Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted on Jun 12, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Most Wanted | 0 comments

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

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

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

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


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

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

The agency said it has 130 inspectors for about 10,000 facilities across the country. It largely relies on people who visit the facilities to point out any issues. 32143305/myrtle-beach-animal- exhibit-under-federal- investigation



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Antle Tiger Escape at Jungle Island August 2010

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

About Antle in the book Animal Underworld

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

Antle Claiming to be an M.D.

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

1991 News Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Video Exposing Treatment of Circus Animals


Read More

Posted on Jun 4, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Tiger Temple

Tiger Temple

Thailand’s Tiger Temple Probed for Links to Animal Trafficking

Wall Street JournalJun 4, 2016
Until recently, the Tiger Temple drew visitors from around the world with the opportunity to pose for photographs with big cats or bottle-feed tiger …
Tiger Temple mission just beginning | Bangkok Post: news
InternationalBangkok PostJun 4, 2016
Dozens of dead cubs found at Thai tiger temple
OpinionSin Chew Jit PohJun 2, 2016
Thailand’s Tiger Temple saga isn’t over yet
In-DepthUSA TODAYJun 3, 2016

Sybelle Foxcroft from Cee4life (Conservation and Environmental Education 4 Life) shares the following:

After Tiger Temple announced 2 days ago that they have obtained another zoo licence, it was gut wrenching, however not surprising.

As you know, Cee4life investigated the Tiger Temple for many years and collected further evidence proving the wildlife trafficking, yet again at tiger temple. This evidence consisted of CCTV, video interviews, audio recordings and other documentation. The evidence is without a doubt, however, once again the Tiger Temple has gotten away with its crimes.

From previous experience, we knew that the Tiger Temple was probably going to wiggle its way out of this, so we continued to investigate evidence that we had prior to the release of the report.

We now have evidence and proof of illegal sales and international transport relating to the tigers of tiger temple.

Tiger Temple Zoo Plan

The official plan for the zoo on 4 hectares of land, with in the centre a show area for people to watch tricks with the tigers.

The above plan for the tigers is not viable. 4 hectares for 150 tigers is highly unethical. Performing tricks? I can only imagine that they are also trying to pass the 10+ tigers slammed into a cage together and continue with the rotation of the tigers into the grassed areas, the same as they do now.

Tiger Temple Report

The reason I would like you to view and understand this report is so you are armed with the details and understanding of what the evidences actually are, so when further action occurs to stop this wildlife trafficking operation, you have full knowledge of the evidences and can support this action. The action will probably be legal.

The Tiger Temple Report is based on motive, means, intent, and opportunity, meaning

1. the ability to commit the crime,

2. the reason the crime was committed, and

3. the chance to commit the crime.

Links to the core elements evidence are as follows:

Tiger Temple including Monks placed at the seen of the crimes on the 20th and 25th/26th (they came back twice for 2 tigers taking them into the earlier hours of 26th Dec) Dec 2014 –

Evidence 1 & 2 – Opportunity


Please note that these video’s are shortened versions. The long versions go for about 3 hours.

Evidence 3 – Means

Interview with long term Senior Tiger Temple staff member, Kasaem Pholchai, who has worked at the Tiger Temple since early 2000s. He is interviewed in Dec 2014 by senior temple legal advisor and admits to being ordered by “Luang Phor” (‘meaning venerable father’ –The Abbot Wisuthisarathera of Tiger Temple, to open the gates on the 20th and 25th/26th of December 2014 to participate and allow the tiger trades of the tigers


Evidence 4 – Intent

On the 31st of December 2014 , The head Abbot of Tiger Temple Phra Acharn, in conversation with ex Vet Dr Somachai and a high ranking advisor discuss the wildlife trafficking of the Tiger Temple Tigers. It is revealed that the Tiger Temple Tigers that are trafficked at killed on site at Tiger Temple with the Abbot additionally stating “It is our policy” It also reveals that the Tiger Temple trafficked the 3 missing tigers from December 2014 through the Singha District Forestry Dept. This clip is in Thai and has been shortened for ease of understanding (or it would have been 3 hours long) Department of National Parks, Wildife and Plant Conservation Thailand, and Royal Thai Police have full version and all evidence. The conversation is in Thai but has been translated into english in the Tiger Temple Report on pages 18 – 20

Evidence 4

Evidence 5 – Motive

Conversations with the Tiger Temple staff on the mornings after the 3 tigers went missing. They confirm that they all know, confirm that they were ordered to stay quiet, and confirmed the tigers were taken because they were to be swapped for one white tiger. Additionally, we have since obtained an eye witness that confirmed that 10 tigers were originally supposed to be swapped for the white tiger. Evidence 5 – pages 21 – 23 of the Tiger Temple Report

There are another 11 evidences to show that this wildlife trafficking has been going since conception of the idea of Tiger Temple within the Tiger Temple Report.

This new evidence that I will be presenting next week (2016) is of the selling, gifting of tiger temple tiger body parts and transporting of tiger body parts across international borders, and this has also been going on for years. The evidence includes photographic evidence, witness statements, and the stopping of these body parts entering Australia at the border control checkpoint, that occurred a couple of weeks ago. These are breaches against Thai law, CITES, and every country where these body parts have been transported and brought into.

The Tiger Temple is the epitome of long term criminal behaviour. It has been admitted by its staff and hierarchy, and it will continue.

To let you know how serious this is, just one of the concerning factors that occurred not long after the Tiger Temple Report was released, was that there was an attempted cover up/ mock up of fake documents to make the disappearance of the 3 tigers in Dec 2014 seem legal. This was addressed, and nothing more was heard about it, up until now. Tiger Temple has stated the disappearance of the 3 tigers was legal. There was nothing legal about it.

So as you can see, this is an extremely sordid and dark case, that is ongoing.

It requires a very big effort in order to protect these tigers as there is zero faith that Tiger Temple will stop what they have been doing for years. This effort must probably come in the form of legal action against this current decision to allow them to keep the tigers under a zoo licence. If this licence is granted, there is no doubt that tigers will continue to vanish along with other endangered and protected species.

Thailand is one of the biggest wildlife trafficking hubs and Tiger Temple is only just one situation of this illegal trade going on. As this case is already very well known, we have a good chance to address this further legally. It will take guts to do it, but it would be a magnificent feat to truly protect these tigers forever and send a message that this practice will not be tolerated by the conservation and animal organisations within Thailand and from around the world.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Sybelle Foxcroft
Conservation and Environmental Education 4 Life

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.’

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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


Read More

Posted on Apr 10, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Hawthorn Circus John Cuneo

Hawthorn Circus John Cuneo

Tiger Exhibitor Can’t Sue Feds Over License Issue

April 1, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (CN) – A tiger exhibitor that lost a circus contract due to a handler’s revoked license cannot seek damages for government inspectors’ alleged failure to point out the violation, a federal judge ruled.

