Big Cats Saved from Extreme Conditions

By | March 6, 2001 at 5:10 pm | No comments | TWS in the News

One example of a dramatic rescue by TWS happened over the 2001 Christmas holiday. TWS rescued three tigers and two lions from an exhibitor in Iowa.

Four cats had passed away from starvation before TWS received the call. When we arrived, we were informed that a full-grown lion had died four days prior and was still in the enclosure being consumed by his mate.

This was the worst case of animal abuse TWS has ever seen. The five surviving animals were emaciated and at 50 percent of their ideal weight. They had no shelter, no food or water, and had open lesions covering their bodies. The cats were transported to a sanctuary in the south which has a full-time.
The following excerpt appeared in US News.
Cruel and usual: How some of America’s best zoos get rid of their old, infirm, and unwanted animals
By Michael Satchell
Besides the AZA rules, a 1966 law passed by Congress specifies care, feeding, and other requirements for the treatment of exotic animals and mandates that the Department of Agriculture enforce the statute. But a reporter and photographer who visited more than two dozen small zoos around the nation found a pattern of callous treatment and government neglect. Some examples: Four big cats died after the USDA recommended their owner place his two cougars, four tigers, two adult lions, and a young lion in Don and Dee’s Exotic Zoo, a roadside facility in Manson, Iowa. The cougars died, apparently from malnutrition, and Steven Bellin, a USDA veterinarian, then inspected the zoo in November 2000. U.S. News obtained copies of Bellin’s inspection reports and correspondence. “All but the young lion are on concrete flooring without bedding materials of any sort,” Bellin wrote. “Ambient temperature was approximately 35 degrees. . . . There was no food on the premises for the large cats. . . . [Water bowls] were filled with either frozen or brackish water, carcass materials, and/or debris. Housing arrangements, lighting, and sanitation fail to meet the minimal federal standards. All seven of the large cats . . . appear thin/gaunt and somewhat emaciated. The female African lion recently failed to eat for three days.This animal might die if not treated.”

Bellin gave the zoo owners six weeks to improve conditions. He apparently did not seek emergency removal of the animals or try to have the zoo closed down. A few days after his inspection, the female lion killed and ate the male. A male Bengal tiger also died after splintered turkey bones punctured its intestinal tract because it had no drinking water to flush them through its system. Before it expired, the tiger chewed its metal water bowl to pieces. “I believe [the bowl] that was torn apart . . . was a response by the animal to the deep, agonal pain [caused] by the tissue-penetrating bones,” Bellin wrote. “I believe that the tiger was starving . . . and died in severe pain in the cold without a shelter or bedding.”

The USDA fined Don and Dee’s $500 and revoked its license. The local county attorney, Ann Beneke, sought to prosecute the owners on cruelty charges but was forced to drop the case when the USDA refused to allow Bellin to testify. He failed to respond to a U.S. News interview request.

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