Saturday, February 28, 2009

HELP CAPTIVE WILDLIFE IN FLORIDA!

Big Cat Rescue receives literally hundreds of calls about big cats that need a home each year and it is really hard to turn them away. Unfortunately we can only agree to rescue a few cats each year due to lack of funds and the space required to build more enclosures. We realize that the best way to make the most impact and help as many animals as we can is to attend meetings and speak up against the private owners and people who exploit captive animals to make a living. A group of Big Cat Rescue staff and volunteers recently attended the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Captive Wildlife Workshop in Kissimmee, weds 25th Feb 2009. As you can see from the video we were really out numbered and we really need more florida residents who care about animal welfare to join us at the next meeting and speak out on behalf of the animals. If you would like to help us and the animals please take a few minutes to e-mail your comments to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: rulechanges@MyFWC.com or comments can be mailed to this address: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Attn. Capt. Linda Harrison, 620 S. Meridian Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600. The next meeting is june 17th & 18th at Crystal River, Florida. For more info please visit: MyFWC.com where an agenda will be posted closer to the dates. This is the best chance we have of getting rules changed regarding captive wild animals and it would be great to see more people there who really care about animal welfare. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Thank you for watching and for any more information regarding the rules we are trying to change visit: http://www.bigcatrescue.org/laws/animalwelfarelaws.htm

Parish Veto: What does it mean?

We are happy that J. Mitchell Ourso vetoed the Council's ruling, but the council can still over rule his veto with a 2/3's vote.

Ourso is asking the council to change the amendment to include measures that would make the Tiger Truck Stop more safe and more humane.  There is no way to do either, but I am sure that if they do it at all, it will be some lip service language that does not really address either issue.

A couple of the councilmen were going to keep Tony there, no matter what and they cannot be swayed, but we only need 5 councilmen to vote against overruling the veto.  There was one, Ed Reeves who voted against keeping Tony at the Truck Stop so we need to convince 4 more. 

The objections made by the ones who spoke up were that no "tiger experts" had presented evidence that the situation was dangerous to people or the animal.  They said that there was no written documentation by USDA of the violations, other than what is posted online. 

What we need to do now, is thank those who are helping Tony below and find "tiger experts" they might respect, such as vets, zoo vets, zoo curators, animal behaviorists, weather experts in the area of hurricane force winds and what that can do to a chain link cage, the surgeon general on the consequences of breathing gas fumes, etc.  If you can secure letters from such people, please copy me at SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com or fax them to me at 813.885.4457 or mail them to me at Carole Baskin 12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625 as soon as possible so we can put together a compelling case for the councilmen who may be on the fence.

We owe a huge thanks to J.Mitchell Ourso (Parish President)  If anyone would care to thank him for his efforts on behalf of Tony please do so.

email: jburleigh@ibervilleparish.com

Please also send a letter of appreciation to District 5
Mr. Edwin M. Reeves, Jr. 58680 St. Clement Street
Plaquemine, LA 70764

email: ereeves@awilbertsons.com

He was the ONLY one that voted to NOT amend the ordinance for Michael Sandlin.


http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/40463797.html?showAll=y&c=y

Parish leader vetoes bill to allow tiger

  • By GREG GARLAND
  • Advocate Westside bureau
  • Published: Feb 28, 2009 - Page: 2B - UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.
  • PLAQUEMINE — Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. vetoed a parish ordinance the council approved last week to allow a truck stop owner to continue keeping a tiger at his place of business.

    In his veto message, Ourso wrote that the ordinance the council passed by a vote of 11-1 was deficient because it failed to provide "for permitting conditions to ensure the safety of the general public and the health and welfare of the tiger."

    Attorneys for the parish and for Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin said in a separate joint statement on Friday that they are working to correct "deficiencies" in the ordinance and would submit a revised version for the council's approval.

    Ourso, Sandlin and the attorneys involved in the dispute declined to comment beyond what was in the written veto message and in the statement by the attorneys.

    Ourso had warned council members last week that he would veto the ordinance unless Sandlin agreed to improve conditions under which the 550-pound, Siberian-Bengal tiger is being kept.

    The tiger, named Tony, has been at the Grosse Tete truck stop since it was a cub, on display as a roadside attraction in a barred cage with a concrete floor.

    Animal welfare advocates have complained for years that the environment is unsuitable and unhealthy for the tiger. Sandlin has said he provides proper care for the tigers he has kept over the years.

    Sky Williamson, an advocate who has spearheaded efforts to get Tony moved to a tiger sanctuary, said revising the ordinance does not address the basic problem.

    "The bottom line is tigers do not belong in truck stops. Period," Williamson said.

    The veto is the latest wrinkle in a long-running battle over the fate of the tiger.

    Sandlin ran into trouble after applying to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for a state permit for the tiger.

    During that process, it was discovered that was there a parish ordinance on the books, adopted in 1993, that restricts the private ownership of exotic, dangerous animals.

    The ordinance prohibits an individual from keeping any "wild, exotic, vicious animal or reptile for display or for exhibition purposes."

    In order to get a state permit, Sandlin had to persuade the Parish Council to amend the local ordinance to exempt his tiger.

    The council voted 11-1 in favor of the new ordinance, despite objections from animal welfare advocates.

    If Sandlin is granted a parish permit, he still must obtain a separate permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in order to keep the tiger.

    Sky Williamson

    www.FreeTony.com


    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Parish leader vetoes bill to allow tiger

    Parish leader vetoes bill to allow tiger

  • By GREG GARLAND
  • Advocate Westside bureau
  • Published: Feb 28, 2009 - Page: 2B - UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.
  • PLAQUEMINE — Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso Jr. vetoed a parish ordinance the council approved last week to allow a truck stop owner to continue keeping a tiger at his place of business.

    In his veto message, Ourso wrote that the ordinance the council passed by a vote of 11-1 was deficient because it failed to provide "for permitting conditions to ensure the safety of the general public and the health and welfare of the tiger."

    Attorneys for the parish and for Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin said in a separate joint statement on Friday that they are working to correct "deficiencies" in the ordinance and would submit a revised version for the council's approval.

    Ourso, Sandlin and the attorneys involved in the dispute declined to comment beyond what was in the written veto message and in the statement by the attorneys.

    Ourso had warned council members last week that he would veto the ordinance unless Sandlin agreed to improve conditions under which the 550-pound, Siberian-Bengal tiger is being kept.

    The tiger, named Tony, has been at the Grosse Tete truck stop since it was a cub, on display as a roadside attraction in a barred cage with a concrete floor.

    Animal welfare advocates have complained for years that the environment is unsuitable and unhealthy for the tiger. Sandlin has said he provides proper care for the tigers he has kept over the years.

    Sky Williamson, an advocate who has spearheaded efforts to get Tony moved to a tiger sanctuary, said revising the ordinance does not address the basic problem.

    "The bottom line is tigers do not belong in truck stops. Period," Williamson said.

    The veto is the latest wrinkle in a long-running battle over the fate of the tiger.

    Sandlin ran into trouble after applying to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for a state permit for the tiger.

    During that process, it was discovered that was there a parish ordinance on the books, adopted in 1993, that restricts the private ownership of exotic, dangerous animals.

    The ordinance prohibits an individual from keeping any "wild, exotic, vicious animal or reptile for display or for exhibition purposes."

    In order to get a state permit, Sandlin had to persuade the Parish Council to amend the local ordinance to exempt his tiger.

    The council voted 11-1 in favor of the new ordinance, despite objections from animal welfare advocates.

    If Sandlin is granted a parish permit, he still must obtain a separate permit from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in order to keep the tiger.

    http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/40463797.html?showAll=y&c=y

    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Friday, February 27, 2009

    You can comment on woman applying for pet cougar license in Montana

    You can comment to Warden Todd Anderson here: http://fwp.mt.gov/doingBusiness/contactUs/direct.aspx?id=5483598

    Carole's letter:

    re: Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks taking public comment on the request by Erika Phillips to have a pet cougar.