The Hawthorn Corporation is a licensed animal exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act, which was enacted to ensure humane treatment and care of pets and animals used in research and exhibitions. Dealers and exhibitors of animals such as Hawthorn operate under a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Hawthorn hired Lancelot Kollman in 2012 as a trainer for its 16 white tigers, which the company exhibits during circus shows.

Even though Kollman’s USDA exhibitor’s license had been revoked due to a procedural default, Hawthorn believed that, as long as the handler operated as its employee, he could train and present Hawthorn’s tigers, according to the company’s complaint in Federal Court.

In January 2013, Hawthorn took its tigers to Tampa to exhibit them during a Soul Circus performance, for which the circus company had agreed to pay Hawthorn $672,000, according to the lawsuit.

However, when Soul Circus checked Kollman’s status with the USDA, animal care inspectors said Kollman was not allowed to handle or present Hawthorn’s tigers because his license had been revoked.

Soul Circus then rescinded its contract with Hawthorn, which suffered income loss and incurred substantial expenses such as freight costs, additional handlers, sawdust and 7,000 pounds of meat to feed the tigers, the 2013 lawsuit said.

Hawthorn accused USDA inspectors of negligence, claiming they had a duty to detect and report violations such as Kollman’s operating without a license so that the violations could be corrected.

It claimed USDA inspectors knew Kollman was the company’s tiger trainer and handler since 2012, as they had inspected Hawthorn repeatedly during Kollman’s employment and had raised no issues about his license status.
The USDA inspection reports, which did not mention any compliance issues, lulled Hawthorn into thinking that Kollman could exhibit the tigers under Hawthorn’s license, the lawsuit said.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich dismissed the claims last week for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the United States could not be liable for plaintiff’s reliance on government employees’ misrepresentations or omissions.

As a licensed animal exhibitor, Hawthorn knew or should have known that a person whose license had been revoked, such as Kollman, could not exhibit or transport animals, according to the 26-page ruling.

Even if the United States could be held liable for its agency’s misrepresentations, it would still be entitled to immunity because USDA inspections qualify as discretionary functions, Kovachevich wrote.

What’s more, Hawthorn cannot pursue claims for interference with contract rights under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Since Hawthorn alleged that the government’s negligence ended its contractual relationship with the circus, the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the claims, the order adds.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has accused Hawthorn repeatedly of Animal Welfare Act violations, such as failure to provide animals with proper veterinary care, nutrition, adequate space and humane handling practices. In 2013, PETA asked the government to revoke Hawthorn’s license.

Hawthorn in Double Trouble Over Tigers

Written by PETA | February 14, 2013

Update: PETA has now confirmed that the USDA has not one but two open investigations into AWA violations by the Hawthorn Corporation: one prompted by PETA’s complaint regarding Hawthorn’s use of Lance Ramos (see below) to unlawfully exhibit tigers in violation of the USDA’s revocation of Ramos’ license and the other arising from a separate case in Florida. Please urge the agency to follow the lead of governments around the world in defending animals against abuse by circuses and exhibitors by permanently revoking Hawthorn’s license.

Originally posted on February 8th, 2013:

PETA has submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking the agency to revoke the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) license for the notoriousHawthorn Corporation, which the agency has inexplicably repeatedly renewed despite years of flagrant AWA violations against elephants and tigers as well as the illegal exhibitions that Hawthorn still allows.

A History of Horrors

As PETA has learned from years of working to free animals from Hawthorn’s cruel clutches, calling Hawthorn “notorious” is actually putting it rather mildly. The exotic-animal exhibitor’s reprehensible history of AWA violations include USDA citations issued on more than 60 occasions for Hawthorn’s many failures to provide animals with proper veterinary care, nutrition, safe or sanitary enclosures, safe or humane handling practices, exercise, and adequate space.

The USDA’s previous enforcement actions against Hawthorn have entailed multiple license suspensions, more than a quarter of a million dollars in penalties, and confiscation or ordered surrender of at least 17 exotic animals. None of these actions have done anything to ensure even adequate treatment of the animals Hawthorn forces to perform.

Law Without Justice?

The USDA has recognized that continuing to fail to adhere to minimum standards of sanitation and feeding—both of which are chronic problems for Hawthorn—are violations for which an AWA license should be revoked. Yet the USDA appears to be granting Hawthorn preferential treatment by repeatedly renewing its license.

Someone whose license was permanently revoked is animal trainer Lance Ramos (aka “Lancelot Kollman”) after AWA citations for, among other cruelty, using physical abuse as a “training tool” on exotic cats to the point that at least one of them died and denying adequate veterinary care to an elephant so severely emaciated that he was a full ton underweight when the USDA confiscated him. Despite this, Hawthorn brought Ramos on board to train and exhibit tigers, and PETA has provided evidence to the USDA that he recently illegally exhibited the big cats with a Shrine circus and Showfolks Circus.


Woman finds Hebron man’s tiger head, hide


Everyone has seen a pillow or other item that obviously fell out of a moving truck, but for one woman last week the found item was anything but ordinary.

On Route 120 near Route 12, a woman came across a milk crate with a white tiger head on top. Inside the crate was the rest of the tiger skin. She turned it over to Lakemoor police.

“It was a hide with a head attached,” said Matt Karras, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He kept it in a freezer and waited for that weird telephone call from the owner who lost it.

“I called the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and told them, ‘You are going to get a strange call, but it’s true and I have it,’” he said.

Sure enough, man from Hebron in McHenry County called to claim the skin and head that he intended to have made into a rug. He received it from a veterinarian who put down the 18-year-old female because of kidney problems.

The animal had been at Hawthorn Corp., a facility near Richmond that raises white tigers and elephants for circuses.

“It was given to him. It can’t be sold. In fact, if he ever wants to get rid of it, he must return it,” Karras said.

He also said the Captive Wildlife Safety Act that prohibits the importation of certain big cats only applies to live animals.,5_1_WA06_TIGERRUG_S1.article


Trainer Suffers Puncture Wounds

August 08, 2008

Despite the nightmarish memory of a tiger biting him repeatedly, an animal trainer downplayed a mauling at a McHenry County circus farm on Tuesday that left him hospitalized with deep puncture wounds.

“It’s not that bad,” Larry Dean said Thursday from his hospital bed. “If you do it for a very long time, it will happen every now and then. It’s really not a big deal. How many people get bitten by dogs all the time?”

Dean said he was practicing a circus act at the Hawthorn Corporation farm near Richmond when the tiger suddenly became aggressive Tuesday and grabbed him with its mouth. He has a puncture wound on his knee, a bite on his arm and several scratches, he said.

