, Hardin either brushed the cage or put his hand in the cage, and Kelley said she suspects the tiger was frightened by him. She said the animal has no record of problems at public events.

“This was strictly human error and poor judgment,” she said. “These are wild animals, and no matter how tame they are, they’re still animals.”

Kelley said Hardin was visibly traumatized and had several punctures in his arm. When she talked to him at the hospital Sunday afternoon, he told her he remembered brushing against the cage, but he thought the tiger pulled his arm in with its claw before biting him. But a witness told her otherwise.

“We may never know whether he put his arm in or whether it was pulled in,” she said.

The tiger could be seen playing with other tigers on display at the fair Sunday after Florida Wildlife Lt. Rick Brown inspected the exhibit and ruled it safe. The fair officially opens to visitors today.

Under state safety requirements, there must be a certain distance between the animals’ cages and a perimeter fence around them, and it was set up correctly, Kelley said.

She said Hardin’s trailer was inside the perimeter fence, which is why he was able to access the tiger. The tiger’s owner, Josip Marcan of Adriatic Animal Attractions, recently hired Hardin to transport the animal and put up the fencing, but he was directed not to bother the tiger, Kelley said.

Hardin’s wounds aren’t life threatening but a 15-year tiger stuntman who has nursed several tiger bites of his own said there’s a high risk of infection when a tiger punctures someone’s skin.

If the tiger recently ate and had food particles in its mouth, the risk runs even higher, Randy Miller said.

He should know. Miller owns several tigers, and he’s president of the stunt company Predators in Action, which has reenacted tiger, lion and bear attacks for countless television networks.

A tiger similarly punctured Miller’s forearm while he staged a stunt for the movie, “The Gladiator.” He said doctors typically prescribe heavy antibiotics for such wounds, and often stitches are required.

The stuntman hears of at least one serious tiger biting incident each year. He said he thinks the tiger attack on Roy Horn of famed entertainers Siegfried and Roy – which he has reenacted several times – made tiger attacks seem more common than they are.

“There’s tens of thousands of tigers in captivity. For the amount of exposure there is in zoos, parks, the film industry and private owners, I think that’s a pretty low (injury) ratio from an animal that’s potentially deadly,” he said.

Miller said professional handlers can work with animals that know them, but strangers shouldn’t tamper even with the tamest of tigers.

“Some people misread the animals and think they appear to be affectionate and friendly, and then they stick their arm in and get bit. It’s hard to say why the cat bit the guy, but it’s just bad practice to try to play with the tiger,” he said.

Tiffany Pakkala can be reached at 338-3111 or Drinking and tigers don’t mixThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

FL: Tiger Bites Worker at Putnam County Fair

Tiger Bites Worker at Putnam County Fair   Start Video

By Grayson Kamm
First Coast News

PALATKA, FL — The Putnam County Fair will still open Monday even though a fair worker was bitten by a tiger in an exhibit there the day before.

Investigators say the man stuck his hand into a white Bengal tiger’s cage.

Deputies say Jason Hardin was so drunk early Sunday morning, they threatened to arrest him if he didn’t go to bed. According to officers, Hardin agreed to head back to his trailer and walked off.

But instead of going to bed, deputies say Hardin climbed over a four-foot-high security fence, walked through a grassy area, and stuck his hand into the locked cage of a four-year-old tiger.

Hardin is not one of the people approved to work with the animals.

He was treated for bite wounds to his forearm and hand and later released from Shands Gainesville.

“As soon as the owner came out of the trailer, the tiger released its grasp of him — so it’s probably about a thirty second event,” said Putnam County Sheriff Dean Kelly.

“A foolish thing, and I’m sure the subject — if he had to do it all over again — wouldn’t stick his hand inside the tiger cage,” Kelly said.

The state says the cat involved has no past problems.

“Wild animals — when provoked — are going to do what wild animals do, and that’s protect themselves and their territory,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Kat Kelley explained.

The state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission inspects every traveling exotic exhibit like this one. This particular show passed a state review just two weeks ago, Officer Kelley said.

“It [also] passed the inspection this morning. They’ve done everything right, they’ve got the correct safety barriers, the cage is locked, everything is in order. This was simply a matter of an error in judgment,” Officer Kelley said.

“There’s no fault of the owner here at all. So it’s, again, a safe event for the citizens to come here and enjoy the fair,” Sheriff Kelly added.

Created: 3/19/2006 8:29:57 PM

The fact that Florida’s Wildlife Conservation Commission permits and defends this sort of reckless behavior is an embarrassment to Floridians.  This story was picked up by Associated Press and run all over the globe.  These are just a few of the places that aired the story:

Worker is bitten by tiger at fair
Palatka Daily News – Palatka,FL,USA
EAST PALATKA — A 4-year-old Bengal tiger bit the hand of an exhibit employee who, for unknown reasons, stuck his arm in the cage Sunday morning, according to

Man bitten by tiger at county fair
St. Augustine Record – St. Augustine,FL,USA
A 25-year-old man was bitten by a Bengal tiger at the Putnam County Fair when he stuck his arm into the tiger’s cage while he was intoxicated, according to

Tiger bites man at county fair in Florida – IL, USA
March 20, 2006 (GAINESVILLE, Fla.) – Authorities say a trucker who transported a tiger to a county fair in Florida was treated at a hospital after the animal

Tiger bites man at Putnam County Fair
Miami Herald – FL,USA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was treated at a hospital after the animal bit his arm, authorities said.

