Wesa-A-Geh-Ya is no sanctuary and had no good intentions toward the animals prior to this tragedy. Like PeTA, we had offered to spay and neuter animals there and at many other pseudo sanctuaries, who claim they just can't help having baby tigers all the time. It is a lie. The babies bring in donations and volunteers who want to pet them. The US Fish & Wildlife service specifically states that accredited sanctuaries do NOT breed. As someone who has been involved with saving big cats for the past twenty years, I can assure you that there are no legitimate breeding and release programs for big cats and never will be because there isn't habitat for them to survive and raising and releasing captive born cats isn't possible without tremendous danger to the public.
Wasn't this facility part of Operation Snow Plow? Tim Santel, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's law enforcement office in Springfield, Ill., was named Officer of the Year in 2004 for his lengthy undercover investigation of the illegal killing of endangered species, specifically tigers, leopards, snow leopards and the commercialization of their meat, hides and other body parts. The investigation, dubbed "Operation Snow Plow," lasted more than six years, covered more than six states and resulted in the conviction of all 17 defendants (16 individuals and one business) charged with violating several federal wildlife protection laws. Combined, the defendants' sentences have resulted in 80 months in federal prison, 52 months home detention, 2,200 hours of community service, $75,000 in fines and $226,000 in restitution to the Fish and Wildlife Federation's Save the Tiger Fund. One of the convictions was that of a well-known "sanctuary" in MO that was selling their "rescued" lions to be served in restaurants.
The questions I would really like to see exposed are the following:
Why is is that "sanctuaries" and those who profess to "love" the big cats are so violently opposed to legislation that would end the private trade in them as pets and collectibles? My goal is that places like Big Cat Rescue no longer need to exist and my path to that goal is by asking for legislation that bans the breeding, sale, trade and collecting of these great cats. As a result, I may be the most hated person in the big cat "industry" and yet most of the people who spend so much time trying to discredit me with their lies and insinuations claim to be in the rescue and sanctuary business. Why isn't ending the abuse the most important goal of those who claim to be saving big cats from abuse?
Why are big cats being born in sanctuaries when there isn't enough sanctuary space for all of the unwanted big cats?
Why is contact with big cats allowed when a bill in Congress has died last year and stalled this year that would prevent it? (HR 1947 Haley's Act)
Where do all of the babies from last year go? When you look around at all of the places who advertise baby lions and tigers, where do they all go for the next 20 years?
It costs Big Cat Rescue between $5,000 and $7,500 per year to provide proper care for a big cat. Multiply that by the number of big cats in these pseudo sanctuaries and roadside zoos and then compare it to their annual budgets.
Lack of accountability. Most of these places hide behind their USDA licenses as if it were a badge of honor, but if you visit the abusers page on www.911AnimalAbuse.com you will see a repeating pattern of facilities having USDA violations reported year after year, for six years in some cases, before the USDA takes action. Meanwhile the USDA keeps renewing their licenses. Why does USDA renew licenses each year of facilities that have failed to meet even the more minimal of standards? To give you an idea of how low the standards are, the size of cage for a tiger only has to be big enough for the cat to stand up and turn around.
What does it cost the tax payer? When less than 1/10th of one percent of the public owns exotic animals, why do tax dollars fund entire governmental departments to regulate an industry that is unneeded and inhumane? What are the actual costs to tax payers for all of the reporting, licensing, enforcement and the clean up costs after these places allow escapes or they go belly up?
62% of the people polled say that seeing big cats in cages has done nothing to cause them to donate to conservation in the wild. Almost all of the places that use big cats for income will cite that noble cause as their excuse, and yet how much of the money they raise is actually put to work in saving the habitats?
The tiger is the best example of how this doesn't ring true. No big cat is more commonly kept in zoos and back yard menageries and yet with less than 4,000 left in the wild and one being poached per day, it is obvious that this great cat will disappear in the next few years. All of the cats who were born in cages for the last hundred years did nothing to stop the onslaught. I believe that the practice of keeping cats in cages has actually led to their demise in the wild. If you can have the convenience of driving a few miles to see a tiger in a cage, then why protect them half a world away where you may never see them?
Thanks again for continuing this discussion in the press even it if did come off as being sympathetic to people who clearly deserve no sympathy. Only a ban would have prevented this and only a ban will prevent this kind of tragedy again.
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
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Controversial farm giving up exotic animals after mauling
By KEVIN MURPHY
The Kansas City Star
Finding a good home for kittens and puppies is one thing, but how about 33 tigers, eight lions, four wolves, a bear, a cougar and a leopard?
Two Missourians reluctantly are trying to do just that and figure they have a good start: Someone is picking up 19 of the animals Saturday.
"I miss them already," Sandra Smith said Wednesday. And they, apparently, will miss her. "My animals have not talked, they have not roared, they know something is up."
Sandra and Ken Smith of rural Warrenton, Mo., are voluntarily giving up their animals in the wake of a tiger's mauling of a volunteer Aug. 3 that required a partial leg amputation.
The Smiths keep the animals caged on their farm, but have heard complaints from a neighbor, the county and animal-rights groups. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has investigated the farm for various violations.
"For nine years, I have fought them," Sandra Smith said. "I bought 17 acres 22 years ago, and my dream was to turn 17 acres into a park for my animals so the tigers could have their little ponds and lilies and the lions could have their trees, etc."
The Smiths formerly exhibited the animals publicly, but gave up their federal license in 2003 after authorities got complaints about how the animals were fenced and kept. But the Smiths hung on to the animals and have spent all their money and time to keep them healthy and safe, Sandra Smith said
On Saturday, a truck will pick up the eight lions, the four wolves, four tigers, the bear, the cougar and the leopard. They will go to a sanctuary in Oklahoma, Smith said. She hopes to have the remaining tigers placed by the end of the month.
The Smiths will have a news conference Saturday morning before the animals are picked up. Sandra Smith said she was upset with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal-rights group critical of the Smiths' keeping of the animals.
"I want them to step up with donations and help me find homes for the rest of the animals they said needed homes," Smith said.
Lisa Wathne, spokeswoman for Virginia-based PETA, said that there are not enough places for the animals and that donations wouldn't help.
"Euthanasia is probably the kindest option for the animals, rather than to pay for them to go from one bad situation to another," Wathne said.
Any animals that are moved should be sterilized so they cannot breed, Wathne said, and PETA would pay for that.
Smith said the mauling victim, Jacob Barr, 26, remains in the hospital. Barr is a friend of a regular volunteer at the Smiths' Wesa-A-Geh-Ya animal farm.
"I am so sorry," Smith said. "I wish it was me up at the hospital instead of him. That isn't just talk, I swear."