“He had numerous scratch marks and bite marks,” said Richmond Township Fire Chief Rick Gallas. “I would say that was a mauling — quite a bit above the waist. The guy walked up to us, but he was pretty bloody.”

Gallas said Dean told paramedics it was the second time a tiger had attacked him at the farm, but Dean declined to comment when asked about that on Thursday.

Hawthorn owner John Cuneo said Dean should not have been near the tigers when he was attacked about 9:45 a.m.

“Somehow, he got close to one of the tigers,” said Cuneo, who spoke to Dean on Thursday morning but said he was still unclear about the details of the mauling.

Gallas said workers told paramedics they had to beat the tiger with baseball bats to get it to release Dean, but Dean disputed that account.

“They didn’t get him off me,” Dean said. “Somebody overreacted and called an ambulance. I was on my way out to my truck” to drive to the hospital.

Dean said he is having difficulty walking because of the knee injury.

“It is a bad bite,” he said. “It was big teeth.”

Dean declined to elaborate on specifically where the attack occurred or what act he was practicing.

He said he expects to be released from Centegra Hospital in McHenry on Friday after doctors make sure he doesn’t have an infection.

Hawthorn owns about 50 tigers, according to Cuneo, but he said only about 30 of the animals are at the farm adding that the rest are currently performing at circuses around the country and the world.

In 2003 the Department of Agriculture accused Hawthorn of failing to care for its elephants properly, a charge Cuneo denied. But in 2004 he agreed to give away his elephants in exchange for permission to keep his circus tigers.

A visitor to the Hawthorn farm was mauled by a tiger in 2005, according to a lawsuit filed in McHenry County Circuit Court. An Iowa man claims in the suit that he was invited into an arena at the facility where 14 white tigers were being trained. One attacked him, causing severe leg injuries.

Cuneo has said the man hit the tiger, spurring the attack.

That case is still pending.


Tiger owner denies accusations made by PETA

John Cuneo got into raising exotic animals when he created a children’s zoo at his father’s farm in Libertyville.

Since then he has raised a virtual ark of animals through his Hawthorn Corp., located in Richmond, and the 80-year-old’s latest love are white tigers. “I’ve trained tigers, lions, leopards, horses and bears,” he said.

Cuneo is someone that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) love to hate and there is no love lost for him either.

The PETA press release states it has submitted comments to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service asking it to deny permits to export and then import seven white tigers for commercial exhibition. It claims more than 30 tigers have died at his facility in the last 11 years.

“John Cuneo has denied veterinary care, edible food, and adequate living quarters to tigers, and now he wants to an export permit to squeeze a few more dollars out of them,” said Delcianna Winders, PETA director.

Cuneo is a very calm person, but when asked about the accusations of PETA he shakes his head. “These people do this out of sheer meaness,” he said. He has been raising tigers since 1969, and since they only live about 15 years, he has had many die.

“We bury every one of them on the property here. We don’t sell their bones or their hides and we have all the paperwork,” he said. “It really makes me mad when they play games,” he said. “Tigers, like dogs, only live so long.”

“Because of their publicity people think they are beaten, abused, starved and neglected. Do you realize how valuable they are? It’s like taking a sledgehammer to your Rolls Royce. It makes no sense,” he said, adding that an elephant, which he no longer raises because of the regulatory headaches, is worth about $200,000 and a white tiger is valued around $15,000.

PETA also charged that he has had $272,500 in fines from the United States Department of Agriculture, was forced to relinquish animals and forced tigers to live in cramped transport cages barely larger than their own bodies for weeks or months at a time.

“This is what they do,” he said of PETA, “They are absolutely right (about the fines), but they fail to tell you we took the USDA to court and were found not guilty and they awarded us $130,000,” he said.

He has had to relinquish animals, like the time in California when the tigers were in their traveling cages and the trainer was arrested, until it turned out that the cages were exactly the size required by the USDA.

“It makes you mad when they put this stuff out,” he said. As to the permits PETA mentioned in the press release, at first he said he they had no intention of exporting any tigers. The ones they have now are in training and would not be ready to perform for some time yet. They were looking at a circus festival in Montreal, Canada, in 2013.

But then he called back and said, yes, they had applied for permits because it can take so long to process the paperwork. “If we apply a couple of months before we go, we would never get them in time,” he said.

Cuneo offered a tour of the facility off North Solon Road to a reporter and photographer where they could watch a training session. He explained the trainer, Lance Kollman, has been involved with animals since he was 7-years-old. “PETA wants you to think these are fly-by-night or roughnecks,” he said. “These are career people,” he added.

“I’m a tiger whisperer,” jokes Kollman after getting out of the training cage where 10 tigers sat on their pedestals until he called them out to perform, doing simple tricks using meat as the training took stuck on a long stick and what looked like a horsebuggy whip.

“I come from seven generations of circus performers. My father and his brothers were acrobats and traveled throughout Mexico and Europe,” he said. He loved the animal trainers and would get into the cage after the show was over and pretend he was the trainer. “I knew the whole routine,” said Kollman, who also foot juggled for a time before becoming a full-time trainer.

“Ever since I was little I loved animals,” he said. He learned from other trainers and took the best techniques, but he also has what some people call a gift for communicating and understanding the animals. “I like to look at the animal and I can read it, I can see it and know what they are going to do before they do it. They tell you what they are going to do,” he said.

It was impressive to say the least as he stood in a cage no bigger than a four- or five-car garage, no gun or shock stick in sight, just his training stick (which the meat is placed on) and his little buggy whip with 500-pound tigers baring their teeth surround him.

He seemed at ease as he called their names and placed the training stick where he wanted them to lay down. He made them stand on their hind legs. Roll over. There was Sham, Sheena, Pacman, King and his brother Prince, Diago and his brother Demetrius, Shamon, Darca, Sheba, Ravi, Princess. All Bengal tigers, though some have some Siberian in them.

One routine had five tigers standing in a row and one female jumped over them in a single bound. This was the comedy routine, because next he had another tiger run like it was going to jump over them, too, only she stopped and went underneath them instead.

To teach them to stand on their hind legs he used a stringy piece of meat held aloft while shouting the command “Up.” After other tricks, like rolling over, he would use the training stick to feed them a square chunk of meat.

“If you beat them, you make them so nervous you can’t work with them,” said Cuneo, “The important thing is to keep them calm. You can’t get them to perform by force.” The cages were big enough for the animals to walk around and there was a loft made of boards for the cats to sleep on. There were also outside cages with small pools and logs for scratching.

The barn smelled like an animal barn, but your eyes didn’t burn like the PETA press release that said an inspector wrote that the ammonia from the urine stung their eyes. “I wanted you to see it for yourself so when you get these releases that say how evil we are you won’t believe them,” he said.


Obviously the reporter did not do his homework.



John Cuneo giving away elephants and tigers

Elephants to leave McHenry County farm

Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition
Elephants to leave McHenry County farm

Elephants need new home (Tribune file photo)
March 8, 2004


Animal trainer faces hearing
March 8, 2004

By Jeff Long
Tribune staff reporter
Published March 8, 2004, 2:52 PM CST

The owner of a circus-training facility in rural McHenry County has agreed to find new homes for his elephants under an agreement with federal authorities, officials announced today.

The proposed agreement between John Cuneo, owner of Hawthorn Corp., and the U.S. Department of Agriculture would end the government’s case against Cuneo and his company for dozens of alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act concerning the elephants’ care.

A USDA administrative law judge still must approve the settlement.

“( Cuneo ) will cooperate with the USDA in finding a new home for the elephants,” said David Weintraub, a spokesman for Cuneo .

A hearing on the charges had been scheduled to begin today before an agency law judge in Washington D.C. That case proceeded today against one of the original defendants in the case, James G. Zajicek of Mesa , Ariz. , a trainer used by Cuneo .

While the charges against Cuneo and other defendants have not yet been dropped, USDA spokesman Jim Rogers said settlements either have been reached or are in the works. Those portions of the case are not proceeding in court.

Cuneo could not be reached for comment. He said last year he had 19 elephants at his farm near Richmond , along with a lion and 84 tigers.

Since then, at least one of the elephants has been seized by the USDA, which said poor health put the animal, Delhi , in “imminent danger.”

Weintraub said Cuneo plans to give the elephants away rather than sell them. A decision on where they will go, the spokesman added, will be made after a judge approves the agreement with the USDA.

Neither Weintraub nor a USDA spokesman could say when a judge may rule nor when the elephants may leave the McHenry County farm.

Cuneo ‘s training facility will remain open, Weintraub said. The government’s case did not affect the lion or the tigers.

Hawthorn’s animals have performed in circuses across the U.S. and around the world. But in the last 10 years, the entity has become a target of USDA investigations and protests by animal rights groups alleging animal cruelty.

2004 Chicago Tribune

Hawthorn Corporation

9819 N. Solon Rd.
Richmond, IL 60071
USDA License #33-C-0053

Hawthorn Corporation 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 cited Hawthorn Corporation numerous times for failure to provide veterinary care, adequate shelter from the elements, and proper food and water, as well as failure to handle animals in a manner that prevents trauma and harm and ensures public safety. Hawthorn has accumulated $72,500 in USDA penalties and has twice had its license suspended. Four of Hawthorn’s elephants died from a human strain of tuberculosis. In January 1997, Hawthorn’s herd of 18 elephants was restricted from traveling during tuberculosis treatment. Hawthorn’s elephants have rampaged, causing death, injury, and property damage. Hawthorn leases animals to facilities and circuses around the world, including Jordan World Circus, Circus Vargas, Shrine Circuses, Walker Bros. Circus, Royal Palace Circus, George Carden Circus, Hanneford Circus, Hamid Circus, Alain Zerbini, and Tarzan Zerbini. Contact PETA for documentation.

March 12, 2004: According to a consent decision, John Cuneo, president of Hawthorn Corporation, admitted to 19 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act in order to settle charges filed by the USDA in April 2003. Cuneo was ordered to relinquish custody of 16 elephants to USDA-approved facilities and to pay a $200,000 fine

November 22, 2003: The USDA seized an elephant named Delhi from Hawthorn and transferred her to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee after determining that she was in imminent danger from lack of veterinary care. Delhi had been suffering from abscesses, lesions, and severe chemical burns to her feet and was covered with scars. She was originally captured in India and acquired by Hawthorn in 1974. This was the first elephant confiscation in U.S. history.

April 9, 2003: The USDA filed charges against Hawthorn Corporation, several Hawthorn employees, and Walker Bros. Circus, which used Hawthorn’s elephants. The complaint alleges 47 violations of the minimum standards of care established in the Animal Welfare Act that affected 12 elephants between March 29, 2001, and June 1, 2002. Charges include using physical abuse to train, handle, and work an elephant, causing physical harm and discomfort, failing to provide veterinary care to an emaciated elephant, failure to provide veterinary care to an elephant suffering with severe chemical burns and a bacterial infection, failure to provide veterinary care to several elephants with potentially deadly foot problems, and unsafe public contact.

March 5, 2003: According to The Edmonton Sun , a local Shrine Circus announced that it will no longer use animals from Hawthorn.

October 19, 2002: According to The Virginian-Pilot , an elephant handler with Sterling & Reid, David Creech, was convicted on three counts of animal cruelty (see September 4-5, 2002) and fined $200 on each count. The judge acquitted Creech, a Hawthorn employee, of a fourth count, which alleged that he struck an elephant over the head with a bullhook, because it was unclear from the eyewitness account which elephant trainer committed the act.

September 4-5, 2002: According to The Virginian-Pilot , an elephant handler with Sterling & Reid, David Creech, was charged with four counts of animal cruelty for beating an elephant until her hide was bloody while performing at the Norfolk Scope on August 23. The article stated, “An investigation by the officer and an outside veterinarian determined that the elephant suffered multiple lacerations.”

The circus is leasing its elephant act from Hawthorn. Another elephant handler, James Zajicek, a Hawthorn employee, was arrested and charged with obstructing justice.

June 1, 2002: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide adequate veterinary treatment to three elephants held in the protected contact area and in need of foot care to prevent potentially deadly foot problems. Hawthorn was also cited for failure to correct a previously identified violation of not providing diagnostic test results for a dead lion and a dead tiger.

The inspector noted that 13 white tigers had been kept in transport cages since April 23, 2002, which failed to comply with minimum space requirements.

Lota was reported to weigh 7,200 pounds. The expert elephant veterinary consultant had determined that Lota should not be sent back on the road before reaching a weight of 7,400 pounds.

May 24, 2002: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to the African elephants with hard, dry, cracked skin on the back, ears, and head and overgrown nails and cuticles, which can lead to potentially deadly foot problems. Hawthorn was also cited for failure to provide minimum space to its tigers and for allowing unauthorized persons near the tiger cages without a handler present.

May 16, 2002: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide adequate veterinary treatment to the elephants in the protected contact area and in need of foot care and for failure to provide diagnostic test results for a dead lion and a dead tiger.

May 4, 2002: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to its elephants. The inspector wrote, “The owner of the Hawthorn Corporation failed to obtain the services … of an expert elephant veterinarian … as required. … [The USDA] acquired the services of an expert elephant veterinary consultant who examined Delhi on this date.” The USDA’s elephant veterinary consultant found that Delhi had numerous lesions, a swollen tail, swollen front feet with skin damage and abscess blow-outs, abscess defects on the foot pads, and a huge split nail. The consultant recommended twice-daily foot soaks, weekly foot trims, monthly weight checks, oral medications, keeping detailed medical records, providing care for skin wounds, and allowing Delhi to go outside.