    Studying a captive cougar will tell you nothing about wild cougar behavior.  This is obviously a ploy to convince you to let Erika Phillips have a pet cougar. If she really wants to study wild cats there are sanctuaries full of them all over the country after people like her get tired of taking care of them.

    You can tell plenty about the people who want to own wild animals at http://www.911animalabuse.com/00abusers/exoticownerprofile.htm

    The following is a partial listing (581) of incidents in the U.S. involving captive exotic cats since 1990. The U.S. incidents have resulted in the deaths of 21 humans, 16 adults and 5 children, the additional mauling of 191 more adults and children, 170 escapes, the killing of 92 big cats, and 122 confiscations.  These figures only represent the headlines that Big Cat Rescue has been able to track.  Because there is no reporting agency that keeps such records the actual numbers are certainly much higher.  http://www.bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm

    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

    February 26, 2009

    Woman hopes to possess captive lion, seeks permit

    HELENA (AP) — A woman described as an "animal behaviorist" is seeking a state permit to possess a mountain lion on rural property about 30 miles south of Miles City.

    The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is taking public comment on the request by Erika Phillips. She wants to keep one mountain lion on property enclosed in a way intended to prevent escape by digging or climbing, according to the agency.

    FWP Warden Todd Anderson said it is his understanding that Phillips wants to study lion behavior. Phillips did not immediately return an Associated Press phone call Thursday. The Controversial Canine, a Web site with her biography and contact information, describes Phillips as an "international animal behaviorist and natural health practitioner" who has bred dogs and works in many aspects of animal care.
    If she is permitted to keep a lion, it must be one bred in captivity. Possessing a wild lion is illegal.

    Anderson said the lone public comment received so far came from a person concerned about human safety. A decision on whether to issue the permit will be released sometime after the comment deadline of March 6.

    Phillips is seeking a wild animal menagerie permit, a classification that would not allow making the lion a public attraction. Fish, Wildlife and Parks also administers roadside menagerie permits, sought by people who wish to draw business by exhibiting animals.

    Phillips has proposed building an outdoor lion enclosure 60 feet by 30 feet and a wooden house 16 feet by 16 feet. With proper cleaning of the living space and proper food storage, it is unlikely wild lions would be attracted, according to an environmental assessment Anderson prepared.

    http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20090226/NEWS01/90226016/1001/NEWS

    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Public opinion: Kerr County, TX asks for input

    Public opinion: County to have hearing



    Published February 24, 2009

    The public will have its say about a revision to Kerr County's "dangerous wild animal ordinance" currently under review by county commissioners. A public hearing is set for 10 a.m. Monday, March 23, in the commissioners' courtroom at the courthouse.

    The matter arose after a pet tiger escaped from its cage Jan. 18 in Ingram.

    No one was hurt in connection with the incident, but officials agreed the situation easily could have gotten out of hand.

    Precinct 4 Commissioner Bruce Oehler, who represents the area where the tiger is housed, has expressed a desire for "an outright ban" on "certain dangerous and exotic animals."

    "It is time to change the ordinance with the population growing," he said during Monday's county commission meeting.  

    But he doesn't believe all such animals should be banned and said he is in favor of "grandfathering" those that already are in the county — as long as they are licensed, permitted and kept in proper enclosures.

    Currently, it is legal to own a "dangerous wild animal" in unincorporated areas of the county as long as the animal is registered. 

    The order passed by commissioners in 2001 requires the registration of 20 animal types, which includes tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, bobcats and others.

    State law requires "dangerous wild animals" to have a primary enclosure, such as a cage or pen, as well as perimeter fencing around the cage that restricts public access.

    Kerr County Animal Control is required by the state to inspect such enclosures each year. But according to Times' archives, director Janie Roman said her office will inspect them every other month.


    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Tonight and tomorrow are the public meetings

    Tonight and tomorrow are the public meetings on proposed changes to rules for keeping wild animals in cages in FL.  Come with us and be a voice for the animals.  If you can't come, you still have until March 13 to send a letter asking that wild animals be given better protection from abuse and exploitation.

    See proposed changes and our comments below. 

    Please ask the FWC to make these same proposed changes in bold that Big Cat Rescue has asked them to make.

    The comment period on these proposed rules closes at 5PM on March 13, 2009, and there is a public hearing on February 24, 2009, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, 1911 SW 34th Street, Gainesville, Florida. and on February 25, 2009, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at Kissimmee Civic Center, 201 E. Dakin Avenue, Kissimmee, Florida 34741  Join us there and speak up for the animals.  This sort of egregious behavior just has to stop. 

    When the cats cats can no longer be used to support their owners they are often dumped along the way;  sometimes into the hands of unwitting exotic pet owners, sometimes they are served up in restaurants and sometimes they are dumped into the wild with no survival skills.  Ending the trafficking of exotic cats in Florida will greatly reduce the number of these cats who end up suffering in all parts of the world.

    Please send your comments to:

    FL Wildlife Conservation Commission
    c/o Captain Linda Harrison
    620 S. Meridian Street 
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600
    RuleChanges@MyFWC.com
    (850) 488-6251

    Rule Changes in Florida

    Rule Changes in Florida

    Below is the summary of the rules proposed by the FWC and Big Cat Rescue's comments are in bold.  Some of these have changed since the comment period first opened up in June 2008.  You can download the latest drafts of rule changes here:  http://myfwc.com/calendar_CaptiveWildlifeWorkshop.htm


    68A-6.002 Categories of Captive Wildlife

        * Clarify that categories of wildlife includes taxonomic successors and subspecies thereof.
        * Classification changes:

        * Class I:
              o Gaur (family Bovidae)
              o Hyena and Aardwolf (family Hyaenidae)
              o Cougars, panthers (Puma concolor)
              o Cheetahs (Acinonyx jabatus) typo: jubatus
        * Class II:
              o Patas monkeys (genus Erythrocebus)
              o Vervet, Grivet or Green monkeys (genus Chlorocebus)
              o Change Bearded sakis to include all sakis (genus Chiropotes and Pithecea)
              o Change reference of specific jackal species to all jackal species (family Canidae).
              o Change reference of Gray wolves and Red wolves to all wolves (family Canidae); and delete reference to wolf x domestic hybrid percentage.
              o Include American alligator (family Alligatoridae)
              o Giraffe and Okapi (family Giraffidae)
              o Tapirs (family Tapiridae)
              o Wild cattle, forest, woodland, and arid land antelope and similar species of nonnative hoof stock of the family Bovidae.
                
                Examples include: Forest buffalo, Banteng, Anoa, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Eland, Kudu, Nilgai, Bongo, lechwe, Roan and Sable antelope, Sitatunga, Bontebok, Blesbok, Topi, Kob, Addax, Oryx, Gemsbok, and other species of the family Bovidae which are of similar size, habits and nature.

        * Delete percentage language associated with wolf x domestic hybrids.
              o Include language to address the regulation of hybrids resulting from wild x domestic animal crosses which are substantially similar in size, characteristics, and behavior so as to be essentially indistinguishable from wild animals.  This should apply to hybrid cats as well as they are being released into the wild and creating a Super Feral.
              o Such hybrids to be regulated as wildlife at the highest Class if the wild parentage. as the wild parentage
        * Provide that fox, skunks, bats, raccoons or white tail deer taken from the wild may not be possessed as personal use wildlife. add bobcats and cougars because of the rabies issue and the inability to distinguish between a native bobcat or cougar and a non native bobcat or cougar.   Most other states already protect their native wildlife this way and with the FL Panther in such peril, it only makes sense.



    68A-6.004 Standard Caging Requirements for Captive Wildlife

        * Include proposals to use open air habitats, except as provided, must be approved in writing by the Commission prior to use before housing wildlife. 
        * Add the requirement for providing devices that allow for temperature regulation in Red Panda enclosures, as is necessary to ensure the well being of this species.  Add: snow leopards, Amur tigers & Amur leopards.

