We are all guilty of the tiger’s blood. unless we act now.

A nation mourns the shooting death of a tiger, an un named tiger, who was the declawed and unwanted pet of a Californian. Perhaps I should say that we didn’t know the tiger’s name. Most owners, even the most awful ones, usually name their pets. Someone knew the tiger’s name, but they didn’t care enough about him to come forward.

They could have told the authorities that this was a declawed animal that had never associated killing with eating. They could have called out to the disoriented, starving animal who had known only them as his providers for his whole life. They could have provided valuable insight into the animal’s habits and possibly coaxed the animal into a familiar transport. After nine days of being lost and hungry he might have given up his freedom for security. They could have pled for his life. Could a sharp shooter pull the trigger so quickly if they knew the cat’s name or knew that there was some tearful owner standing by who would take him home?

The owners could have been fined $500.00 for the escape and saving the money and saving their reputation was more important to them than saving the cat they had bottle raised from a cub. Who would support them with their donations if they knew that the “sanctuary” owners had released a big cat because they didn’t want him any more? Coming forward would have been bad for business and in most cases that is all it means to exotic owners; a way to get paid to play with dangerous animals that most people aren’t allowed to have. It is an industry of greed and ego masked as a charity in many cases of unaccredited pseudo sanctuaries.

More than 10,000 tigers are thought to be in the hands of private owners across our country. No one knows exactly how many, nor where they are because there is very little regulation requiring notification. They often hail themselves as rescuers and heroes and educators, but when they fall on hard times the animals pay the price.. in this case, the ultimate price.

Even in the best of circumstances these captive animals are paying a price that is far too high. They are born and bred for life in cages, so that we can thrill at their beauty and majesty. They live out 10-20 years of abject boredom, confined to areas that amount to little more than a jail cell; all for crimes that they never committed.

This tiger died free.

We are a nation of people who were rallied to action by the words, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Over the centuries we have fought for. and killed for freedom. It is so important to us that we invade other countries and fight for their freedom as well. Our deterrent to crime is a sentence of confinement. When it is imposed on humans we call it jail, when we impose it on animals we call it a zoo, a “sanctuary”, a cage, an ark for the future.but by whatever name you call it, the fact remains that it is imposed deprivation. We do this to animals that we proclaim to love.

Imagine what it might have been like to be this tiger: You have spent your entire life in a 10 foot square room that is barren and devoid of any plant life because you are so enormous, in such a small area, as to crush the life out of every blade of grass. Your water dish is covered in a layer of scum in the summer or a layer of ice in the winter. You have eaten the same meal every day for the past four years and it isn’t something that you ever would have chosen to eat had you been free to choose. When times were bad for your owner you may not have eaten for days on end and all you could do was sit there and cry out to the wind because no one could hear you.

Because of the lack of nutrition and exercise you suffer excruciating pain due to your paper shell bones and aching joints. Your teeth have broken and have exposed roots from a lack of calcium and from you chewing on the bars of your cage in a feeble attempt to escape. Your declawed, butchered feet, often with bones protruding through the surface, ache from your constant pacing. Deep inside you know that you were meant to roam free, to be the king of beasts, but that seems like an unreal dream because you don’t know anything of the world outside your little cell. You roar out, with a powerful and fearful sound that can be heard 5 miles away, but no one calls back. No one tells you that you aren’t alone in the world.

One day your world changes. The door is opened and you think that someone has finally called for your amnesty. At first you just cannot believe your good fortune. There is soft grass beneath your feet for the first time ever. You see sights that you could only imagine before, like the tranquility of the mountains as dusk settles in, like the beauty of a sunrise over the water or just the unimaginable freedom of the coyotes and cougars and bobcats. The ecstasy of the first couple of days over powers the pangs of hunger. You were designed to roam and defend a 400 square mile territory and in nine days your mangled feet have carried you almost 30 miles.

The only food you have ever known was a pile of bloody, fatty mush. You haven’t seen anything resembling what you know as food and a 425 pound tiger does have to eat. Instincts from thousands of years are coursing through your veins, but because you never knew your mother, and she never had the three years to devote to your training, you have no idea how to feed yourself. You are weak from hunger, dehydration and more exercise than you have had in your entire life now. The people who had pulled you from your mother’s soft, warm, nursing belly and force fed you so that you would depend on them are no where to be found.

Until now you have avoided humans because you wanted to savor every moment of this exhilarating freedom. But now they are coming to you. You see them stalking you through the brush and hear the roars of the helicopters and ATV’s. You would like to think that they are coming to bring you something to eat, but you sense the tension in the air. You know that they are afraid of you. If you walk toward them they will shoot, if you turn and run, they will shoot. So you just stand still. and still they shoot.