The veterinary consultant examined Lota and stated that she should not go on the road until she gained an additional 500 pounds and that the four elephants in the protected contact area–Frieda, Sue, Billy, and Nicholas–had nails and/or cuticles that required trimming.

April 23, 2002: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide veterinary care and for causing behavioral stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort to an elephant named Delhi who had severe tissue damage to the front feet and several abscessed areas on her body, including areas on both hips, between the eyes, the anterior portion of the ear attachment, on her head, the elbows of both front legs, and the tail. Chemical burns on Delhi’s feet were the result of the use by trainer John Caudill III–who was later fired–of undiluted formaldehyde to soak Delhi’s feet. On March 4, 2002, Delhi was found “in a serious health emergency.” Both of her front legs were twice their normal size and were swollen up to her chest. She could not bend her front legs at the elbows, was reluctant to bear weight on her front legs, and had difficulty in walking. The attending veterinarian did not respond in a timely manner. The inspector wrote, “The attending veterinarian cannot wait for two to three days before going to the premises to evaluate an acutely ill animal.” The USDA determined that a USDA-chosen expert elephant veterinarian was needed to evaluate Delhi’s condition.

The USDA also cited Hawthorn for failure to provide diagnostic records, treatment records, and necropsy reports for a tiger named Java and a lion named Bunda, failure to provide minimum space to 14 white tigers living in transport cages, and failure to have a sufficient number of adequately trained employees.

February 22, 2002: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to properly clean and sanitize the elephants’ transport trailer.

January 2, 2002: According to a USDA letter, Hawthorn had been notified that elephants Debbie and Judy were prohibited from exhibition involving potential public contact following the October 2001 rampage in Charlotte, N.C.

December 19, 2001: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to maintain an elephant transport trailer in a manner to prevent injury to the animals.

October 27, 2001: Two Hawthorn elephants named Debbie and Judy rampaged at the Word of Life Church in Charlotte, N.C. Two church members were nearly trampled, and children had to be quickly ushered to safety. The elephants crashed into the church through a glass window, broke and buckled walls and door frames, and knocked a car 15 feet, causing an estimated $75,000 in damages. The elephants suffered cuts and bruises. Debbie had rampaged twice before with an elephant named Frieda while she was with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus. In May 1995, she smashed windows, dented cars, and crashed through a plate-glass window at a Sears Auto Center in Hanover, Pa., causing $20,000 in property damage. In July 1995, Debbie bolted from the circus tent in Queens, N.Y., crushing parked cars and triggering a panic that left 12 people injured.

October 11-15, 2001: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to correct previously identified violations of not providing veterinary care and not maintaining facilities.

An elephant named Lota had been returned to the Illinois compound two months earlier in an emaciated state, with a lump on her left hip . The property manager and trainer stated that they had never seen Lota so thin. The lump had expanded into a large, painful, fluid-filled abscess that extended down to her mid-thigh. Lota and four other elephants (Misty, Queenie, Minnie, and Lottie) were being given tuberculosis medication as a “preventative treatment.” Lota and Misty were both in need of foot care. Lota had not been weighed since 1997. There were no veterinary care records for these animals.

The inspector found several bottles of medication, said to be used on the elephants, that had no labels identifying the contents, instructions for use, or expiration date.

Hawthorn was also cited for failure to maintain the structural strength of the elephant barn and improper food storage.

October 11, 2001: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to correct a previously identified violation of not providing veterinary care by an experienced veterinarian to elephants traveling with Walker Bros. Circus. The inspector wrote, “I spoke with the veterinarian … that had examined the animals on 10/10/01. He stated that he was not sure about the proper treatment for the elephants because he did not have much experience [in] treating them.”

October 5, 2001: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to correct previously identified violations of not providing veterinary care and security for its elephants traveling with Walker Bros. Circus.

Delhi had an open, draining, and bleeding wound on her nail with blood stains on and around the nail and foot. The area above the nail was swollen and warm to the touch. The cuticles on both of her front feet were “very overgrown.” Delhi was limping in pain and favored her leg during the performance. There were no documents to indicate that a qualified person was providing foot care. Tess’ left eye was very teary, and she was squinting; the trainer claimed that he had run out of an antibiotic ointment to treat her eye. Two bottles of expired medication were found by the inspector.

The inspector also observed that an experienced elephant handler was not present while the public came near elephants walking freely in a pen. The inspector returned later, after the report had been discussed with the licensee, and again found that the elephants were loose and unattended.

October 2, 2001: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide veterinary care to three elephants (Liz, Delhi, and Tess, traveling with Walker Bros. Circus) with overgrown nails and cuticles. Hawthorn was also cited for failure to have dangerous animals under the control of experienced handlers. The inspector observed parents and children approaching and petting elephants while no attendant was present.

Hawthorn was cited for failure to provide structurally sound enclosures. The inspector wrote, “[T]he elephants were inside an orange plastic mesh ‘fence.’ It was down in two places. … [Local authorities] informed me that earlier in the day, at least one [elephant] was outside this enclosure. Two [elephants] were completely free from any restraint. … A water hose was running water over an electrical cord. This area was able to be touched by both elephants and the public.”

October 1, 2001: The Harlan County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Kentucky lodged a complaint with a county judge after observing that Hawthorn elephants with Walker Bros. Circus had “numerous red and raw spots on their ears from being speared with the hook-like device the trainer uses. … The traveling quarters for the animals were at best cramped and inadequate. And at no time did I see any water dish or clean food be provided for any of the … elephants.”

September 25, 2001: Hawthorn was cited for improper food storage.

July 11, 2001: Hawthorn was cited for failure to correct previously identified violations of not disposing of expired medications and not making necessary repairs to the barn.

Hawthorn was also cited for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to three elephants with excessively overgrown nails.

June 27, 2001: During an inspection conducted at Walker Bros. Circus, Hawthorn was cited for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to four elephants with “excessive pad and toenail overgrowth on their feet” and overgrown cuticles. The inspector wrote, “It does not appear that these animals have had proper foot care in a significant amount of time.”

Hawthorn was cited for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to an elephant named Lota who was “excessively thin, with a protruding spine and hip bones.” The inspector wrote, “It appears that she has lost a significant amount of weight.”

The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to have dangerous animals under the control of experienced handlers and failure to have adequate safety barriers. The inspector observed members of the public approaching the elephants and being loaded on an elephant for rides while no handler was present.

June 26, 2001: The USDA cited Hawthorn for physically abusing elephants. The inspector observed the handler gouge an elephant named Ronnie on the trunk with a bullhook, causing an open lesion, and a different handler was “observed raking the back of another elephant several times with his hook during the performance.”

May 23, 2001: Hawthorn was cited for failure to provide records of acquisition. The inspector also noted that Misty had an abscess on her left front foot and that her feet were in need of trimming.

April 13, 2001: A letter to the editor published in the Chicago Sun-Times stated, “I escorted a group of schoolchildren, including my 8-year-old daughter, to this year’s Medinah Shrine Circus. … When the elephants were brought behind the curtain, the trainer began verbally abusing and hitting the elephant. We watched in horror as he swung a stick with all his force and struck the elephant in the back of the leg. This must have hurt because the elephant let out a scream that could be heard throughout the UIC Pavilion. The kids were frightened and asked me why the man was hurting the elephant.”

According to documents from the city of Chicago, a cruelty to animals complaint was filed against trainer John Caudill, a Hawthorn employee. The elephants used at Medinah Shrine Circus were leased from Hawthorn.

March 29, 2001: Hawthorn was cited for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to an elephant named Delhi traveling with Walker Bros. Circus. Delhi had an injury on her left front foot. The inspector wrote, “The lesion is open and bleeding today and should be evaluated by a veterinarian.”

March 1, 2001: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to correct a previously identified violation of not disposing of expired medications. Hawthorn was also cited for failure to maintain a tiger enclosure with an “extremely rusty shift door with sharp metal edges” and an “excessively chewed/clawed” wood partition. Hawthorn was cited for inadequate ventilation in a barn with “an extremely strong urine odor.”

The inspector noted that a 12-year-old white male tiger named Neve died while being transported back to winter quarters and that a 6-year-old white female tiger named Java died in June 2000.

February 23, 2001: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to correct a previously identified violation of not repairing damages to a trailer used to transport tigers.

July 11, 2000: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to correct a previously identified violation of improper feeding of its tigers. Hawthorn was also cited for a trailer in disrepair.

June 6, 2000: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to dispose of expired medications, improper food storage, and failure to maintain the structural strength of a tiger enclosure with a rusted wall and sharp, exposed edges.

May 21, 2000: According to the Hanover Sun , Cuneo put a killer elephant named Freda back on tour with a traveling circus in defiance of a USDA directive that she posed an “unacceptable risk to public.”

November 16, 1999: Hawthorn was cited for failure to maintain enclosures in a manner that protects the animals from injury and for storing moldy food.

August 18, 1999: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to have annual tuberculosis tests for the elephant handlers.

July 9, 1999: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide veterinary care to an elephant named Lota who had a “large open wound on the right hip area.” The inspector wrote, “During the inspection the left side of the wound was weeping and bloody.”

June 16, 1999: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to have a veterinarian-approved diet plan for the tigers, handle food in a manner that prevents contamination, and submit the required itinerary.

May 11, 1999: The USDA denied Hawthorn’s request to use an elephant named Frieda in public exhibition, stating that she posed an “unacceptable risk to public, and therefore her own, safety.” Frieda had rampaged several times while touring with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus.

March 16, 1999: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide proper veterinary care . The inspector noted that a tiger was administered medication that had expired. Hawthorn was also cited for improper and moldy food storage.

November 26, 1998: In an interview, published in The Evansville Courier , with Hawthorn tiger trainer Othmar Vohringer, he recalled a serious attack: “A lion took my arm off. It was just hanging there. It had to be reattached.”

November 12, 1998: Hawthorn was cited for failure to follow the veterinary care program .

May 18, 1998: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide veterinary care to a tiger named Bulba who was extremely thin. The inspector also found several outdated medications, improper and moldy food storage, and unsanitary housekeeping.

May 13-17, 1998: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide adequate veterinary care . An elephant had an accumulation of necrotic skin and abrasions. All elephants were in need of foot care, skin care, and exercise. The condition of the animals suggested that they had been housed in the transport trailer for an extended period of time.

The inspector observed blood and blood stains on an elephant’s face and earflap.

The animals did not have access to water. When the inspector instructed the handler to offer water, two elephants drank continuously from a bucket for eight minutes and two others drank continuously for five minutes.

April 7, 1998: The USDA cited Hawthorn for improper maintenance of transport trailers.

March 16, 1998: Cuneo agreed to a fine of $60,000 and a 45-day license suspension to settle USDA charges that his company mistreated elephants after two of his elephants died of tuberculosis in August 1996.

February 26, 1998: Hawthorn was cited for failure to have an adequate veterinary care program and a written contingency plan for elephant escapes.

November 20-21, 1997: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failing to provide veterinary care. The tuberculosis treatment protocol prescribed for the elephants was not being followed . The inspector also found improper food storage and poor housekeeping.

October 9, 1997: Hawthorn was cited for improper food storage.

September 16, 1997: The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration informed Hawthorn that an inspection “disclosed the following potential hazard: Employees were exposed to the Mycobacterium tuberculosis when they worked around elephants infected with tuberculosis. … [T]his letter serves as notification of the likelihood of transmission of tuberculosis from elephants to employees.”

July 23, 1997: The USDA filed charges against Hawthorn , alleging it continued exhibiting tigers in Albuquerque, N.M., while its license was suspended.

April 10, 1997: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failing to provide veterinary care. The inspector noted that the tuberculosis treatment and testing protocol prescribed for the elephants by the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians was not being followed . Hawthorn was also cited for failing to maintain structures.

February 6, 1997: Hawthorn was cited for failure to provide veterinary care . The inspector wrote, “Lota is extremely thin and eyes appear to be sunken in.” The inspector also found outdated medication.

The USDA suspended Hawthorn’s license for 21 days after the exhibitor attempted to export a baby elephant named Nickolaus to Puerto Rico despite the fact that the animal had tested positive for tuberculosis.

January 4, 1997: An internal USDA document contained a list identifying facilities with animals who were at risk of tuberculosis due to exposure to Hawthorn’s elephants: Gary Johnson’s elephant compound, Utica Zoo, Catskill Game Farm, Pittsburgh Zoo, Walker Bros. Circus, Alain Zerbini, Tarzan Zerbini, George Carden Circus, Carson & Barnes Circus, Heritage Zoo, and Riddle’s Elephant Farm.

January 1997: Hawthorn’s herd of elephants was prohibited by the USDA from traveling, and Cuneo was not permitted to introduce a breeding bull into the tuberculosis-infected herd. Fourteen of the 18 elephants were considered at high risk of being infected.

November 12, 1996: Cuneo rejected an offer to send a 45-year-old elephant named Lota to a sanctuary. The Milwaukee Zoo donated Lota to Cuneo in 1990 despite a public outcry. The publicized transport depicted Lota being beaten onto a trailer, falling, and urinating blood. Lota was subsequently leased to circuses, contracted tuberculosis, and became emaciated.