    68A-6.0011 Possession of Wildlife in Captivity; Permit Requirements

        * Require USDA registered research facilities currently exempt from meeting the requirements of 68A-6, F.A.C., to maintain a detailed research proposal, annual record of progress toward research objectives and to meet cage strength requirements in 68A-6.003, F.A.C.
        * Provide that the provisions of 68A-6, F.A.C., do not apply to Bison possessed exclusively for the purpose of production of meat, skins or hides, or progeny thereof.

    68A-6.0022 Possession of Class I, II, or III Wildlife in Captivity: Permit Requirements

        * Remove brushtailed possums from the list of wildlife that may be possessed for personal use without a permit.  (Currently listed federally as an injurious species).
        * Require experience for Class I and Class II to be with the species or other species in the same genus that are substantially similar in size, characteristics, care and nutritional requirements to the species for which the permit is sought . typo of a space before the period
        * Require applicants for Class I and II to provide times experience was obtained. should include times, places and activities performed
        * Increase the hours of experience requirement with test option, as provided for Class II applicants to 500 hours. (Same as VR)
        * Modify reference requirements to allow for one of the references to be provided from a representative of a professional or governmental institution such as a University, Public Service agency, Zoological association or herpetological society.  Associations and Societies should be defined as accredited or nationally recognized and not just a little band of exotic pet owners calling themselves an association or society.
        * Provide that the experience requirements do not apply for alligators when possessed in accordance with 372.6673, F.S.
        * Provide that the experience requirements do not apply to Bovidae when possessed in accordance with 372.16 or 372.661, F.S.
        * Require corporations to have qualified personnel responsible for the care of Class I or II wildlife.
              o Personnel must meet the experience requirements provided for Class I or II wildlife. 
              o Documentation of experience for such personnel must be submitted upon initial application and any change in personnel.
        * Require a USDA license to be obtained within 180 days after initial application and maintained when Class I wildlife is possessed for exhibition or sale.
        * Clarify language for Critical Incident/Disaster Plan requirement (372.921, 372.922, and 68A-6), modify form and form date.



    68A-6.005 Transportation Requirements for Wildlife; Caging Requirements for Performing and Non-Performing Animals

        * Include language in (1) (g) that all wildlife shall be transported in a cage or enclosure appropriate for the species.  This really needs to be stated in concrete terms when transporting exotic cats.  A circus wagon may contain a tiger, but in the back of a pick up truck there is no barricade to prevent public contact.  You can eliminate some of the most abusive practices by restricting the transportation of big cats, except to and from the vet, to and from their final destination, such as in a transfer of ownership or under a previously filed circus itinerary which is open to public scrutiny in considerable advance of the event.
        * Include language that all transport cages which contain wildlife shall be labeled "Caution or Danger  – Wild Animal"

    68A-6.007 Possession, Transportation, Exhibition and Caging Venomous Reptiles and Reptiles of Concern

        * Clean up language for reptiles of concern to include their "taxonomic successors."
        * Address taxonomic split of the amthistina complex in the genus Morelia to better reflect the intent of the listing of Amethystine or scrub pythons as reptiles of concern.
              o Includes all subspecies of the genus Morelia that exceed 12' in length upon maturity.
        * Modify reference requirements to allow for one of the references to be provided from a representative of a professional or governmental institution such as a University, Public Service agency, Zoological association or herpetological society.
        * Require corporations to have qualified personnel responsible for the care of venomous reptiles.
              o Personnel must meet the experience requirements provided for venomous reptiles.
              o Documentation of experience for such personnel must be submitted upon initial application and any change in personnel.
              o Consistent with requirements for Class I and II wildlife.
        * Insert new form date for the Critical Incident/Disaster Plan form due to form modifications.

    68A-6.0041 Exceptions to Standard Caging Requirements for Captive Wildlife

        * Include Bison (when possessed for propagation purposes only) as exempt from standard caging requirements, except fencing requirements, of 68A-6.004.
        * Corrected rule reference in paragraph (4), as necessary due to previous rule changes.

    68A-6.003 Facility and Structural Caging Requirement for Class I, II and III Wildlife

        * Require cages or enclosures that use the ground as flooring to have buried concrete footers or bottom apron to further prevent escape from digging or erosion.  In 15 years we have never had a cat dig out because it just isn't their nature.   In the 700+ dangerous incidents involving exotic cats since 1990 not one of the 150+ escapes was attributed to a cat digging out.  Records from 1919 to 1989 are not as plentiful, but none of them ever mentioned a cat escaping by digging out either.  Escapes are almost always due to humans acting negligently and occasionally a big cat goes over the top or through a wall, but not underneath.  This would be a punitive measure to require concrete floors, which are broadly known to cause debilitating injury to captive cats, or to require a concrete footer or apron with no benefit occurring for the cat or the public.  This may be applicable to bears and wolves, who are known to dig, but should not apply to cages housing exotic cats of any kind. See the list of killings, maulings and escapes here: http://www.bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm




        * Insert new form date for the Critical Incident/Disaster Plan form due to form modifications.
        * Make changes to (2)(c)5. as necessary for newly proposed changes to Class I and Class II:
              o The following proposed Class I wildlife may not be possessed on property within an area zoned solely for residential use:  I have been in the real estate business for 25+ years and to my knowledge, and that of my colleagues, there is no zoning that is "solely for residential use" so that only plays to the uninformed and doesn't really restrict anything.  The most logical answer to where these animals should be housed, is the simplest:  If a Class I animal cannot be kept for personal use and must be a business or sanctuary (a non profit business), then the business or non profit business must be located on land that is either commercially zoned, or a Planned Development specifically created for such a purpose.  Grandfathering in existing cats would be acceptable as long as the cats were not replaced.
                    + Gaur (family Bovidae)
                    + Hyena and Aardwolf (family Hyaenidae)
                    + Cougars, panthers (Puma concolor)
                    + Cheetahs (Acinonyx jabatus)
        * Make changes to (2)(d) as necessary for newly proposed changes to Class II non-human primates:
              o Include all sakis as exempt from facility requirements as specified in (2)(c)1.-4.
              o Exclude Patas monkeys as exempt facility requirements as specified in (2)(c)1.-4., due to size0 range upon maturity.
        * Clarify in (2)(e) which facility requirements are being referenced when referring to the facility requirements that Class I or II are exempt from meeting.
         

    68A-6.0021 Possession or Transfer of Class I Wildlife as Personal Use Wildlife; Transfer of Wildlife and Record Keeping Requirements

        * Make change to rule title to include "Record Keeping Requirements"
        * Provides a "grandfather" clause for any Class II wildlife possessed for personal use that is up listed to Class I.
              o Any Class II wildlife that is up listed to Class I wildlife upon the effective date of Rule 68A-6.002, F.A.C., is eligible for a permit in accordance with the provisions for Class II wildlife.
        * Provide in paragraph (1) that no other class I wildlife may be "transferred" or kept for personal use.  The intent is to prevent continued acquisition of Class I for personal use by grandfathered entities.
        * Require all Class I wildlife possessed for personal use to be permanently identified by means of tattoo, brand, passive integrated transponder (PIT tag), photographic id or other method that identifies the specimen from others of the same species.
              o Specifies requirements in instances where photographic identification is used.
              o Requires owners to maintain records of identification and submit same to FWC.
              o Permanent identification requirements effective July 1, 2009.
        * Change the length of time records of sale/transfer are required to be maintained to 3 years.  Add: requirement that these transfers be submitted within 30 days to FWC where they are to be maintained and available to the public.  The FWC is never going to have the resources to research these transfers to look for trends and animals who are falling through the cracks.  It is only through public access via a transparent system that the abuses will be discovered and rectified.
        * Specify that sale/transfer records are to include: date, quantity and species, name and complete address of recipient; and license identification number where applicable.
        * Provide that record of sale/transfer are not required for that wildlife that may be possessed for personal use without a permit as specified in 68A-6.0022 (2) (a) – (v), except as otherwise required.



    68A-6.0023 General Regulations Governing Possession of Captive Wildlife; Record Keeping Requirements

        * In paragraph (2)(a) include "68A-6.007" as it pertains to requiring wildlife to be maintained in cages or enclosures constructed in compliance with the specified rules.
        * Include language that requires out door enclosures for non-native venomous reptiles or reptiles of concern to be covered as provided in rule 68A-6.007.
        * Require structural safety barriers to be present to prevent public contact with unconfined Class I or II wildlife by the public.  These barriers should be constructed of similar construction materials and/or strength as the main enclosure, because a rope is sufficient…until one day it is not.
        * Requires possessors to maintain an accurate record of all changes in inventory to include: births, deaths, acquisition and sales or transfers.
              o Records are to be kept on the licensed premises and open to inspection. Add: requirement that these records be submitted within 30 days to FWC where they are to be maintained and available to the public.  The FWC is never going to have the resources to research these transfers to look for trends and animals who are falling through the cracks.  It is only through public access via a transparent system that the abuses will be discovered and rectified.

              o Describes the information required for records of birth, death, and acquisition.
              o Requires that records of sale/transfer are to be maintained as provided in 68A-6.0021, F.A.C. Add: requirement that these records be submitted within 30 days to FWC where they are to be maintained and available to the public.  The FWC is never going to have the resources to research these transfers to look for trends and animals who are falling through the cracks.  It is only through public access via a transparent system that the abuses will be discovered and rectified.



    68A-6.0024 Commercialization of Wildlife; Public Contact; Bonding or Financial Responsibility Guarantee

        * Delete reference to "public contact" in rule title.  Language pertaining to public contact will remain in 68A-6.0023.
        * Require persons permitted in accordance with 372.921, F.S., to demonstrate consistent and sustained commercial activity as characterized by:
              o A regular media advertising campaign, or Internet Web site;
              o Signs, billboards or flyers advertising commercial wildlife services or operations;
                Regular "Open for business" hours;
              o Written business is conducted on printed letterhead, indicating the name of the company or business;
              o Documented exhibition of wildlife to the public, with or without a charge, of no less that 12 times per year; typo: than 12 times
              o Sale of wildlife including any lesser acts thereof as defined in Rule 68A-1.004, F.A.C.
        * Paragraph (1) is renumbered as (2); and paragraph (2) is renumbered as (3).



    68A-9.006 Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit

        * Delete reference to "joint" permit and update language to accurately reflect federal permit requirement when rehabilitating migratory birds.
        * Reflect correct application title and delete "incorporated by reference" to allow for standardization of agency permit applications without necessitating a rule change.
        * Update the reference of no rehabilitation permit required for rehabilitation on non-native species, to include Class III, venomous reptiles and reptiles of concern.
        * Provide that exotic or non-native wildlife may not be comingled with native wildlife possessed for rehabilitation purposes.
        * Provide that wildlife may be held no longer than 180 days before it must be released, transferred or euthanized.
        * Allow that the 180-day requirement may be extended in instances where a licensed veterinarian has certified that a longer holding period is necessary in the interest of the health and welfare of the wildlife. In all instances where the text says licensed veterinarian, it should read "a veterinarian licensed in Florida."
              o Require medical records in these instances to be maintained at the facility and made available for inspection upon request.
        * Require evaluation by an independent rehabilitator or veterinarian before physically impaired wildlife is diagnosed as unreleasable. 

    68A-6.0025 Sanctuaries; Retired Performing Wildlife and Identification (New proposed rule)  See Big Cat Rescue's full report on this issue at FWCC Sanctuary Definition to see why the FWCC's definition of a sanctuary is nothing more than a loophole for more Class I pet owners.

        * Defines captive wildlife sanctuaries as a facility established solely for the purpose of providing lifetime care for unwanted or infirmed wildlife.
        * Requires sanctuaries to be licensed per 372.921 and not for profit corporation status as described in 501 (c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code.
        * Prohibits acts which perpetuate the commercial trade in captive wildlife including the trade, sale, offering for trade or sale, breeding, or buying of captive wildlife or parts thereof.   One way that pseudo sanctuaries perpetuate the commercial trade in captive wildlife is by providing a dumping ground for those who breed, use and discard.  In many cases pseudo sanctuaries are opposing regulation that ends the trade in exotic animals because if there were no animals to rescue, there would be no need for them to exist.  Legitimate sanctuaries will contract with those disposing of wildlife to have them surrender their licenses and/or agree to stop breeding, selling, buying and trading.  Big Cat Rescue's goal is that one day soon there will no longer be a trade in exotic cats and thus no need of rescue facilities.
        * Prohibits full or incidental contact as defined in Rule 68A-6.0023 (3)(a)2.- 3., F.A.C., between the public and such wildlife.
        * Requires permanent identification, recordkeeping of such identification and submission of such identification records to FWC.
        * Allows persons licensed per 372.921, F.S., to maintain performing wildlife which due to age or physical condition may no longer perform, for the purposes of providing lifetime care.
              o Requires permanent identification, recordkeeping and submission of such records as required for wildlife maintained by a captive wildlife sanctuary.

    68A-6.0071 Record Keeping and Reporting Requirements.

        * The Captive Wildlife Inventory-Reptile form, FWCDLE_620IV-R (12-06), will be reviewed to determine if modifications are necessary.  Should modifications be made the date (12-06) will be changed to reflect the modified date.
        * No additional changes are anticipated for this rule.

    See the entire language of the proposed rules here: http://myfwc.com/captive/CaptiveChanges_08.htm

    The public comment workshops were June 9-13 with only a dozen or so attendees at each meeting.

    These are issues that Big Cat Rescue believes should be included in this rule making period but are not in bold so that it is easier to read:

    Contact was addressed, but not sufficiently.  It goes without saying that the public should not be allowed contact with Class I animals, but allowing contact with Class I cats under 25 pounds just creates a tremendous demand for babies that are being discarded or killed when they exceed the weight limit.  There is absolutely no reason to encourage this unconscionable practice and ending it would largely end the trafficking in big cats.  A federal bill, Haley's Act HR 1947 is expected to pass this year that bans public contact with big cats and their babies and Florida shouldn't be drafting rules that will conflict with federal law.  Florida's Congresswoman, Kathy Castor and Congressman Vern Buchanan are co-sponsors of Haley's Act and when similar bills have passed in Congress they have been unanimous.   This is the most important rule change that the FWC can implement to stop the abuse that is the subject of so many of the complaints by both Floridians and visitors.  Find out more about big cats bred in Florida who are used, abused and discarded at Dying To Be Held.

    All exotic cats should be re-classified as Class I due to their ability to inflict severe injury and the potential for environmental damage should they be released into US eco systems, where only bobcats, cougars and the occasional jaguar are known to live. 

    Definition of "the public."  Too many places charge a fee for people to be a volunteer for a day so that they can circumvent the prohibitions on coming into close contact with Class I wildlife.  The way we deal with that at Big Cat Rescue is to require minimum hours per week, to be logged into a computerized data system.  A person has to consistently log 8 hours volunteer time per week and have been a volunteer for 18 months (and a whole lot of classes, training, etc.) before they are allowed to be anywhere near a Class I cat and even then are not allowed any direct contact. 

    One of the issues that came out in public workshops on the Sanctuary issue was that it is ridiculous to allow an entity to call themselves both a sanctuary and a breeder/dealer by holding one of each license, regardless of the closeness of proximity between one operation and the other.  You are either a sanctuary, which is a place that rescues animals from exploitation or you are exploiting them.  It's that simple.  Having the FWC bless an operation with their interpretation of the term "sanctuary" when the underlying entities in charge are, at the same time adding to the problem serves only to help mislead the public.  Using the requirements set out at www.SanctuaryStandards.com would truly set sanctuaries apart from zoos, breeders, dealers, circuses and such.