As you are gasping for air and feel the life blood running from searing bullet holes through your body, what scenes would flash before your eyes? Being torn from your mother. Being handled by countless people who were paying to have their photos taken holding you as a cute little cub. Being forced to perform in a circus act or for some commercial. The monotony of thousands of days from inside your little cage. The hot days with no shade or the cold nights with no way to shield yourself from the blowing snow and rain.

This is all that most captive cats could revisit in those last moments before death, but at least this tiger had a couple of days to add to his experience; a few precious days of what it felt like to be free.

It is easy to be angry at the people involved in this sad situation in California last month but we need to look at how we are promoting this sort of abuse by our actions and more commonly our inaction. Buying products that use animals in their commercials or testing helps to promote this very industry. Two Brothers may have had a nice message, but it used 30 tigers for the film. Where are those cats now? As long as zoos sell or give their animals to brokers who sell them to these road side menageries your support of the zoo is supporting this misery. If you shake your head and say, “What a shame!” and do nothing, you are just as guilty of this tiger’s blood.

We have made it so easy to contact your representatives in government that there is absolutely no excuse for inaction. By entering your zip code you find your senators, state representatives, the USDA, and the press in your area. With simple forms to fill in your name and address you can click to send pre-written letters or you can add your own thoughts. There is legislation pending that can curb the abuse. Some of it has failed six years in a row because not enough people cared to speak up. Visit our site at: CatLaws.com and see how you can really make a difference with just a few mouse clicks. Don’t let this tiger die in vain.

The photo on this page were from the USDA licensed Tiger Rescue
where more than 90 tiger cubs, and many adult tigers were found dead in 2004.
The top photo was the un named tiger who was shot in CA in 2005.
Federal authorities said charges were filed relating to the possession of exotic
cats by Gert “Abby” Hedengran and his wife, Roena “Emma” Hedengran,
owners of Wild World/Tiger Creek Foundation, in the escape and death of Tuffy
the tiger. They have denied all responsibility. The tigers made the headlines,
but twenty of their servals, caracals, Canada and Siberian lynx ended up in
this shelter.  See the slideshow HERE.

Read Big Cat Rescue’s Daily Updates on Wildcats in the Wild at Field

By Sylvie Belmond belmond@theacorn.com

Southern California – Despite insisting multiple times that they didn’t own the tiger killed in the Tierra Rejada Valley early last year, Gert “Abby” Hedengran and his wife, Roena “Emma” Hedengran, reportedly plan to plead guilty to charges related to the incident, after making a deal with prosecutors.

A federal court hearing is set for Sept. 5.

Tuffy the tiger was shot after it escaped its owners and wandered in the rural region between Simi Valley and the Santa Rosa Valley for about three weeks.

Authorities alleged that the large carnivore belonged to the Hedengrans, who purposely misled investigators during a weeklong search in February 2005. The tiger was eventually found roaming near a city park in Moorpark that borders homes and schools next to the 23 Freeway. It was shot for safety reasons, authorities said at the time.

The Hedengrans now live with their exotic cats in Pahrump, Nev., 60 miles from Las Vegas. The couple was arrested in March of this year and were later released on their own recognizance after they were charged in connection with the shooting.

The couple faced initial charges that could have resulted in a maximum sentence of 60 years in federal prison for Gert Hedengran. Roena faced up to 10 years in federal prison, according to Assistant U.S. District Attorney Joseph Johns, who’s been handling the case.

They were due to appear in court recently, but the case was postponed because U.S. District Judge George H. King wanted more time to review the agreement before he made his decision.

“The defendants have signed plea agreements that have been filed with the District Court,” Johns said.

“The knee-jerk response of some folks was to criticize law enforcement for killing the tiger instead of trying to tranquilize it with darts,” he added.

But even with such a careful, conservative decision, he said, the first three rifle shots missed the tiger.

“It makes you wonder what might have happened if they had decided to tranquilize the tiger and all of the darts had then missed the target,” he said.

Had that been the case, criticism would have been heaped on law enforcement, especially if the tiger had escaped into the chaparral and later killed someone’s child, the district attorney said. “Law enforcement did the best they could in a difficult situation,” Johns said. “It doesn’t take much imagination to think of the terrible consequences that could have resulted from a 600-pound Siberian tiger stalking the purple sage hillsides and oak woodlands of suburban Moorpark.”

According to Nye County, Nev. Animal Control Supervisor Debbie Pemberton, housing for the exotic animals was deemed inadequate in April of this year and the Hedengrans were asked to add additional perimeter fencing. Pemberton said earlier this week that the animals’ containment in Nevada is now within county/USDA guidelines.