Sunday, August 17, 2008

20 lions and tigers go from Wesa to G.W. Exotics

Exotic animal facility ships big cats to new home
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Aug. 17 2008
WARREN COUNTY — As she watched animals she had raised being loaded onto a truck
headed to Oklahoma, Sandra Smith didn't know whether to cry or smile.

Smith, along with her husband, Ken, is the co-founder of Wesa-A-Geh-Ya, an
exotic animal facility near Warrenton. Amidst ongoing allegations of neglect
and after a tiger attack Aug. 3, the Smiths decided to close their facility and
relocate their animals.

On Saturday, about 20 lions and tigers, two wolves, a mountain lion, a bear and
a leopard departed for the G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Okla.

Smith found it difficult to watch 20 years of her life be packed into an
18-wheeler.

"We're losing our life out here," Smith said. "I don't know how to explain how
I feel."

The Smiths still have about 20 tigers and a handful of dogs to relocate, and
they hope to do that in the next month.

Joe Schreibvogel, the owner of the G.W. park said he is looking to help Wesa
place the rest of its animals. Four of the big cats are headed to Carnivore
Preservation Trust in North Carolina. The future of the others is up in their
air, and Schreibvogel said he might have to make another trip here in case no
one else can take in the tigers.

Schreibvogel said his park has more than 170 big cats and 1,400 animals on 16
acres. He said Wesa had nice cages and their animals were healthy for the most
part.

The animals' new home, though, will be an upgrade. Schreibvogel said his park
is licensed by the U.S. Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture and Oklahoma.

Wesa is no longer licensed on the federal level — the facility surrendered its
USDA license in 2003.

"There is no comparison," Schreibvogel said. "And that's just being honest. I
don't want to down anybody for their efforts."

Smith didn't deny her animals were going to a better home. She said Wesa wanted
to create a better living environment for its animals, but the Smiths were
unable to because of financial issues and pressure from animal rights groups
and local citizens.

"Where they're going to now is heaven," Smith said. "It's what I bought this 17
acres for. I couldn't do it."

Wesa was open to the public until 2003 when it forfeited its USDA license. Both
Ken and Sandra Smith were on probation for various violations, such as the
failure to register some animals and the failure to keep cages properly
locked.

On Aug. 3, a 26-year-old man helping clean out cages was attacked by a tiger.
Jacob Barr is recovering at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and is in fair condition
after having his right leg amputated.

Lisa Wathne, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,
doesn't think the animals will be any better off at the G.W. park. She said the
fact that G.W. breeds and shows its animals is reason for concern, although
Schreibvogel said it won't affect how the animals are treated.

"A USDA license is doing nothing to protect the animals at that park," Wathne
said. "With all the animals at Wesa have been through, the sad fact of the
matter is there's no better place for them to go."

jwilson@post-dispatch.com | 636-255-7211

http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/stlouiscitycounty/story/774E3DFC42BF2B7F862574A8000CEC67?OpenDocument

--
For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=9952801&type=CU

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