Guest blog by Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States
Reprinted with permission. Original blog post here.
A woman who stuck her arm into a tiger enclosure this past weekend at G.W. Exotic Animal Park, a notorious roadside zoo in Oklahoma run by Joe Schreibvogel, had to be airlifted to a hospital to try to save what remained of her limb.
The HSUS investigated the facility with an undercover operative in 2011, and we found approximately 200 tigers and other dangerous exotic animals, public contact with these powerful wild animals, and an operation with unstable leadership waiting to go belly up. Indeed, earlier this year Schreibvogel filed for bankruptcy on behalf of his personal estate and the park (which continues to do business as the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park).
Our undercover investigation showed the park may have more dangerous exotic animals than any other roadside zoo in the nation. Joe Schreibvogel operates the facility as a petting zoo that breeds tiger and bear cubs for the public to pet and play with for a fee. During our investigation, it was revealed that in 2011 alone, tigers from G.W. Exotic Animal Park bit three members of the public at a fair, a young girl was bitten on the leg during the “play cage” portion of a park tour, a tiger cub scratched a young child while he was posing for a picture with the animal, and a 20-week-old tiger knocked down and bit a small child.
Just last week, one other roadside zoo, the Las Vegas Zoo, closed its doors, placing the onus on the animal welfare community to take the bulk of the animals and bearing another enormous expense for problems not of their own making.
Given that so many states have lax laws governing roadside zoos, allowing unaccredited people to possess all manner of wild animals, these unfortunate scenarios will continue to play out over and over again. This is why The HSUS is working nationwide to restrict the possession of dangerous wild animals in private homes and at unaccredited facilities like G.W. Exotic Animal Park and the Las Vegas Zoo. Both Oklahoma and Nevada have weak laws or no laws governing the keeping of tigers and other dangerous animals.
We have also filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prohibit public contact and close encounters with tigers and other big cats, bears and primates. The USDA is currently accepting comments and we urge you to show your support to finally put an end to these dangerous encounters.
Substandard roadside zoos, like the G.W. Exotic Animal Park, have no business possessing these creatures. It almost always turns out badly for the animals. And, in the end, typically, the animal welfare community eventually picks up the tab for reckless people who casually pass off their problems to people who warned about these bad outcomes on the front end.
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