Animal groups rescue abandoned lions and tigers from Ohio woman

Monday, 22 October, 2007
Yarmouth Port, Mass
Today three animal welfare organizations: IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare;, Big Cat Rescue, and The Wild Animal Orphanage announced they have rescued 6 abandoned big cats – 2 lions and 4 tigers – from an unsanctioned Ohio shelter. The animals are being relocated to licensed animal sanctuaries in Florida and Texas. The move highlights the pressing need for reformed U.S. laws covering exotic pets and has been lauded by animal advocates nationwide.
The animal rescue groups are taking the big cats under the jurisdiction of a court order. The cats were formerly owned by Diana McCourt until the USDA revoked her license and fined her. The facility lost its license, in part, from allowing dangerous photo opportunities between big cats and the public and violating existing USDA regulations. McCourt was subsequently evicted from her property and abandoned the cats. Local authorities were forced to take possession of the animals. Now the cats will be moving to permanent sanctuaries where they will receive much better care.
“IFAW is pleased to step in and be part of this extraordinary effort," explained IFAW D.C. Director Jeffrey Flocken. “We are advocating for stricter regulations preventing potentially dangerous or inhumane ‘big cat’ ownership and look forward to the day these types of rescue measures will be unnecessary.”
During the relocation, all six big cats will first be transferred to Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, Florida – where 2 lions and 2 tigers will reside – while the remaining 2 tigers will continue on to permanent placement at the Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio, Texas.
“People need to understand the tremendous responsibility involved with taking on the care of these exotic animals," said Carol Asvestas, Wild Animal Orphanage Director. "These animals require a lifetime commitment that can be very costly and, at times, dangerous.  What’s made this move easier for us is the overwhelming unity of participating organizations.  It's been wonderful.”
The six big cats being relocated are:
  • 1 Tiger born April 24, 2000 named Ekaterina

  • 1 White Tiger born March 3, 2000 named Sierra

  • 1 Tiger born August 20, 1995 named Nikita

  • 1 Tiger born June 8, 1994 named Simba

  • 1 Lion born August 19, 1998 named Joseph

  • 1 Lion born May 12, 1994 named Sasha
  • The cats are expected to arrive in Florida on October 21st and in Texas on October 23.
    IFAW is currently championing bipartisan legislation, H.R 1947, in the 110th Congress that would protect the public from attacks by captive big cats, such as lions and tigers, at facilities licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Also known as Haley’s Act, the bill is named in memory of Haley Hilderbrand, a 17-year-old high school student who was killed at a USDA-licensed facility by a 550-pound Siberian tiger while being photographed for her senior picture. Haley’s Act would amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to prohibit direct contact between the general public and big cats of any age or weight, including lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars and hybrids. 
    “While we are happy to be able to rescue four of these cats we are so thankful to IFAW for arranging the transport of them and for enabling the rescue of the remaining two tigers. Once IFAW’s federal bill, Haley’s Act, becomes law it will be illegal to abuse big cats as photo props and horrific situations like this will cease to exist,” said Carole Baskin, Founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue.

    There are currently more than 10,000 captive big cats, such as tigers and lions, held captive in the U.S.  In recent years, captive big cats have killed more than a dozen people and injured more than 50 people.  Many big cats are owned by individuals or organizations that have been licensed by the USDA to exhibit, breed, or sell these dangerous wild animals.  

    About Wild Animal Orphanage
    We are dedicated to providing a permanent home for and lifetime care to hundreds of formerly unwanted, neglected or abused animals. Learn more at

    About Big Cat Rescue
    We provide the best home possible for the 140+ exotic cats in our care and are reducing the number of big cats that suffer the fate of abuse, abandonment & extinction. Find out how at

    Post a comment

    Press Contact

    Chris Cutter (IFAW, Headquarters)
    Contact phone:
    (508) 737-4623
    Contact email:


    Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
    Director, France and Francophone Africa
    Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
    Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
    Dr. Joseph Okori
    Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
    Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
    Regional Director, Russia & CIS
    Faye Cuevas, Esq.
    Senior Vice President
    Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
    Regional Director, Asia
    Executive Vice President
    Executive Vice President
    Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
    Director, International Policy
    Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
    Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
    Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
    Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
    Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
    Program Director, Wildlife Crime
    Country Representative, Germany
    Country Representative, Germany
    Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
    Director, EU Office
    Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
    Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
    Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
    Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy