Petition asks USDA, how many more animals need suffer?

Tragically, many USDA-licensed big cat exhibitors place profits over the well-being of their animals and often abuses go on for years while the animals suffer.Today, IFAW joined the HSUS, Big Cat Rescue, and Born Free USA in filing a legal petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to permanently revoke the USDA exhibitor license of one of the nation’s largest breeders of tigers—Joe Schreibvogel  of the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma—in order to protect animal welfare and public safety.

As demonstrated in the petition, Mr. Schreibvogel—whose facility has approximately five times as many predators as the late Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio—has been under investigation for years for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and has a long history of actions that severely imperil both animals and humans.

Animals in Mr. Schreibvogel’s care have suffered and died and members of the public, including small children, have been harmed during the close encounters he offers with dangerous wild animals. In 2010, twenty-three tiger cubs died at the facility, allegedly due to feeding them contaminated food. Former employees have reported animal abuse at the zoo, failure to properly feed the animals, and failure to receive basic preventative veterinary care.

In the wake of its revealing 2012 undercover investigation of Mr. Schreibvogel’s facility, the HSUS called on members of Congress to take immediate action to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.

When I speak with people about the importance of passing the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R. 1998/S.1381), they often very quickly agree that keeping these dangerous wild animals as pets just doesn’t make any sense and will only lead to terrible consequences for all parties involved. But what most people are often shocked to hear is that the lax and vastly under-resourced USDA licensing system is failing to protect public safety and animal welfare time and time again. Tragically, many USDA-licensed big cat exhibitors place profits over the well-being of their animals and often abuses go on for years while the animals suffer.

The bill addresses this deficiency by phasing out private possession and breeding of big cats without a blanket exemption for USDA licensees, and today’s filling demonstrates the need to revoke the license of an exhibitor who is undeniably unfit.

We are hopeful the Congress, and the USDA, will take swift action. How many more animals and people need to suffer?

--TC

Ask your U.S. Senator and Representative to co-sponsor the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (S.1381/H.R. 1998) today.

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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia