Davie exhibitor agrees to move big cats out, follow animal welfare rules
By David Fleshler | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 2, 2009
DAVIE - A wildlife exhibitor in Davie has run into trouble with federal authorities for allegedly giving animals food contaminated with blood and maggots, failing to provide veterinary care and leaving tigers unprotected from the sun and rain.
Vanishing Species Wildlife Inc. leases land on Southwest 136th Avenue to house caged cougars, tigers, a lion, a bear, tortoises and other animals used in wildlife shows at street fairs, schools, churches and summer camps.
"We want to save as many animals as possible," co-founder Jeffrey Harrod told the Sun Sentinel at a wildlife festival in 2000. "I want to educate kids to stop destroying the environment."
Here's what he told an inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture as he ordered him off his property, according to court papers filed by the department: "You don't know s--- about animals and I don't f------ like you."
According to an Agriculture Department complaint, the nonprofit organization:
Lied to a department official that an ill African wildcat called a serval had been taken to the veterinarian and euthanized, when actually the animal died in her cage without receiving veterinary care. The organization failed to provide veterinary care to a sick tiger, which also died. It submitted a written program of veterinary care by forging a veterinarian's signature.
Failed to provide tigers with shelter from wind, rain and sun. Did not repair broken or rusted parts of enclosures. Did not maintain an adequate perimeter fence.
Despite repeated warnings, provided animals with unpalatable food, including meat contaminated with blood, dirt, flies and maggots.
"The gravity of the violations alleged in this complaint is great," states the court document , filed in June, accusing Harrod and his wife, Barbara, of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
In a consent order signed Feb. 4, the Harrods neither admitted nor denied the charges. They agreed to pay a fine of $3,750, refrain from using abusive language with inspectors, follow animal welfare rules and sell, donate or move out lions, tigers and other large cats from their Davie compound by July 31.
Barbara Hartman-Harrod said that none of the charges are true and that they only signed the court order to avoid a costly legal fight. She blamed complaints from "disgruntled employees" and an Agriculture Department inspector who had a "personality dispute" with her husband. She said many of the issues actually involved their property in Palmdale, Fla., not Davie.
"This has been going on for several years, and they've been harassing us and driving us crazy," she said. "We've never had an animal get loose, we've never had anyone get bitten. We treat our animals very well."
They can't exhibit full-grown big cats anymore, she said, since the laws were tightened, so now they're just trying to give them a home.
After forwarding an interview request to her husband, she said he "really didn't want to talk to a reporter."
Although the Davie site is closed to the public, she allowed a reporter to visit. Near the entrance, a lioness named Savannah sat on a dirt floor in a chain-link enclosure, with a couple of balls and stuffed animals. When Harrod approached, the lioness rubbed up against the fence and allowed herself to be stroked.
In another cage, an adult black bear named Joshua sat and stared at his visitors. In the back, huge tigers paced rapidly back and forth near the wire mesh of their cages, most of which were about the size of a living room. Harrod said the cages meet the minimum legal size standard, 10 feet by 20 feet.
Despite the scathing federal reports, inspections by the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found that the animals appeared healthy and that the organization complied with the law, although they did note some violations of cage and food quality standards.
Nolan Lemon, spokesman for the Agriculture Department, said none of the agency's inspectors targeted the Harrods.
"We just follow the letter of the law, and the Animal Welfare Act is quite specific in terms of standards," he said. "We want to protect the health and safety of the animals, but make sure the general public is safe as well."
Asked why the department didn't take away Vanishing Species' license, he said, "It can be very difficult to lose a license."
Richard Farinato, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States, said the department has traditionally shown great reluctance to revoke licenses.
"Every effort is made to allow the client to mend his evil ways and go on his way," he said. "But the client is not the tiger or the leopard; the client is the owner."
David Fleshler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4535.
Check out the video at the link below. It shows the tiny, cramped, barren cages and the kind of people who subject animals to that kind of existence.
Check out the photos here:
See who owns these animals in South Florida here:
The tiger in a shed and the bobcat in the tiny cage at the Animal Rescue Kingdom, owned by Diane Zandman at 10561 SW 67th Ct. Ocala, FL 34476, originated at Vanishing Species Wildlife Center. When we tried to rescue the bobcat, Diane said we had to get permission from Vanishing Species' owner, Barbara Harrod, who gave us permission, but then Diane wouldn't allow Big Cat Rescuers to take the bobcat, after telling us we could, and having us drive two hours to her facility. We require that she give up her license to own exotic cats, and she knew this in advance, having signed the documents, but then decided she didn't want to give up her license, just to give the bobcat a better home.
You can see the horrible conditions there at this link:
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
Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:
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