    Last, but again one of the most important rule changes the FWC can make is to allow cities, counties and municipalities to enact their own, MORE RESTRICTIVE measures to protect their citizens and to improve their image in the public eye as being forward thinking when it comes to protecting animals from the abuses associated with breeding and keeping wild animals in cages.  


     
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Saturday, February 21, 2009

    FEb 24 and 25th Your Big Cat Voice is Needed in FL

    Pick the meeting area closest to you and PLEASE ATTEND:

    DATE AND TIME: February 24, 2009, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. PLACE: Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry, 1911 SW 34th Street, Gainesville, Florida.

    DATE AND TIME: February 25, 2009, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. PLACE: Kissimmee Civic Center, 201 E. Dakin Avenue, Kissimmee, Florida 34741

    Meeting Agenda

    Captive Wildlife Workshop Agenda

    Rule drafts

    Public comment

    Comments may be emailed to rulechanges@MyFWC.com. As an alternative, comments may be mailed to:

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
    Attn. Capt. Linda Harrison
    620 S. Meridian Street
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-1600

    Previously submitted comments on these draft rules have been recorded and need not be re-submitted.

    Deadline for submitting written comments will be 5:00 p.m. on March 13, 2009.

     




    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Tony Hearing Feb 17

    I am sad to report that the council voted tonight to amend the parish ordinance and grandfather Tony in.  However, after the vote was taken, the Parish President, J. Mitchell Ourso, stood up and gave his comments.  He stated that he is adamantly against the tiger remaining at the truck stop – that no animal should be treated poorly and live in inhumane conditions.  He further said that he will meet with Michael Sandlin (owner) and present habitat improvements that must be made within 30-45 days.  He will meet with Sandlin in the next 10 days at which time if his conditions are not agreed to he will veto the council's vote.  As we all know, the council can then come back and with a 2/3 vote overturn the veto.  Mr. Ourso has met with veterinarians, biologists, LSU, etc. about the treatment and conditions of exotic cats and reiterated that the truck stop does not come close.  If Sandlin is finally issued a license by Iberville Parish, he must then obtain the required permit from Wildlife and Fisheries.  That begins another process.

    It is not over yet.  The council is agreeing to grandfather an animal that was not even born when the ordinance was passed.  You may ask how can that be possible? There are many technicalities that could further impact this case and will be pursued.  More updates to come later.

    We owe a huge thanks to J.Mitchell Ourso (Parish President) which we expressed to him tonight.  If anyone would care to thank him for his efforts on behalf of Tony please do so. 

    email: jburleigh@ibervilleparish.com

    Please also send a letter of appreciation to District 5
    Mr. Edwin M. Reeves, Jr
    . 58680 St. Clement Street
    Plaquemine, LA  70764

    He was the ONLY one that voted to NOT amend the ordinance for Michael Sandlin....

    email: ereeves@awilbertsons.com

    Sky Williamson


    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Trouble over truck-stop tiger on LA Times site

    Trouble over truck-stop tiger, fishermen take steps to protect seabirds, monkeys have morals?

    1:59 PM, February 16, 2009

     We claw the Web so you don't have to.  Today, moral monkeys, the fight over a truck-stop tiger, and environmentalists and residents at odds over the woodpeckers that are making a mess of things in the Bay Area:

    • Residents of the gated retirement community of Rossmoor (within the city of Walnut Creek and about 20 miles from San Francisco) are at odds with the community's other residents: woodpeckers.  The birds peck holes in window frames and decorative trim made from Styrofoam and covered by a thin layer of stucco.  Several homeowners' associations, after attempts to discourage the birds (including flapping Mylar balloons, chemical deterrents and a wooden owl) failed, have decided to shoot them instead.  Enter Audubon California, which argues that the best solution is not killing the birds but rather building wooden "granaries" where the birds can store acorns. The group offered to help the homeowners' associations build them.  (One homeowners' group took them up on the offer; another voted to continue killing the birds instead.) L.A. Times
    • New research suggests that monkeys and apes have the ability to tell right from wrong and a basic sense of morality.  The findings, presented in papers at last weekend's annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), suggest that "there is enough evidence for the following of social rules to agree that some of the stepping stones towards human morality can be found in other animals," according to Emory University professor of psychology Frans de Waal.  De Waal and his colleagues rewarded monkeys with food or affection in return for completing simple tasks -- but some monkeys got a higher payoff than others.  Unlike the results of a recent, similar study involving dogs, the monkeys objected to being rewarded unfairly and often refused to participate further when they perceived their reward was less than that received by another monkey.  Another element of the research showed that chimpanzees exhibited altruism; they were willing to help other chimps and humans without any apparent reward for doing so.  De Waal believes such research shows that morality evolved through natural selection.  Times U.K.
    • The fight over a Louisiana truck stop's caged tiger display will go to the Iberville Parish Council on Tuesday.  The council is set to decide whether Michael Sandlin -- who owns both the "Tiger Truck Stop" and its Siberian-Bengal tiger resident, Tony -- is violating a local ordinance by displaying the big cat.  Animal activists will be in attendance at the council meeting as well and will argue that Tony is being kept in an inhumane environment.  "Tony's in a cage, continuously inhaling diesel fumes, sloshing around in his own waste. ... It's sickening," said Sky Williamson, who's been vocal in her opposition of Sandlin's truck stop since 2005.  Williamson has joined forces with Big Cat Rescue, which maintains the Tampa, Fla., wildlife preserve where she hopes Tony will be "retired."  But Sandlin wants none of it.  "Hell will freeze over before Tony goes there," he said.  Fox News
    • The Fishing Vessel Owners' Assn., which represents West Coast-based long-line fishermen, has instructed its members to use "streamer lines" in an effort to minimize the accidental killing of seabirds.  Birds, such as the endangered black-footed albatross, are known to dive after the fishermen's bait and can drown in the process.  Streamer lines -- polyester rope with dangling colored streamers -- create a "fence" that prevents the birds from diving after the bait.  Greenspace

    -- Lindsay Barnett

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2009/02/woodpecker-ross.html

    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Grosse Tete tiger draws international attention

    Grosse Tete tiger draws international attention


    TIGER PIC
    By CRYSTAL CORKERN
    OBLIVIOUS TO DEBATE...Tony, the Bengal tiger who is a roadside attraction at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, takes a nap as the debate about his future draws national and international attention on a petition website. The Iberville Parish Council will hold a public hearing on the tiger issue at 6 p.m. Tuesday on the second floor of the Courthouse
    By Deidre Cruse
    Post South

    Story Tools: Email This Email This Print This Print This
    Village of Grosse Tete, La. -

    From Bulgaria to Bangladesh, from Israel to India, from South Africa to Singapore and Turkey to Texas, people from around the world are joining the debate on whether Tony the Tiger should stay at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete (population 626) or be sent to an animal sanctuary.

    Representatives of either side of the debate will have 10 minutes apiece to argue their cases for and against a proposed ordinance intended to allow Tony to stay at the truck stop. A public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Iberville Parish Council chambers on the second floor of the Courthouse.

    The last time the Parish Council held a hearing on the issue, independent animal rights activist Sky Williamson and Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin cited petitions with about the same number of signatures. Williamson and Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue, said that is no longer the case, and that a reference to both sides having similar support was wrong.

    A check Monday of on-line petitions showed Williamson had collected more than 2,600 names from around the country and across the globe in support of moving the Bengal tiger to a sanctuary, while a "Keep Tony Home – Save hand-raised tiger from wild" petition had 379 names.
    Baskin said her organization's supporters have generated nearly 14,000 letters complaining of conditions at the truck stop and asking for the tiger to be sent Big Cat Rescue.

    An Iberville Parish ordinance prohibits people from keeping wild animals in the parish. Sandlin's attorney, Joseph Dupont Jr., proposed an amendment that would make an exception for Tony the Tiger to remain at the truck stop for his lifetime, after which he could not be replaced.

    Questions remain about whether the parish ordinance applies within the incorporated Village of Grosse Tete, which has no local ordinance on the subject. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, however, cited lack of compliance with the parish law as the reason it rejected Sandlin's application for a permit to keep the tiger. Sandlin sued Wildlife and Fisheries over the issue.

    The Parish Council became involved in December, when Williamson asked councilmen to enforce the ordinance.

    For now, the issue is playing out in cyberspace:

    "All animals deserve to live in a space that is appropriate to them," a Texas man wrote on Williamson's site. "A cage on the side of the road is not an appropriate [place] for a tiger. I urge you to let Tony live in a sanctuary in peace."

    "Common sense dictates that an animal that has never been on his own in the wild should not be taken from the life he knows and the ones who hand-raised him," a Pennsylvania resident wrote on "Keep Tony at Home."

    "I get mad every time I drive by," a Louisiana resident wrote to Williamson.

    "Isn't animal cruelty illegal? You would never see something like this in Canada," a Canadian wrote.

    "Stop interfering in other people's business," a Louisiana woman wrote in support of Sandlin. "The tigers at the truck stop have always looked well cared for. Find a real purpose in life instead of trying to make other people miserable!"

    "I know from personal experience that Tony is well cared for," Rosedale Mayor Lawrence Badeaux wrote.

    Williamson's petition is available at the petitionsite.com/1/tony-at-tiger-truck-stop, and the one support Sandlin is at the petitionsite.com/1/Keep-Tony-At-Home.
     

    http://www.postsouth.com/news/x188766546/Grosse-Tete-tiger-draws-international-attention



    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Claws Come Out in Fight Over Tony the Truck-Stop Tiger

    Claws Come Out in Fight Over Tony the Truck-Stop Tiger

    Saturday, February 14, 2009
    By Allison Pataki

    A gr-r-r-reat cat fight is brewing at a truck stop in Louisiana, where animal rights advocates are fighting to have Tony, a Siberian-Bengal tiger, seized from his owner and taken to a wildlife preserve.

    So far, this battle has seen death threats against activists, charges of animal abuse against the tiger's owner, dueling Web sites and near run-ins with the law. It's so downright dirty that the 800-pound jungle cat at the center of the controversy looks like the tamest personality involved.

    Click here for photos of Tony the Tiger.

    On Tuesday, the Iberville Parish Council will meet to decide whether Tony's owner, Michael Sandlin, who has owned Tony since he was a cub, has been violating a local ordinance by publicly displaying the tiger at his Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, La.

    The ordinance blocks the state Wildlife and Fishery Department from granting Sandlin a permit to own Tony.

    Sandlin's attorney will ask the council to make an exception for him and override the ordinance. But animal rights activists also will be at the council meeting to push their "Free Tony" campaign and argue that the local law should be upheld.

    If past council meetings are any indicator, both sides will be baring their teeth and showing their claws. At their last meeting, in January, police had to be summoned to keep both sides from coming to blows.

    As they await the meeting, the two sides are waging a public opinion war, mostly through their Web sites — freetony.com on one side and savetony.com on the other. They are urging local citizens to attend the parish council meeting, contact members of the council and even write to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

    With a large crowd expected to show up on Tuesday, officials are bracing for the worst.

    There has been bad blood for years between the animal rights advocates and Sandlin. Activist Sky Williamson first launched a campaign against Sandlin's truck stop in 2005, when she saw an advertisement for "Live Tigers" off Interstate 10. She recalls driving to the truck stop and finding Tony in a concrete cage off of the parking lot.

    Photo Essays

    "I could not believe what I was seeing," she said. "It's animal cruelty on display.... This is not an acceptable situation."

    Williamson, who says she has received death threats since taking up Tony's cause, described what she called an inhumane living situation. "Tony's in a cage, continuously inhaling diesel fumes, sloshing around in his own waste. ... It's sickening."

    But Sandlin is not rolling over. He cited the 21-year history of the Tiger Truck Stop and said, "We've never had any incidents, no escapes, no injuries" — either to visitors or to the animals. He says it is the animal rights advocates who are guilty of animal cruelty, claiming he has found them crowding Tony's cage and flashing lights in his face in an attempt to snap a photo of the tiger in distress.

    Sandlin says he is fighting overzealous activists who are spreading what he calls "propaganda" and infringing on his individual liberties.

    "Yes, there need to be laws that protect the animal and the public," he said. "We are not against that; what we are against are legislators who cave in to these animal rights activists and take the rights away from individuals."

    Sandlin's opponents say that the public is turning against him. Williamson has teamed up with a nonprofit group called Big Cat Rescue, and together they've made it their mission to relocate Tony, who they insist is being exploited.

    "If you love something," Williamson said, "you take care of it. Michael Sandlin should have a better understanding of what's needed and what means quality of life.

    "He doesn't care. Tony's a piece of property."

    But Sandlin insists that Tony is much more than just a boon to business; he's a member of the family.

    "He's a pet," Sandlin says. "And at the truck stop, Tony's with the only family he has ever known."

    Sandlin has displayed five tigers since the Tiger Truck Stop opened in 1988 — "Our tigers before Tony, and now Tony, are what have made this truck stop famous," he said — and Tony, born in 2000, is the last one left. Sandlin was forced to turn over two other tigers in 2003.

    And if activists have their way, the same will happen for Tony. Carole Baskin, CEO of the Big Cat Rescue wildlife preserve in Tampa, Fla., has extended repeated offers to Sandlin over the years to move Tony to her facility.

    "Our care is absolutely the best, we provide the best food, we have the best employees, and we're an accredited preserve," Baskin says.

    Williamson insists that the sprawling sanctuary, home to more than 100 big cats, would be better suited for Tony. "It would be the life of peace that Tony deserves."

    Sandlin countered by saying the preserve was infested with fleas. "Hell will freeze over before Tony goes there," he says.

    Whatever the council decides on Tuesday, both sides vow to continue fighting. This case may end up having nine lives.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,493012,00.html

    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

    This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be
    confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended
    only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby
    notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of
    the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The
    recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of
    viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused
    by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.




    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Hell will freeze over before Big Cat Rescue gets him.

    Cat Fight
    With mounting pressure from both the state and national animal rights groups, Tiger Truck Stop owner Michael Sandlin is more determined than ever to keep his roadside live tiger attraction.
    By Nathan Stubbs   
    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    20090204-cover-0101.jpg
    Joe Fallas stares through the lens of his Nikon D90 camera, waiting for his subject, Tony, to strike a good pose. "C'mon," Fallas hollers, "Look up." An 8-year-old 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger caged behind a double layer of fence, Tony doesn't appear to be in the mood.

    Tony continues pacing back and forth on the concrete floor. Fallas lowers his camera, looks down into the camera's LCD screen and scrolls through the pictures he's taken, grinning. "I just bought this camera," he says. "The pictures are amazing."

    Dressed in jeans, T-shirt and tennis shoes, Fallas, a sign manufacturer from Houston, made it a point to pull into the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete on his way across the state, a good place, he says, to take a break from driving and test out his new camera.

    It's a cool Thursday afternoon, and Fallas has the sun at his back. As the breeze picks up, so does the American flag waving in the background and the smell of diesel fumes from the gas tanks some 30 yards away.

    Tony moves over to the side of his enclosure, and Fallas, beginning to look a little impatient, follows around the corner. Just then Tony jumps up on the wooden kennel, built for him to sleep in, inside the cage. He walks up to the corner and stretches out his neck, ears perked,  his mouth open slightly to flash his fangs, posing.

    "Here we go," Fallas says, clicking away on his Nikon.

    For the past 21 years, Tiger Truck Stop has been more than just a place to refuel between Lafayette and Baton Rouge; it's a roadside attraction. At one point, in the mid-90s, the tiger exhibit here held six live tigers. Regular customers can also remember when the gas station used to keep baby tiger cubs in its convenience store, allowing patrons to pet the cats and take pictures with them, for a small fee.

    That Tiger Truck Stop enlisted the largest of the jungle's great cats as its live mascot and put it on convenient display for the tens of thousands of daily I-10 commuters has made the pit stop a favorite of some travelers. This sideshow has also made Tiger Truck Stop the scourge of the animal rights community. According to animal rights' activists, Tony's relatively small enclosure (approximately 700 square feet) the constant gas fumes in the air, and poor treatment from the gas station's untrained employees amount to nothing short of animal abuse.

    20090204-cover-0102.jpg
     Michael Sandlin in front of his tiger exhibit
     Photo by Robin May
     
    Michael Sandlin, on the other hand, says animal rights activists are out to infringe on his personal freedoms. At times he has likened the issue to gun control zealots intent on taking away people's right to own firearms. And he could care less that the fringe group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has placed him on its Top 10 offenders list. "Right up there with Burger King," Michael says, "and people who eat hamburger meat."

    At roughly 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, Michael Sandlin is an imposing figure. He wears a bushy beard and often a flat, skeptical stare on his face, occasionally flashing a wide Cheshire cat grin. But mostly he comes off as genuine and soft-hearted. Sitting at one of the booths inside his Tiger Restaurant, he leans forward, hands clasped in front of him. Speaking with a slight lisp, his east Texas accent is less pronounced than his older brother and former business partner, Wendel Jr.

    "We feel like if the person is morally and financially capable of caring for an animal such as a tiger or a leopard that they should have the right to do so," Michael says. "It doesn't mean that they can chain a tiger up in their back yard down in the Bayou Blue subdivision. But if they have a place, might be a ranch or some nice enclosure and [the animal] would be their pet and so forth, then we think they should have a right to own that animal. So we're for private ownership."

    Michael isn't shy about recounting how he has raised several tigers, born at this truck stop, from a young age. "I've taken cubs home. I'd get a kiddie pool out and set the pool, and they'd come jump in and out with me. I'd go run around in the front yard, and they'd follow me like mama, wherever I go you know."

    Michael would even go so far as to bottle feed the cubs and take a rag and wipe their behinds, emulating a mother's licking, to make them go to the bathroom. "Since you take them away from mama at about 3 weeks old, then you have to be mama and do all of that stuff," he says.

    The Sandlin brothers and their father at one time owned nine Tiger Truck Stops throughout Texas, along with one in Arizona. Back in the 1980s, several of those stations exhibited live tigers. It was a bit of a family tradition.

    "We've always had a love for the big cats," Wendel Jr. says. "Everything about them that was unique, beautiful, we've always had the desire for them."

    The infatuation is readily apparent. A decal of a white tiger face adorns the back of Michael's truck. A painted mural of a bayou scene with a tiger, done in Tony's likeness, is one of the first images visitors see upon driving up to the tiger exhibit.

    On the Web site, tigertruckstop.com, there is an image of Michael, lying back on his black leather couch, shirtless, underneath a blanket with two Tiger cubs cuddled up next to him. The caption reads: "Michael Sandlin and two very sleepy cubs. (Sorry folks, this is as racy as it gets… lol!)" On the Web, Tiger Truck Stop also uses the advertising slogans: "The only live tigers on I-10!" and "Anybody cancome to Louisiana and see an alligator! You can tell your friends you saw a tiger!"

    20090204-cover-0103.jpg
     Wendel Sandlin Jr., Michael Sandlin's older brother, helped launch the Tiger Truck Stop chain in Texas.
      Photo by Robin May
     
    If you ask the Sandlins, the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete is the last of its kind because all the other locations were sold off, mainly for financial reasons. According to animal rights groups, the Sandlins' truck stops were practically run out of Texas, for a series of permit violations and other legal complications with their live tiger exhibits.

    The Sandlins are clearly swimming against the tide. Increasingly, state and federal agencies have been tightening regulations on wild animal ownership and breeding, designed to cut back on the disturbing number of exotic cats bred and sold on the black market and later found abandoned or unwanted.

    "We're not trying to disobey the law," Michael explains. "We're not against regulations. There needs to be regulations to protect the tigers, and there needs to be laws to protect people from dangerous animals and we understand that. We recognize that. We're not against regulating those things. But we are against the rights of people to own those animals being taken away from them. That's the difference."

    Now Michael is in danger of losing Tony, his last tiger, as Louisiana has ramped up its own exotic animal ownership restrictions. "The state's tied my hands," Michael laments. "The laws have made it where I can't ever breed again. The state law is I'm grandfathered in but just on Tony. Once he's gone, it's over. I'm not giving him up without a fight."

    As directed by the state Legislature, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries added big exotic cats to the list of Potentially Dangerous Quadrupeds and Non-Human Primates on June 20, 2007. The new designation makes it illegal "to import, possess, purchase or sell a big exotic cat within the state of Louisiana."

    There are six exceptions written into the law: accredited zoos, circuses, public universities that have traditionally kept a big cat mascot (read: LSU), research facilities, anyone legally transporting a big cat across state lines, and individuals who possessed an exotic cat legally prior to Aug. 15, 2006. The individuals falling under that last exemption must abide by a series of requirements that include: obtaining a permit from Wildlife and Fisheries, no breeding, keeping a weapon capable of immobilizing and killing the animal on the premises at all times, and keeping cats in a sanitary and safe condition without maltreatment or neglect. The person receiving the permit must also live on the premises and comply with all applicable federal, state or local laws, rules, regulations and ordinances.

    Because Michael operated a 24-hour truckstop, he managed to qualify without technically living on the premises where his tiger is kept. In January 2008 he applied for his permit and appeared to be in line to receive one. That was before Lafayette's Sky Williamson came along.

    Lanky and fast-talking, Williamson is Michael Sandlin's opposite in almost every way. Her straight brown hair is sharply parted in the middle, short bangs covering her forehead. She has what looks like a homemade tattoo of a heart on the back of her left hand, between the thumb and first finger.

    About 10 years ago, Williamson started becoming more conscious of animal abuse and was continually struck by some of the common practices she would notice at the zoo and circus. "For some reason, I started noticing things," she says. "I thought, I don't want my son to see this; I don't even think this is OK. If you go to a zoo because you're trying to satisfy your child to see those animals and you leave upset, what's the point?"

    Williamson also began volunteering, mainly with community animal shelter and aid organizations and did what she describes as some "independent rescues" of abused pets. A native of Melbourne, Fla., Williamson's job as a cable company subcontractor brought her to Louisiana in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. It wasn't till 2007 that she first noticed and came across the Tiger Truck Stop.

    20090204-cover-0104.jpg
    Lafayette resident Sky Williamson is spearheading the campaign to relocate Tony from his truck stop home.
    Photo by Robin May
     
    "The first time I saw Tony was Jan. 31, 2007," she recalls. After veering off the interstate to find out what exactly was on display at Tiger Truck Stop, she found Tony, in his cage amid piles of his own feces. She says the smell was almost unbearable. "I couldn't believe it," Williamson says. "It took me away. When you're face to face with something like this, you kind of have to take a second and take in what you're seeing."

    The image of Tony continued to haunt her, and when Williamson got home that night, she immediately began researching the truck stop.

    "I found out that this has been an ongoing problem," she says. "I found the violations, then I would find articles, and the more research I did, the more I was driven to try and get him out of there."