Tiger bites man at county fair in Florida
Seattle Post Intelligencer – USA
— A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was bit in the arm after he apparently stuck his arm in the big cat’s cage, officials said.
See all stories on this topic

Tiger bites big cat hauler at Fla. fair
Florida Today – Melbourne,FL,USA
“This was strictly human error and poor judgment,” she said. “These are wild animals, and no matter how tame they are, they’re still animals.”.

Tiger bites man at Putnam County Fair
Gainesville Sun – Gainesville,FL,USA
trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was treated at a hospital after the animal bit his arm, authorities said.

Animal Worker At Putnam County Fair Bitten By Tiger – Jacksonville,FL,USA
PALATKA, Fla. — A 25-year-old employee of the tiger exhibit at the Putnam County Fair was bitten by one of the tiger early Sunday morning.

Tiger Bites Worker at Putnam County Fair
First Coast News – Jacksonville,FL,USA
PALATKA, FL — The Putnam County Fair will still open Monday even though a fair worker was bitten by a tiger in an exhibit there the day before.

white tigers
All Headline News – 52 minutes ago
Gainesville, FL (AHN) – A Central Florida man who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was treated after authorities say he used “poor judgment

Tiger bites man at county fair in Florida
KESQ, CA – 4 hours ago
GAINESVILLE, Fla. Authorities say a trucker who transported a tiger to a county fair in Florida was treated at a hospital after the animal bit his arm.

Tiger Bites Man at County Fair in Florida
ABC News – 2 hours ago
GAINESVILLE, Fla. Mar 20, 2006 (AP)— A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was bit in the arm after he apparently
Tiger Bites Man at County Fair in Florida
Forbes – 4 hours ago
A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was bit in the arm after he apparently stuck his arm in the big cat’s cage, officials said.
Tiger Bites Man at County Fair in Florida
Newsday, NY – 4 hours ago
By Associated Press. GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was bit in the arm after he
Tiger bites man at Putnam County Fair, FL – 1 hour ago
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was treated at a hospital after the animal
Tiger bites man at county fair in Florida,  USA – 1 hour ago
March 20, 2006 (GAINESVILLE, Fla.) – Authorities say a trucker who transported a tiger to a county fair in Florida was treated at a hospital after the animal
Drinking and tigers don’t mix
Tampa Bay’s 10, FL – 1 hour ago
Putnam County ,Florida – Authorities say a trucker who transported a tiger to the grounds of the Putnam County Fair was treated at a hospital after the animal
Tiger bites drunk man at county fair in Florida
WIS, SC – 2 hours ago
(Gainesville, Florida-AP) March 20, 2006 – Authorities say a trucker who transported a tiger to a county fair in Florida was treated at a hospital after the
Tiger bites drunk man at Fla. county fair
The News-Press, FL – 2 hours ago
By The Associated Press. GAINESVILLE — A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was treated at a hospital after
Tiger Bites Man At Floria County Fair
WCSH-TV, ME – 3 hours ago
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office says 25-year-old Jason Hardin of Westville apparently stuck his arm
Tiger bites man at county fair in Florida
News & Observer, NC – 4 hours ago
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) – A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was bit in the arm

Police: Tiger Bites Drunken Fair Worker Trying To ‘Communicate’ – Orlando,FL,USA
— A Florida fair worker was hospitalized Sunday after he put his hand into a tiger cage at The white tiger bit the man and severed a tendon in Hardin’s arm.

Tiger Bites Worker At Putnam Co. Fair – Winter Park,FL,USA
PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. — A drunken man learned a tough lesson Saturday after being bitten by a tiger. The tiger severed a tendon in Hardin’s arm.

Tiger Bites Man At County Fair In Florida
NBC – Philadelphia,PA,USA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Authorities said a trucker who transported a tiger to a county fair in Florida was treated at a hospital after the animal bit his arm.

Drunken driver bitten by tiger
United Press International – USA
Jason Wayne Hardin had been hired to drive a tiger to the Putnam County Fair and to put up fencing around the tiger’s cage, the Gainesville Sun reported.

Tiger bites man at county fair in Fla.
Chicago Sun-Times – United States
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A trucker who transported a tiger to the Putnam County Fair was bitten after he apparently stuck his arm in the big cat’s cage.

Tiger Bites Worker at Fair – Regensburg,Germany
Early Sunday morning, while drunk, he stuck his hand into the cage of a four-year-old white Bengal tiger. Hardin had bite wounds on his forearm and hand.

USDA twice cited event for violations

By Lisa Wolverton
Ka Leo Copy Editor
June 03, 2004

Lisa Wolverton * Ka Leo O Hawai’i
An investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture found that tigers from Adriatic Animal Attractions were being mistreated. Animal Rights Hawai’i now wants to boycott the show.

Animal rights activists gathered outside Aloha Stadium’s 50th State Fair last Sunday, in order to protest the Bengal tiger show.

Members of Animal Rights Hawai`i, a local nonprofit animal anti-cruelty organization, encouraged fair patrons to boycott the tiger show. They distributed bright yellow flyers, which revealed the animal cruelty citations against the tigers’ owner.

“The whole traveling animal act business is wrong for the animals,” said Cathy Goeggel, founding member and president of Animal Rights Hawai`i. “The lives these animals live is pretty terrible”.

The traveling tiger show is comprised of seven adult tigers and two cubs. It is sponsored by Adriatic Animal Attractions, which is based in Florida. The adults perform three 20-minute shows each day. The cubs are kept in a small pen for patrons to watch as they play with plastic balls and interact with their handlers.

According to a United States Department of Agriculture investigation report, Josip Marcan, owner of Adriatic Animal Attractions, was cited in 2000 and 2001 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The investigations found unsanitary food preparation and storage, inadequate ventilation and water supply, and failure by handlers to make regular checks on the tigers. The report was obtained by Goeggel from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the world’s largest animal rights organization.

“The violation write-ups were intentional”, said Mike Inks, a tiger handler for Marcan’s show.

Inks said that after a group of tigers was contracted out to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Marcan was told the animals must travel by train. A train does not allow for a proper watering system or allow the handlers to give the tigers the attention they require. Because of this, Marcan chose to report the situation to the USDA, realizing the negative publicity, in order to allow the tigers to travel by semi trailer.

“‘If this is the only way I can get them off the train, I’m going to do it,'” Inks said, quoting Marcan.

Inks said the tigers were transported to Hawai`i via container ship. The voyage took four days.

The fair will host the tiger show through the month of June. Because the tigers only perform on weekends, they spend most of their days sleeping in open metal cages on a flatbed truck or on wood shavings in the performing arena.

“Tigers naturally sleep for 15 to 20 hours a day,” Inks said, adding that when the tigers return home to the 80-acre Marcan Tiger Preserve in Florida, they usually spend their time sleeping, despite having more than enough room to roam and run.

According to Inks, there are 30 tigers in Marcan’s breeding program but only 7 adults are in the traveling act. Some are out on loan and the rest stay home due to their varying inabilities to perform.

“We pick the animals that thrive in this kind of atmosphere,” Inks said of the animals on tour. “The performing tigers are usually on the road for a couple of months then home for a month”, Inks said. All were born into Marcan’s breeding program.

Marice Horiuchi attended the show but was not aware of Animal Rights Hawaii’s flyers.

“They demonstrated their natural behavior. I don’t think they exploited them,” Horiuchi said about the act.

Although the fair usually hosts an animal act every year, this is the first year for the tiger show.

Goeggel said Animal Rights Hawai`i has been protesting animal acts at the fair for the past 10 years, which include a high diving mule, alligator wrestler and a chimpanzee show.

Goeggel said about 300 flyers were handed out, and the group plans to hand out more in the coming weekends in hopes of persuading patrons to boycott the show.

Goeggel concluded, “It’s a bad life for the animals and it does nothing to enhance people’s appreciation for their beauty.”
© 2004 Ka Leo O Hawaii



On March 8, 2006 while Josip Marcan’s Tigers of India show was in Tampa we interviewed his keeper Andy about the life these 9 tigers have on the road and what life is like at their facility in the panhandle. Andy said that Josip was a vet in Germany and we did a search on him under the name Josip Marcan and can find no professional license in that name. He said he was involved in a circus act and then bought some tigers and started breeding them. He said there are more than 30 tigers now and the nine we saw were on the road most of the time; sometimes for three months at a time. He claimed the tigers liked to travel because they were so bored at home.

He described home as being in the panhandle on 80 acres but said that only a small portion of the land was being used. He said the tigers live in a barn that is much like the trailer they live in on the road that opens up on one side to a small cage and on the other side to a cage about 60 x 100. He said as long as the tigers are getting along, they can all share the same space, but if they fight, as they do when the females are in heat, then some of them have to be locked up. He said they are not open to the public and that no one can come in and see how the cats live when we pressed him to let us visit. Andy said that they are starting a 501 c 3 charity so that they can ask for donations to support them since he said they can’t make much money doing these traveling shows. He acknowledged that the cost of setting up at one of these shows costs about what they make from it.

He said that Josip breeds and sells tigers but he didn’t know for how much and couldn’t name anyone who had bought a tiger.  He said, “Places like Busch Gardens” but when we asked if Busch Gardens had actually gotten any cats from Marcan he didn’t know.  Andy seemed to believe that the SSP wouldn’t include Marcan tigers because they didn’t have any pure Bengal tigers for breeding, but that makes one wonder why an ex-circus performer would have pure bred Bengals when no zoo in America does.  More curious is why one would intentionally breed for characteristics, such as white coats, that cannot survive in the wild when the supposed reason for breeding is conservation.

Andy volunteered that the cats get stir crazy with nothing to do, but that the cats at home never get a break from the boredom because they do not get to travel.  He said the oldest cat was 18 and that most of them were around 7 years of age.  He said that during shows he walks around with the 9 unrestrained cats and “loves all over them to show people how nice they are.”  In a country where almost anyone can go out and buy one as a pet, this is particularly disturbing “education.”

Seeing an air conditioner on the human portion of the travel trailer, I asked if the cats had air conditioning.  He said that to have air conditioning would be worse for them than the heat.  He said the metal trailer, with metal doors that fold in to make it totally enclosed for travel, had fans but I couldn’t see them.  There were small vents at the top of the trailer about 6 inches high by 12 inches long that slide half open to allow air into the trailer while it is in motion.  How many times have you been stuck in traffic where there was motion to create any breeze?

In a state where temperatures are often up into the 90’s and traffic is always a problem, imagine being one of nine 500 pound, fully furred cats locked inside a metal trailer atop a virtual parking lot of asphalt.  When you visit the Renaissance Festival or a Fairground is this the sort of thing that you want your ticket to be paying for?

Andy said that Josip is working on legislation that will allow him to exchange breeders with pure bloodlines from India.  Currently CITES does not allow tigers to be taken from the wild and bred for circus acts or the pet trade.  Andy really seems to believe that what he is doing is good for the cats and he was not trying to disparage Josip Marcan in his candid answers.  It is this abject ignorance of the big picture and all that is wrong with breeding a big cat for a life of confinement and boredom that is most disturbing.

Check for yourself to see if they meet the sanctuary standards for an accredited animal refuge.   He claims to be breeding white tigers and tabby tigers for conservation purposes, but his tigers are not part of the only internationally sanctioned Species Survival Plan. Given the amount of inbreeding necessary to create a white tiger or a tabby tiger (a color that sometimes appears when trying to breed the recessive white mutation) it is understandable why no real conservation program would include his stock.



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Posted on Sep 15, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Zion Wildlife Gardens Craig Busch

Zion Wildlife Gardens Craig Busch

There were hopes that the “lion man” was gone for good, but he’s back


Ethan Hughes was three years old when he was attacked during a family visit to Zion Wildlife Park

Ethan Hughes was three years old when he was attacked during a family visit to Zion Wildlife Park

By Amanda Gillies

This week’s inquest into a big cat handler mauled to death by a tiger has brought back painful memories for an Auckland family.

The Hughes family visited the Zion Wildlife Park six years ago. Their trip was organised after their dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and was supposed to be a special time for the family.

Instead they ended up at hospital after their three-year-old was mauled by a lion.

Ethan Hughes is an adventurous boy. He’s into everything and not afraid of much, except lions and tigers.

“I don’t like them,” he says, “because one attacked me.”

In 2006 his dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour and told he had less than a year to live, so he treated the family to a special day at the Zion Wildlife Park.

Ethan’s mum and older brother signed up to pat the lions, filling out a safety waiver.

But then the zoo handler, Dalu Mncube, asked if Ethan wanted to pat a cub. Ethan tried but was scared, and asked his dad to pick him up.

“The cub swung around and grabbed Ethan with his front paws and pulled him to the ground,” says mother Nicola Hughes.

His dad didn’t want to pull back too hard, fearing Ethan would lose his leg, so instead he crouched over his son while Mr Mncube and two co-workers – one armed with a spade – dragged the one-year-old lion away.

“I turned around, dropped everything, dove in and punched this thing in the mouth,” says Ms Hughes. “I got a tooth in my hand. But I just kept punching it.”

Ethan, oozing blood and flesh from his legs, was admitted to hospital and underwent surgery.

“Peter, who had just had a brain operation, was lying on the floor of the hospital beside Ethan’s bed so he could look after him,” says Ms Hughes.

She says the park’s owner at the time, ‘Lion Man’ Craig Busch, was informed but they never heard from him or saw him.

Ms Hughes says that makes her feel “pretty angry”.

“And it has done since the day it happened,” she says.

She wanted to speak out back then but her husband said no. He didn’t want to hurt the popular Lion Man’s image.

Peter Hughes eventually died in May 2009, a day after Mr Mncube was mauled to death by a tiger at the park.

Craig Busch is now back working there, and Ms Hughes says that also makes her angry.

“It angers me knowing that he is back at the park and he’s doing it all again, he just doesn’t care.”

Craig Busch wouldn’t return calls from 3 News about the incident.

But Ms Hughes has kept the blood-stained and torn shorts her son wore on the day he was attacked, and Ethan still has the scars.

