Animal activist protests endangered cats show

May 25, 2012 2:02 PM

The Colorado Renaissance Festival is an annual rite of summer, known for its festive family atmosphere including jousting displays, costumes, crafts, food and general pageantry.

But this year, one animal activist isn’t yelling “huzzah” over a show called the “Endangered Cats Show,” performed by Craig Wagner, owner of Great Cats World Park in Cave Junction, Ore.

Julie Halvorson, an animal rights activist and volunteer with the Animal ACTion Network of Colorado, a Denver-based animal rights group, saw a commercial for the show, which debuted at the festival last year, and became concerned about audience safety.

“There should be some barrier between the cats and the audience. They should warn people that these are large carnivores that can turn on you in a second. People just don’t realize how dangerous it is,” Halvorson said.

Jim Paradise, organizer of the festival held every weekend from June 9 to July 29 in Larkspur, said he has full confidence in the safety of the crowd during Wagner’s show.

“Craig has been in the business and is one of the best trainers in the world,” he said. “Everyone’s No. 1 concern is public safety.”

Halvorson admits she’s never actually attended the show, only looked at footage on YouTube.

Since last year, she has gathered more than 7,000 signatures on in protest.

Paradise says that nearly all of the letters and emails he has received expressing concern about the show have been from outside Colorado, and likely not from attendees of the Renaissance Festival show.

She and Paradise agree that Wagner is not violating any law, and Paradise confirmed that Wagner has a permit from the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA website states: “While the AWA provides many important protections to exhibited animals used for regulated purposes, there are limitations to our regulatory authority. For example, we do not have the authority to issue an overall ban on the use of animals in exhibition.”

“He [Craig] takes the recommendations from the USDA and goes with them,” Paradise said. He’s been doing this for over 30 years and he hasn’t had a problem.”

Wagner got in trouble with the law in 2007 when he bought an ocelot from the Isis Society for Inspirational Studies for $3,000 and transported the endangered cat to Minnesota. Wagner pled guilty to illegally buying the ocelot, which volated the Endangered Species Act.

Wagner could not be reached for comment.

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