    The violations Williamson is referring come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which permits and regulates exotic cat ownership on the federal level. Dating back to 1997, Michael has received no fewer than 10 USDA violations, running the gamut of almost all aspects of animal care and underscoring the inherent difficulty that must come with keeping one 550-pound exotic cat, let alone several. Tiger Truck Stop has been cited for failure to properly clean cages to maintain adequate sanitation, failure to maintain structurally sound cages, not utilizing a sufficient number of adequately trained employees, improper food storage, failure to provide sufficient food, unsanitary feeding practices, failure to have a veterinary care program, mishandling animals, failure to clean water receptacles with algae growth, and failure to provide shelter from inclement weather. In 2003, as part of a settlement for repeated violations, Michael paid a $2,500 fine and agreed to give up three of his tigers, which were relocated to a sanctuary in Tennessee. That left only Tony at the Tiger Truck Stop.

    Williamson's urge to help Tony has grown into an obsession.

    "If you quit," Williamson says, "and that's what's happened over the past 20 years, that's why there's still a tiger there. I went and saw Tony many times, and every time I would leave I would be upset and I kept on telling myself, 'If you don't fight for him, who's going to?' He can't talk for himself; somebody's got to be his voice. Somebody's got to bring this out to the public. Somebody's got to change this reality. Why not now? If it's not me, who else is it going to be?"

    Williamson says she receives more than 100 e-mails a day and dedicates in excess of 60 hours a week to freeing Tony. The online petition she started boasts more than 2,400 signatures. (Michael has started his own online petition to "save Tony," which has 369 signatures.)

    While she concedes a degree of fanaticism, Williamson says she knows where to draw the line. "I don't do PETA," she says. She's already been contacted by a couple of PETA volunteers who have suggested tactics like breaking Tony out of his cage or even killing him as a way to end his misery.

    "I don't mind extreme," Williamson says. "I've jumped fences before and I've cut chains before, but that's a dog and a cat. You can put them in your car and move on. This is a tiger for God's sake. It just doesn't work like that. You have to follow the law completely, or you're not going to help this tiger at all, not even a little bit."

    Soon after she started pushing the cause, Williamson found a partner in Big Cat Rescue, a Florida nonprofit that bills itself as the world's largest accredited big cat rescue and sanctuary. Founder and CEO Carole Baskin says every year her organization is forced to turn away hundreds of abandoned and unwanted cats she says have been bred and exploited — often used as photo props while they are cubs — in the private sector. Baskin's group has helped organize lobbying in D.C. to push a law passed in 2003 to prohibit the sale of big cats as pets across state lines. It is now pushing a law to prohibit any contact with cubs.

    Each year, Baskin says the top complaint of animal abuse her organization receives is the Tiger Truck Stop. That's why her organization is offering to take Tony in, ahead of all the other big cats it is being forced to turn away.

    "It is because of the level of abuse that's happening there," Baskin says. "I've been to the truck stop; I've seen the horrible situation. I've smelled the gas fumes. I've heard the trucks dieseling next to that cat constantly. There's a lot of really bad situations out there right now, but this is at the top of the list."

    In October of last year, Williamson's research led her to an ordinance, passed in 1993 by the Iberville Parish Council, that prohibits the ownership or display of wild or exotic animals. The only exceptions listed are for zoological parks, performing animal exhibitions, circuses or veterinary clinics.

    Williamson immediately brought the law to the attention to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which was still processing Michael's permit application for Tony. This new revelation changed everything, as Wildlife and Fisheries' own rules state that in order to receive a permit, an exotic pet owner must be in compliance with all other local laws. The department promptly wrote Michael advising him that his application had been placed on hold based upon their discovery of the 1993 Iberville ban.

    In November, the department followed up with a citation giving Michael 30 days to find a home for Tony outside of Louisiana because he was not in compliance with Iberville Parish law.

    Michael maintained that, since his truck stop opened in 1988, he should also be grandfathered into the Iberville Parish law. In November, he hired well-known attorney Joseph Dupont, who filed an Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order against Wildlife and Fisheries to keep it from seizing the Sandlins' tiger. The order was signed by District Judge Robin Free on Dec. 16, 2008.

    In an effort to resolve the matter, both Michael and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries have agreed to let the Iberville Parish Council decide the matter for itself. The council is scheduled to vote Feb. 17 on whether to grandfather Michael into its exotic animal law.

    When the matter was introduced at the December council meeting, the two sides almost came to blows in the halls of the Iberville Parish courthouse. The incident, which can be viewed on YouTube, started as Williamson gave an interview with a local TV station and one of the Sandlins' supporters hollered out, "So a Florida resident is an expert in Louisiana law?" There are some laughs, and then someone else shouts out, "It's our family, lady."

    "No," Williamson shoots back, "an endangered tiger is not family."

    Just then one of Williamson's supporters walks over in front of her. "F---ing inbreds," she says, looking askance at the Sandlins' group. Michael's sister quickly walks over and reaches out to grab the lady before police and other officials restrain each side.

    Williamson says she remains embarrassed by the incident. However, she does acknowledge that it highlights a perception of Louisiana that she constantly must guard against.

    "Louisiana had a bad reputation before," she says. "But the more that people find out things like there's a tiger at a truck stop, it's bad, it's like I'm verifying what they already believe. And that's not my intention because I don't think everybody in Louisiana's stupid."

    Williamson gives her side about a 50 percent chance with the council vote but says she will never drop the issue, even though she says she has already received violent threats that led her to hire an attorney and a private investigator.

    "For months, I lived, slept, ate, drank this tiger," she says. "I would get up in the middle of the night and get on my computer, start writing letters, start doing research. Every time I would see him it would drive me all over again to work harder, work harder, work harder. Get other people involved, get the media involved. Write the USDA. Do whatever it takes. Push it as far as you can go. Get that tiger out of there. That's it. I'm wiling to go the length."

    Back at Tiger Truck Stop, the sun is starting to set, and Michael Sandlin steps out of the Tiger Restaurant and looks across his truck stop campus at his Country Store and tiger exhibit. He acknowledges he's a poster child for animal rights advocates and says it's what drives their opposition. He helps them rake in donations. (Big Cat Rescue's Baskin says donations received to help Tony will never cover the cost of a lifetime's worth of care for the tiger). Sandlin also argues anyone who really wants to help Tony can help him fund a better facility right here.

    Michael lights a Marlboro 100 cigarette and blows the smoke up in the air, reminiscing on the days when he brought cubs into the station and allowed customers to pet them and help feed them.

    "We got criticized for that," he says. "But I thought it was a wonderful thing. How many people get to help feed or pet a tiger. I have some wonderful memories, not just personal, but bonding with my customers, that I wouldn't trade for anything.

    "It's just something that has been a real joy for a lot of people," he continues. "I understand their position, but I guess I miss the opportunity of ever being able to do that again."

    Over at the tiger cage, a crowd has gathered around to watch Tony, who has moved over and is occasionally rolling around in the grassy part of his enclosure. One man comments that he's never seen him so active. Another teenage kid asks, "What's his name? Tony? Like the cereal?"

    Larry Stample, a truck driver from St. Petersburg, Fla., carries a small box of Broaster chicken strips and an energy drink he just purchased. Looking up at the "Save the Tiger, Help us Keep the Tiger in Grosse Tete" banner that hangs on the fence, Stample speaks for the majority of the group when he says the Tiger Truck Stop ought to be able to keep Tony.

    "This is their pet," he says. "They've had [Tony] since he was born. Imagine somebody trying to take your pet away."

    Besides, Stample adds, animal rights groups like PETA are too fanatical. "They tell people don't eat hamburgers and shit," he says.

    As Michael Sandlin walks over, he calls out to Tony, "Hey Tony, has Sky Williamson been coming around here and bothering you?"

    He turns to make a more serious point. "If and when he ever goes anywhere," Michael says. "It'll be where I decide. Hell will freeze over before Big Cat Rescue gets him.


    --
    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
    SaveTheBigCats@gmail.com

    Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

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