Read more:



Craig Busch is back at Kingdom of Zion

for more episodes of “People Being Stupid with Big Cats”

Lion Man


HOME AGAIN: After three years away, Lion Man Craig Busch is back with the lions.

Craig “The Lion Man” Busch has told of his pride and joy in being back with his big cats, at the renamed Kingdom of Zion wildlife park.

Busch is this weekend celebrating the official reopening of the park, on the outskirts of Whangarei.

Yesterday he invited Sunday News into the big cat reserve for a special behind-the-scenes tour.

In between mingling with well-wishers, he said: “To be back here is unreal … it took about a week to actually realise that I am home.

“The minute I did get here, they [big cats] realised dad was home. They must have roared for about two days.

“It is like a lion orchestra … an orchestra that is absolutely beautiful.”

In January, it was confirmed Busch – who set up the park in 2002, handed control to his mother Patricia Busch in 2006, and whose employment there ended two years later – would return to Zion.

His return followed the park’s sale by receivers to new owners.

After being away from the park – and its remaining 35 lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopard and serval – for three years, Craig Busch said there were still moments he pinched himself to reassure him he really was back.

“I live for these animals,” he said. “My whole life is used up on these guys because that is what I believe in.”

Busch’s “lion orchestra” roared with apparent glee during his three-hour escorted tour around the park’s sprawling grounds for Sunday News yesterday.

He also showed his bond with his “best mate”, Zion the lion.

“He is the most special lion here … and the most different,” Busch said.

“He is very protective of his dad. He doesn’t like other people too close to me or any other lion. And no matter where I am, myself and him can feel each other.”

The big cat park’s name has changed from Zion Wildlife Gardens to Kingdom of Zion during his absence.

“I love the name Kingdom of Zion. It suits the park and gives that sort of Disney-kind of feel to the park,” Busch said. “And if you look at some of the cats, they are almost like characters of Disney.

“It is what it means to me … it is a paradise for the cats and the people who come here.”

Busch was committed to continuing the big cats’ welfare, and adding some new features to the park. “It will be a park that will be themed into different settings, from where the animal’s origins is.

“I am one man doing many things. And all the dreams come from my head. Good things take time … it revolves around money and manpower.”

Before his return, Busch spent time in South Africa, including helping promote conservation attempts to save the white rhino from poachers.

He said even while thousands of kilometres away from “home”, Zion’s big cats had been ever in his heart.

“It has been on my mind every second and every minute of every day,” he said.

Busch thanked staunch supporters for helping him return to the park, including 76,000 fans on his official Facebook page.

“They have given a lot of support over the time. There are so many people around the world that actually believe in what I do and love what I do. I am very lucky to have that following and I am very grateful.”


Busch has confirmed he is in talks with prospective broadcasters about an imminent return to reality TV.

Busch found worldwide fame and acclaim as star of The Lion Man television series, which gave big cat fans an insight into his animal handling skills and life behind the scenes at the Zion wildlife park.

While filming ceased on The Lion Man in the mid-2000s, repeats of the show are still being played in more than 100 countries around the world.

“There will be another Lion Man show … there will be quite a few,” Busch said.

“I am talking to different ones [broadcasters] around the world and I have not made a decision yet.”

A film crew was on site yesterday, filming Busch’s interaction with his big cats and scores of fans who attended the Kingdom of Zion’s official reopening over Easter weekend. During his three-year absence from the park, Busch also completed some filming in the wild in South Africa.

“I am going to do filming for the rest of my life,” he said.

“I didn’t use to like it when I first started years ago. But now I enjoy it. I think it is a necessary thing to actually help educate and teach people around the world.

“If people can learn from that, that will actually put a smile on my face.”

Asked the secret behind The Lion Man’s success, Busch replied: “It is real … and the realness shows – it shows on screen.”


Craig Busch is a TV personality affiliated with Zion Wildlife Gardens in New Zealand ( Their homepage has a montage of him kissing a white tiger and interacting with other big cats.

Lion and Tiger Kept Frozen so Lion Man Could Use Them for TV Props

BY NEIL REID – Sunday News

Last updated 05:00 24/10/2010


Craig “Lion Man” Busch


Patricia Busch claims former circus lion Samson was kept frozen next to pet food for seven months by her son.

FUR is continuing to fly at Zion Wildlife Gardens with the release of a shocking photograph of a dead male lion lying in a freezer next to racks of meat.

The image was released on Zion’s official website by Patricia Busch, who took over running of the Northland park from her son Craig “Lion Man” Busch in 2006 and dismissed him two years later.

On the website, Patricia claims the dead big cat – former circus lion Samson – was kept frozen next to pet food for seven months by her son, who prevented her arranging a burial.

Patricia further claims Craig also kept the body of young white tiger Khan frozen “for some time”, only to thaw the cat out for a show-stopping burial scene on his hit TV series The Lion Man.

Through a spokeswoman, Craig has rejected the claims made about both Samson and Khan.

The spokeswoman said Samson was “euthanised” on Patricia’s orders when Craig was away from the park, north of Whangarei.

