September 30 2013
Dear Sir or Madam:
RE: Support of Proposed Rule to Prohibit Public Contact with Big Cats, Bears, and Nonhuman Primates
I am writing in support of the proposed rule to prohibit public contact with big cat, bears and nonhuman primates.
I am the founder of The Wildcat Sanctuary, an accredited rescue organization, in Sandstone Minnesota. I have seen firsthand the tragedy that strikes when the public interacts with big cats, bears or primates.
Minnesota has witnessed the severity of damage these cats can inflict. Cynthia Lee Gamble was killed by one of her pet tigers (who was emaciated and starving). 10-year-old Russell Lala was mauled by a privately owned pet lion and tiger, leaving him a quadriplegic and dependent on a respirator for the rest of his life. A 7-year-old girl was attacked by an escaped tiger at a park in Racine. Countless injuries were sustained at Grant Oly’s Tiger Zone, Arcangel Wildlife and BEARCAT Hollow. Three employees had to undergo rabies treatment after being scratched by a 300 lb. tiger at a PetSmart photo session. The list goes on and on.
Our sanctuary is home to several past exhibit cats that injured handlers and members of the public before being seized and placed at our Sanctuary.
Tigers Ekaterina and Sierra originated from an exploitative breeder in Ohio. This breeder charged the public to pet and have photos taken with adult lions and tigers that were declawed and chained down to a platform. The breeder was eventually closed down after multiple allegations of animal attacks on visitors. Sierra and Ekaterina were featured in this investigative report by 20/20.
Nikita was a white tiger cub bred and sold at a very young age, taken far too early from her mother. She was expected to earn her keep by playing with people and posing for pictures – all for money. When most outgrow this stage, they’re used to breed and bring other helpless cubs into the world to suffer the same fate – and bring in more money for their owner. Who was Nikita’s owner? He was Sam Mazzola, an Ohio breeder, exhibitor, and ex-convict. Mazzola’s history of abusing animals was notorious and well documented. He had been in prison for cocaine and steroid trafficking, was arrested for illegal gun possession and sentenced to court-ordered anger management. He claimed to have been arrested hundreds of times. Authorities informed us that Nikita had attacked a person during a photo opportunity.
Tigers Titan and Lilly came to The Wildcat Sanctuary in 2006 after their owner, was tragically killed by another tiger, Tango. The owner exhibited the tigers on a leash at Renaissance Festivals and other public events.
One of the primary drivers of the breeding that leads to this huge unwanted population of animals is exploitation of cubs to make money by offering interaction with the animals.
There are NO circumstances under which contact should be allowed, both for the reason above, and because any “rules” you make about how the animals are handled are simply totally impractical to enforce unless you plan to have a full time inspector with each of these exhibitors.
Please put a stop to this inappropriate use of these young animals by adopting the proposed rule to prohibit contact.
You, our supporters, can also be their voice. Provide your comment in support here!