Tigers, lions, and other exotic animals rushed to wildlife sanctuaries as facility folds in Ohio

© M.Booth / IFAW
Friday, 1 June, 2012
Yarmouth Port, MA

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW- www.ifaw.org) announced today an emergency grant to help cover medicine and transportation costs to move 32 exotic animals from a failing facility in Ohio to accredited sanctuaries in North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Nevada and California. The rescue comes a week after the Ohio House voted in favor of Senate Bill 310 which would ban the acquisition, sale and breeding of big cats and other restricted species in the state.

A lack of funds forced the facility, located near Columbus, Ohio, to shut down. Once licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the establishment saw its license revoked last year primarily due to unsafe enclosures with “gaps in the fencing” which could potentially allow for an escape.

The facility held a total of 11 tigers, seven lions, five cougars, eight wolves and a black bear. IFAW was approached by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) to assist with the rescue operation in Ohio.

“What began with all the right intentions quickly turned into a desperate situation,” said Gail A’Brunzo, IFAW Animal Rescue Officer. “Adequately caring for big cats and other wildlife demands ample financial resources and a team of dedicated professionals to look after the animals. Anything short of that, it becomes a ticking time-bomb.”

“The lack of regulation and inadequate accommodation for the protection and care of big cats is unsafe for both the animals and the community,” said Paul Todd, IFAW DC Office Campaigns Manager. “It creates an atmosphere that is ripe for another Zanesville, and maybe with human cost as well.”

Earlier this month, five surviving animals from the tragedy in Zanesville were returned to Marian Thompson, whose husband released dozens of exotic animals before committing suicide last fall. State authorities expressed concern that the animals, including two leopards and a bear, would be placed in the same unrepaired cages.

Experts estimate that there are at least twice as many tigers living in captivity in the U.S. than exist in the wild today. Some 5,000 to 10,000 tigers live in captivity in the U.S., but as few as 3,000 tigers remain in the wild.  In the past 21 years, U.S. incidents involving captive big cats have resulted in the deaths of 21 humans, 246 maulings, 254 escapes, 143 big cat deaths and 131 confiscations.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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