She said Samson stayed in the freezer for the seven months because Patricia had instructed staff “not to work with Craig” and he was not physically able to move the lion’s dead body by himself.

On the Zion website, Patricia said Craig had Khan euthanised because the tiger was deformed from inbreeding.

“He then proceeded to put Khan in the freezer for some time only to thaw him out when The Lion Man commenced as he said the burial would make a good TV story,” Patricia said.

“His actions regarding the postponement of Khan’s funeral affected members of the team.”

But Craig’s spokeswoman said Khan was euthanised “on advice from the park vet”.

“It is correct to say that he had medical issues since birth.

“To say that these arose from inbreeding is not,” the spokeswoman said.

Of Khan’s being kept frozen, she said: “Unfortunately it is fact of life that bodies, animal and human, are kept in refrigeration after death and pending burial.

“Craig wanted to find an appropriate burial site for Khan and he needed time to grieve.

“Since the viewers of The Lion Man had followed the story of Khan, it seemed appropriate to film the burial ceremony so that they might have closure.”

Khan died about a year before Craig was dismissed.

The continued spat between Patricia and her son comes just days before the next court hearing over the fatal mauling of Zion big-cat handler Dalu Mncube.

Mncube was fatally attacked by white tiger Abu on May 26, 2009. The big cat was put down.

The Department of Labour laid a charge against Zion Wildlife Services Ltd for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees while at work.

It has also charged Zion Wildlife Gardens Ltd with a count of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that no hazard that is in the place of work harms people who are lawfully at work as employees of a contractor.

The case will be heard at Whangarei District Court on November 1. If found guilty, Zion could face a fine of up to $250,000 on each charge, including orders to pay reparations to Dalu’s family.

Ten days ago Bengal tiger Sita was killed in a clash with male tiger Jahdu at Zion.


Lion Man Out, MAF [Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry] Investigates Declawing

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Lion Man Craig Busch’s licence to operate Zion Wildlife Gardens has been revoked after his loving mum Patricia (manager of the lion park) told MAF that he was no longer employed by the park. He has been replaced as licensed operator by former Auckland Zoo manager Glen Holland.

Philip Smith from Great Southern Television insists that the cats will be back on our television screens in some shape or form. He told TV3

“The story is always about the preservation and conservation, that’s the story and no man or person is bigger than that story.”

I must have been watching a different show. What I saw was focused around Craig – the way he interacted with the lions, trained the lions, cuddled and played with the lions.

Court Battle Between Craig And His Mum

Next week, Craig and Patricia Busch go head to head in court in a civil claim that Craig has set up a competing website selling Lion Man merchandising and asking for donations to help his conservation
efforts. Lion Man producers Great Southern Television are partnered with Patricia to produce The Lion Man television program and profit from the merchandising. They allege Craig is making false claims that his site is the “official site” of the Lion Man.

Does anyone else find the timing suspicious? Mum is going into court next week claiming that their website is the official one, and what better proof than ousting the man known as “The Lion Man” from his role at the park?

MAF Investigation To Date

TVNZ say that a report from MAF described the arguments between Craig and Patricia as childish and MAF were concerned about the welfare of the big cats after claims that Craig had changes the locks on enclosures and a sick tiger couldn’t be attended to for five days. They also listed several other concerns including insanitary conditions

Neighbours report that the police have been called out on several occasions, including a false alarm last weekend that someone was attempting to remove gates from the wildlife park.

Patricia has also made claims that she was abused by Craig and rumour has it she attempted to take out a restraining order against him.

MAF Investigating De-clawing

Most of the concerns raised by MAF have been remedied, however they are still investigating one matter. According to TVNZ, MAF is investigating de-clawing, which was described in the report as an
unnecessary practice. MAF are investigating both the lion park and the vet that de-clawed the big cats. Ex employees of Zion Wildlife Gardens have confirmed to that many of the cats have been de-clawed.

Park Still Open to Visitors

But there is good news for people hoping to visit the park. New operator Glen Holland told TV3 that he believes the park is in good shape and that he is satisfied with the condition of the animals, the
enclosures and the training the staff have received.

Animal cruelty allegations made against Busch

Published: 6:24PM Sunday May 31, 2009

Serious allegations, including claims of animal cruelty, have been made against TV’s world famous Lion Man.

ONE News has obtained documents, and spoken to workers at the Zion Wildlife Gardens, about occasions when big cats were hurt and people put at risk over a period of five years.

The allegations surfaced after Craig Busch publicly criticised safety standards at Zion, following the fatal mauling of a keeper last week.

ONE News has spoken to staff who claim Busch cruelly killed unwanted cubs.

One worker claims he saw Busch put a cub down using a rock the size of a softball.

“He lay the cub on the ground…he was in a standing position and he threw the rock down on the ground onto the cub. It took three or four times before he was satisfied it was dead, cause he actually… semi missed&he clipped it cause I remember seeing the thing bounce with the impact of the rock,” alleges one anonymous worker.

ONE News put these specific allegations to Busch. He declined to appear on camera, but through a spokesperson says he denies he has ever mistreated any animals.

Earlier in the week at a press conference Busch was adamant the welfare of the cats was a top priority.

“There is no way I am going to allow those tigers or any cat there get put down, no way,” he says.

Busch also claimed safety standards at Zion Wildlife Gardens have slipped since he was sacked last year.

“They need to pull their socks up.”

However some staff allege last October it was Busch who put lives at risk insisting two keepers run alongside a tiger on a lead as part of training.

Staff spoken to by ONE News say running with a cat can incite it to attack. In one case a tiger did just that, biting a worker.

“The tiger jumped him down on the first run and went over to grab him by the throat, lucky I was there and I hit the tiger a few times,” says the worker.

A third park worker alleges he saw Busch beat two of the cats with a short wooden handle.

“He laid into it and laid into and laid into.. the male lion come and laid on top of her to guard her cause she was whimpering … and he said ‘you want some too’ and gave him a couple of blows too.”

Staff spoken to by ONE News say they didn’t speak up at the time because they were scared to do so.


Handler tried to fight tiger as mate mauled to death


A big-cat handler has told a coroner how he tried to fight off a tiger with his fists and a stick before using a fire extinguisher as his colleague was being mauled to death at Whangarei’s Zion Wildlife Park.

Handler Martin Ferreira described how he heard a male tiger named Abu crush the head of his colleague, Dalu MnCube, after the pair had entered its enclosure to clean it on May 27, 2009. He also revealed that Abu had attacked another man a month or so before the fatal attack.

Mr MnCube’s death is being investigated by Northland Coroner Brandt Shortland this week, with Mr Ferreira the first to give evidence after the hearing started yesterday.

Mr Ferreira said he and Mr MnCube had that day given tourists a chance to interact with a young big cat, then went to clean the enclosure where male tiger Abu and a female, Rewa, were living.

He said as the pair entered, Mr MnCube said “Hello Abu” and when the tiger came out of its den it went towards Mr MnCube and grabbed him by the leg.

Mr Ferreira said Abu had been de-clawed, but it had got Mr MnCube by its mouth and was holding on.

“He said ‘Mate help me’ so I hit Abu in the head and nose with my fists. I was screaming at Abu to let him go,” he said.

Another staffer was showing the tourists around the park, so Mr Ferreira used a stick to try to get the tiger to release Mr MnCube, then used a fire extinguisher.

In the meantime the tiger continued to maul Mr MnCube.

“He [Dalu] again said ‘Please help me, this is serious’ and Abu was trying to drag him into his den … He was dragging [Dalu] around and the other tiger started coming towards him as well.

“I yelled at her to move away and continued to hit Abu. Abu put him down, then dragged him by the shoulder, then Abu grabbed him by the head. Abu’s whole mouth covered his head, his fangs were on his neck. While Abu had him by the head, he was biting down on it. I could hear Abu crushing his head.”

Another staff member came with a cattle prod and eventually the tiger let go and walked off to sit by his pool, covered in Mr MnCube’s blood.

Mr MnCube was put into the back of a ute and taken to the park’s front gates, where an ambulance had arrived, but he could not be saved. Abu was then shot.

Mr Ferreira said Abu had attacked and injured another man at the park a month or so earlier. Mr MnCube had saved the man’s life on that occasion. After that, Abu had not seemed as friendly.

Mr Ferreira, who came to New Zealand from South Africa, where he also worked in big-cat parks, said that with experience one could tell if a big cat was happy or not.

He said he and other staff were told by the park’s operator at the time, Patricia Busch, that they should not be seen cleaning the animals’ enclosure when the park was being visited by MAF officials.

Mr Ferreira said that in the days before the tragedy, Lionman Craig Busch, who was in a dispute with his mother Patricia over control of the park, had threatened to expose Mr MnCube to Immigration, claiming the handler should not be in the country.

Mr Ferreira said this seemed to unsettle Mr MnCube and the park’s staff were later told Dalu could be deported.

The inquest is set down for up to five days.

– Northern Advocate staff  10/4/12

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Posted on Sep 15, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Tiger Temple

Tiger Temple

Student, 19, mauled by 400lb tiger at Tiger Temple

  • Isabelle Brennan was knocked to the ground and attacked at the Tiger Temple sanctuary
  • Sister and friend dragged her to safety
  • Left with four inch wound and is scarred for life
  • She still struggles to walk unaided eight weeks on


PUBLISHED: 15:59 EST, 30 August 2013 | UPDATED: 17:15 EST, 30 August 2013

Enjoying the trip of a lifetime to Thailand, university student Isabelle Brennan strokes a young tiger at a popular tourist attraction – one of the few places in the world where you can pet the deadly animals while they sleep.

But just minutes after this photo was taken, another 400lb tiger leapt into the frame, knocking the 19-year-old to the ground with its paw and sinking its teeth into her thigh.

She was saved when keepers at the Tiger Temple sanctuary in West Thailand jumped between her and the animal, while her sister and travelling companion Georgie, 21, dragged her to safety.

Calm before the storm: Isabelle Brennan, pictured stroking a tiger - she would later be attacked by one of the big catsCalm before the storm: Isabelle Brennan, pictured stroking a tiger – she would later be attacked by one of the big cats


In hospital: Following the attack, Ms Brennan was told she would have scarring for lifeIn hospital: Following the attack, Ms Brennan was told she would have scarring for life


Eight weeks on, Miss Brennan is recovering at home in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, but cannot walk unaided, while doctors said the four-inch wound will leave her scarred for life.

The University College London student wants to warn others of the dangers of approaching the orphaned tigers, which are hand-reared by Buddhist monks at the controversial sanctuary.


Reliving the nightmare she said last night: ‘I feel lucky to be alive. Everything happened so fast. One minute I was petting a tiger’s back, the next it turned its head and knocked me to the ground with its paw.

‘As it lunged with its teeth I felt an agonising pain on the inside of my left thigh above my knee. What happened next is a blur.  But a keeper jumped in between myself and the tiger. Then, while the keepers pulled the tiger to stop it attacking me further, my older sister Georgie dragged me under my arms to safety.’

Wound: Ms Brennan was bitten by a 400lb tigerWound: Ms Brennan was bitten by a 400lb tiger

The stunned teenager added: ’When I looked down at my leg it was terrifying. All I could see was blood.’

Two friends in their group immediately tied a tourniquet round Miss Brennan’s leg to stop it bleeding.

Meanwhile, the Human Sciences student who is studying for a degree at University College London was rushed to Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Memorial Hospital where she needed ‘tens of stitches’ to repair the four-inch wound.

She then had to remain in hospital for a fortnight after contracting an infection and high fever.
Her sister, 21, was forced to make the call to parents Margaret and Nick Brennan, 56, an architect.

Mother Margaret Brennan, 52 a former nurse who now runs her own business, said: ‘When Georgie rang the first thing she said was ‘firstly Isabelle’s ok’ but I was very upset. I couldn’t believe it when she said Isabelle had been bitten by a tiger.’

But finally after a gruelling two weeks in hospital – when she was pumped with strong antiobotics – she was well enough to fly back to the UK.

However, Miss Brennan was to spend a month in a wheelchair and on crutches. She is now learning how to walk again.

Eight weeks since the attack, she is still limping and doctors have told her she will have a permanent scar.

Miss Brennan and her sister from Harrogate were in the first week of their trip of a lifetime in Thailand, which they had spent six months saving for, when they visited Tiger Temple.

‘I was nervous about going into the Temple,’ says Miss Brennan, ‘however, I was reassured by the staff that as the tigers had been hand reared, they were so used to humans they were completely tame.

Reminder of horror: The wound after being stitchedReminder of horror: The wound after being stitched


Struggling: Isabelle Brennan still cannot walk without helpStruggling: Isabelle Brennan still cannot walk without help


‘They were also tethered by chains and the staff told me no-one had ever been seriously injured.’
After petting some tigers in an enclosure, Miss Brennan – who followed all the Temple rules such as not wearing bright clothes to excite the tigers – decided to go into a special area where she could wash the tigers.

‘We were given a talk beforehand and told not to touch the tiger’s head and to remove dangly jewellery. We were then shown how to wash a tiger’s back.’

It was while Miss Brennan was washing one tiger’s back, it turned round and mauled her.

She says: ‘In hindsight I had an incredibly lucky escape. I could have lost my leg or worse. The Tiger Temple staff were very upset. They paid for all my treatment in hospital and visited every day. They explained the tiger was just being playful. However, I want to warn others going to Tiger Temple that the animals might not be as docile as they first appear.’

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June 20, 2008 Thailand’s Tiger Temple: In a report on the Tiger Temple released today is documented and account of a Thai woman who came with her partner to help raise funds for the Temple, put her hand into the tiger, Dao Ruang’s, cage to pet her. Dao took hold of the woman’s hand with her mouth. When the frightened woman tried to pull her hand away, Dao Ruang bit through it and held on. The woman’s partner came over and hit Dao Ruang over the head. The woman’s hand was badly torn between her 3rd and 4th fingers and required numerous stitches to close the wound.

On other occasions, investigators observed tigers attacking staff and volunteers. One resulted in an injured finger, which needing suturing, another a French volunteer whose shirt was ripped, narrowly missing her neck and another a Danish volunteer who was tackled to the ground by and bitten on the leg. The resulting injury got infected and the volunteer need medical treatment at a hospital. During an interview with a journalist in January 2008, the Abbot was asked why the tigers do not bite. The Abbot said, “They want to bite and one day they will bite.” Meanwhile the Monks spray tiger urine in the cats’ faces to subdue them.

Read the entire report HERE.

See a slide show of people being stupid with tigers and contributing to the abuse of tigers at the Tiger Temple by paying to have their photos made with the big cats HERE.

PDF with photos

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