October 22, 1996: Florida health officials obtained a court injunction to stop Liz and Lota, two Hawthorn elephants who were traveling with Walker Bros. Circus, from entering the state because they were infected with tuberculosis .

August 29, 1996: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to properly store food and maintain records of acquisition and disposition.

August 28, 1996: According to an internal USDA memo, four Hawthorn employees tested positive for tuberculosis .

August 15, 1996: USDA Acting Deputy Administrator Ron DeHaven wrote regarding discovery of a human strain of tuberculosis in Hawthorn’s elephants, ” [T]he state of New Mexico has told Hawthorn to leave the state or be quarantined. “There are huge epidemiological considerations , too, since Cuneo buys, sells, trades, and moves elephants like a livestock market.”

August 6, 1996: A 26-year-old Hawthorn elephant named Hattie, who was leased to Circus Vargas and gave rides to children just prior to her death, died of tuberculosis while being transported from California to Illinois.

August 3, 1996: A 35-year-old Hawthorn elephant named Joyce, who was leased to Circus Vargas and gave rides to children until her death, died under anesthesia for a dental exam. She was anesthetized against the advice of a veterinarian who felt the procedure was too risky for an animal in such a debilitated state. Joyce was 1,000 pounds underweight, and 80 percent of her lung tissue had been destroyed by tuberculosis .

July 18, 1996: A Hawthorn white tiger bit the hand of a carnival worker while performing at the Orange County Fair in Middletown, N.Y.

July 17, 1996: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide veterinary care and proper food and to maintain records on the animals.

June 21, 1996: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide veterinary care .

June 18, 1996: Hawthorn was cited for failure to provide veterinary care . The inspector noted, “Lack of records demonstrating observation and treatment of injury to the skin approximately 2 inches medial to Misty’s [elephant’s] left eye.” The inspector also observed that the current veterinary care program was not being followed and records of acquisition were not maintained.

June 14, 1996: A Hawthorn elephant named Misty, who was giving rides to children with Jordan World Circus and was previously identified as “potentially dangerous,” knocked down and repeatedly kicked her trainer . One child fell off the elephant during the incident in Casper, Wyo.

May 10, 1996: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failing to provide access to veterinary records.

May 7, 1996: Hawthorn paid a $12,500 penalty to settle USDA charges of causing Tyke trauma and harm and of jeopardizing public safety. Police shot Tyke to death on August 20, 1994 after she rampaged and killed her trainer.

March 27, 1996: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide an adequate veterinary care program and maintain records of acquisition.

March 25, 1996: The USDA cited Hawthorn for inadequate housekeeping, pest control, and food storage.

October 26, 1995: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide adequate shelter and water for the elephants, improper food storage, and failure to submit an itinerary.

August 21, 1995: Hawthorn was cited for failure to provide adequate shelter for the elephants.

July 28, 1995: The USDA cited Hawthorn for inadequate structural maintenance.

January 20, 1995: In an internal USDA document, Acting Deputy Administrator Ron DeHaven identified Hawthorn elephants Sue, Billy, Misty, Tony, and Hattie as “potentially dangerous .”

January 17, 1995: According to USDA documents, while Michael Pursley worked for Hawthorn, “David Polke instructed Pursley to command Hattie to ‘lay down’ ( sic ) and then beat Hattie with an ax handle. … [T]rainers also used water and food deprivation and electric shock from a cattle prod on the elephants. … [H]e witnessed Tommy Thompson, manager at Cuneo’s animal facility at Richmond, Ill., shock (hot shot) an elephant repeatedly for one-half hour in order to get the elephant to lay down ( sic ) and get up upon voice commands.”

December 17, 1994: A Hawthorn elephant named Dumbo died of tuberculosis .

October 26, 1994: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide veterinary care records for an elephant named Amy who had been euthanized. Hawthorn was also cited for inadequate housekeeping and pest control, as well as failure to maintain records of acquisition and disposition.

September 15, 1994: Hawthorn was cited for the second time in three months for feeding inedible food to the tigers.

August 20, 1994: While performing at the Neal Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, a 20-year-old Hawthorn elephant named Tyke crushed to death her trainer, Allen Campbell, attacked and injured two others, and panicked the crowd, causing several more injuries . Tyke escaped into the streets of downtown Honolulu during the afternoon rush hour. Over the next hour, police fired 87 bullets into Tyke as she charged after pedestrians and smashed vehicles throughout several blocks. Tyke died of massive nerve damage and hemorrhaging of the brain.

Campbell was described as a “punishment-type” trainer who worked the elephants hard. An autopsy found that he had cocaine and alcohol in his system.

July 14, 1994: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide a program of veterinary care .

June 16, 1994: Hawthorn was cited for feeding inedible food to the tigers.

May 11, 1994: The USDA cited Hawthorn for inadequate structural maintenance.

May 9, 1994: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide a veterinary care program and medical records . Hawthorn was also cited for failure to maintain a transport trailer for the elephants and maintain records of acquisition and disposition.

February 14, 1994: The USDA cited Hawthorn for failure to provide a veterinary care program .

January 13-14, 1994: The USDA cited Hawthorn for unsanitary and improper food storage, poor housekeeping, and having outdated medications and dirty water containers.

July 23, 1993: An elephant named Tyke ran amok at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot, N.D., trampling and injuring a handler and frightening the crowd as she ran uncontrolled for 25 minutes.

April 22, 1993: According to an affidavit obtained by the USDA from circus worker Richard Rosio, Tyke attacked a tiger trainer while the circus was in Altoona, Pa.

April 21, 1993: An elephant named Tyke ripped through the front doors of the Jaffa Mosque during a performance and ran out of control for an hour in Altoona, Pa. An estimated 4,500 schoolchildren had to evacuate the building, and the rampage caused more than $14,000 in damage.

February 4, 1993: A Hawthorn employee, Bernhard Rosenquist, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery, and armed violence for allegedly stabbing a coworker. Rosenquist was also wanted by federal authorities as a probation violator and by the Lake County, Ill., authorities on burglary charges.

June 21, 1988: According to USDA and Canadian law enforcement documents, while a Hawthorn elephant named Tyke was performing with Tarzan Zerbini Circus, ” The elephant handler was observed beating the single-tusk African elephant in public to the point [where] the elephant was screaming and bending down on three legs to avoid being hit . Even when the handler walked by the elephant after this, the elephant screamed and veered away, demonstrating fear from his presence.” The handler was John Caudill (a.k.a. John Walker of Walker Bros. Circus) who admitted to “disciplining” Tyke after she hit Caudill’s brother and put a hole in his back with her tusk.

May 28, 1981: An 11-year-old Hawthorn elephant named Tina, with a one-year history of weight loss, died under anesthesia and was found to have tuberculosis .

1978: A Hawthorn Corporation elephant performing in Chicago with the Shrine Circus picked up her trainer with her trunk and threw him into a pillar, killing him.

For more information, contact: PETA
501 Front St.
Norfolk, VA 23510

The circus is no fun for the animals

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

USDA report HERE


Read More

Posted on Mar 11, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name, Fakers and Haters, Most Wanted | 1 comment

G.W. Exotics Animal Foundation Joe Schreibvogel



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

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

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

On December 10, 2010 Joe wrote on Facebook

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

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

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

Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado is also known individually as:


 Joe Exotic

Joseph Maldonado

Aarron Alex

Cody Ryan


And doing business as:


5 Continent Productions

Garold Wayne Interactive Zoo

G.W. Exotic Animal Foundation

G.W. Exotic Animal Park

G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Foundation

G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Park

Alex Productions

Awakening Productions

Awakening Rescue

Big Cat Rescue Entertainment Group

Corley’s Exotics

Mystical Magic of the Endangered

Tigers in Need

Welch’s Entertainment Group

Welch’s Tiger Experience

Welch’s Great Cat Adventure

World Magic

and others.




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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Young Children Bitten at GW Park

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

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

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

Underage Cubs Used to Appease Crowd After Child Bitten


Sick Cubs at Mall





Joe Schreibvogel Exposed by Inside Edition







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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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



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



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

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

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

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

For more on PeTA’s investigation visit



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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Joe and his employee Bobbi Corona have a total disregard for the truth that is remarkable. He says and writes whatever nonsense he decides to make up. PeTA identified statements about his breeding and selling that they show to be false at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Colony website contains the list of past and present police chiefs below. The policeman we spoke with by phone at The Colony police department advised that Joe Schreibvogel was never an officer there.

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

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

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

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

A few examples of his false statements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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




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

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




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

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

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



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

TO: Care2

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

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

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

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

Examples of distortion and lies ..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read More

Posted on Mar 2, 2016 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Larry Wallach

Larry Wallach Plays With Cubs, Then Discards Them

In 2012 USDA filed this complaint against Larry Wallach for a litany of animal welfare violations.


21-C-0069 USDA #


2016 He’s displaying tiger cubs at bike week in Florida.


He was inspected twice by USDA in 2014 and they said he had no animals present since his suspension.


Cited in 2010 for failure to provide proper documentation and putting the public at risk by not securing tigers safely out of reach of the public.


Lion Cub Recuperating in Jax Beach


13 Week Old Lion Cub in Jax Beach (Kyle Meenan photos)


By Kyle Meenan

First Coast News


JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FL — A 13-week-old lion cub nearly died from an infection in Minnesota. Now he’s growing stronger every day on the First Coast.


“This is an African Lion. A little male. He was really sick. In fact, he nearly died about two weeks ago,” said exotic animal expert Larry Wallach.


When he heard about the cub, Wallach called the Minnesota owner and had the animal rushed to Jacksonville Beach, where Wallach and his family live on their boat in the Beach Marina.


“He’s getting stronger every day,” said Wallach.


At 13 weeks, the cub is growing about a pound a day. As an adult he’ll weigh in at 500 or 600 pounds.


Wallach told First Coast News the number one concern for anybody who owns an exotic pet should be protecting the public safety. He says anyone considering a lion or tiger should have thousands of hours of documented experience working with big cats, along with a federal permit, and they should have a minimum of five acres of land.


“A lot of people that buy them, buy them illegally and the buy them for the wrong reasons,” said Wallach, who offered sobering advice to would-be big-cat owners.


“They don’t make good pets. Just ’cause he’s cuddly to me, doesn’t mean he’s a good pet. He’s a very bad pet. He’ll end up hurting you or killing someone in your family. He’s a wild animal!”


Wallach says big cats never lose their hunting instincts.


Over his career he’s provided cats to stars like Siegfried & Roy and Michael Jackson. But as small cubs like the one suckling on a milk bottle in his arms, it’s a good age to show them off for educational purposes.


“When they’re this big, they can go to hospitals and stuff for kids. Schools. But after about 75 or 80 pounds they need to find their resting place and have a good life with other big cats.”


Wallach knows that today his five year old son Parker can enjoy the baby lion, but soon it will be time to say goodbye.


On Tuesday, May 31st, the lion cub is going to be at the Ocean Reef Pet store in Neptune Beach, where Wallach welcomes visitors of all ages to come for a visit.


Then later on in the week, he’ll be brought to a wild animal park in North Carolina, where he should have a permanent home.



Created: 5/30/2005 4:50:20 PM

Updated: 5/30/2005 6:04:32 PM

Edited by  Kyle Meenan, reporter


The following tells you more about Larry Wallach


Big cats cause stir in US April 2002


There are 10,000 tigers kept as pets in the US


By Jane Standley

BBC New York Correspondent



Spike the Bengal Tiger is Larry Wallach’s pride and joy. She is only a year old, but is already 90 kilos (200lbs) – she’ll be double that size when fully grown.

But like the lion and the mountain cougar before her – Spike is already too big for her cage in Larry’s back garden in the suburbs of New York.


Larry fancies another lion cub next – and sees no problem with that.



Larry says he didn’t think about the responsibilites of owning a big cat


“I think if you’re capable, financially property wise, and you want it – we’re Americans, we live in a free country – then go get it!” says Larry.


Spike is one of an estimated 10,000 tigers kept by private citizens in America – that is more than remain in the wild.


Educational purposes


Some owners, like Larry, are allowed to because they use them for educational purposes, such as taking them to schools and on TV shows.


But what makes people get big cats as pets in the first place?


Larry says it’s mainly ego.


Animal behaviourist Steve Zawistowski from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would probably agree.


Stick to normal cats is his message – big ones aren’t just meant to be pets.



Big cats are sold on the internet to bypass state laws



“It would be safer for the community if this was made illegal,” he says.


“We already a wonderful collection of animals who we’ve spent thousands of years domesticating – so they make great pets – be happy with those.


“These big cats are going to suffer when you have them – and you’re going to be a danger to yourself and your community.”


Internet sales


For the thousands of Americans who do not agree, just knowing where to find big cats on the internet is all it takes.


You can get them from ranchers and breeders – who trade quite discreetly to sidestep state laws.


One site is offering tiger cubs for $1,800 each – and there are lions available for $1,000. There are some big cats available for as little as $500.



This woman is fighting to keep her 24 pet tigers


More attention is now being paid to the issue – as a woman in suburban New Jersey is battling in court to keep her 24 pet tigers.


Her permit to keep them as “theatrical” animals was revoked – and she ia trying to move them to neighbouring New York. But in both states, residents are not happy – and perhaps not surprisingly – want a tightening of the law.

Read More