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Short Video about TCWR

A brief documentary about the people and wildlife at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and its history of providing lifetime sanctuary to hundreds of exotic animals.
by: Charles Ragsdell, II

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Mar 12

Big cats leaving Ohio for new home

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

big-cat-rescue-art-gnugil2t-1big-cat-rescue-b-jpgThe Columbus DispatchFriday March 23, 2012 7:48 AM

Nikita and Tasha are leaving Ohio because of a proposed state law regulating ownership of exotic animals.

Nikita, a 7-year-old white Bengal tiger, and Tasha, an 11-year-old cougar, are moving to the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minn., next week. Their owner, an undisclosed Ohio woman, made a “tearful call” to the sanctuary asking them to take her animals because she feared the “future looks uncertain” for them.

The two cats could be the first of a wave of exotic animals leaving Ohio. However, some authorities are worried that future departures won’t be as clean. If unlicensed animal owners refuse to get rid of them by 2014, local humane societies have the job to enforce the law – with the fate of the exotic animals unknown. Local zoo officials already have made it clear they cannot take any.

When an exotic-animals law took effect in Minnesota in 2005, 33 lions and tigers were removed from private homes in just one summer, said Tammy Thies, director of the nonprofit sanctuary between Duluth and Minneapolis in eastern Minnesota.

The big cats will be picked up Monday for the trip north to the sanctuary, which boasts “free-roaming, natural habitats complete with pools, perches, hammocks and a climate-controlled shelter.” The Ohio cats are expected to arrive there on Tuesday.

Thies said the owner does not wish to be identified. “We’re doing what’s best and safest for the animals,” she said.

“I’ve been talking to this person for a long time, and I have the highest respect for her. She cares about her animals and wants to choose where her animals go.”

The tiger and cougar have been well cared for but are living in 10-by-15-foot cages.

The animals’ owner is coming to grips with what many Ohioans may have to eventually deal with as state officials work on a law to ban the sale and regulate ownership of lions, tigers, bears and other exotic animals. Senate Bill 310, sponsored by Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, had its second public hearing this week.

The bill would prohibit sales of specified exotic animals beginning Jan. 1, 2014. While existing owners of exotics would be able to keep their animals, they would have to carry liability insurance, pay registration fees and implant microchips in the animals for identification.

Some private owners who object to the proposed regulations have said they will go “underground”with their animals or move out of state.

Thies said the sanctuary gets many calls from owners who find they cannot care for their animals.

“People think of them as pets, but they don’t think 20 years down the road with everything that can happen,” she said. “When we get animals, we’re not the second stop. We’re the fifth or sixth stop for these animals.”

The sanctuary, which has 113 animals and a $550,000 annual budget, all from donations, got help from the International Fund for Animal Welfare to raise $30,000 to pay for the rescue of the big Ohio cats. The facility is not open to the public.

Balderson’s proposal responds to the incident near Zanesville on Oct. 18 when law-enforcement officers were forced to kill 48 animals, including bears, lions, tigers and wolves, after their owner set them free. Terry W. Thompson, 62, committed suicide after releasing the animals he had collected for years.

In related news, a statewide survey conducted by Saperstein Associates of Columbus showed Ohioans strongly support the exotic-animals legislation, plus proposals to regulate commercial dog breeders and make cockfighting a felony. The survey was commissioned by the Humane Society of the U.S.

The Saperstein survey found that 75 percent support Balderson’s exotic-animals proposal. Eighty percent support legislation to regulate so-called puppy mills, and seventy percent approve making cockfighting a felony.

The telephone survey of 804 voters was conducted March 13-18; the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Nov 11

Big Cats Do Not Make Good Pets

Turpentine Creek staff members have traveled to 17 different states rescuing big cats; lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, servals, bobcats, and lynx. Most of these precious animals would have been euthanized if not for Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Frequently, young cubs of big cats are sold to people as pets; sold at auctions across the world; and sold by backyard breeders to unsuspecting buyers. A few short months pass and the new "pet owner" begins to realize they have made a mistake. They turn to newspapers, exotic trade magazines, zoos, and roadside parks to find the young cat a new home. These options don't materialize because of the age of the exotic cat and its inability to conform to the laws of the human race.

It is in the adolescent stage of development that the cub becomes strong and aggressive. The "pet owners" usually realize that they are in trouble when someone gets hurt or threatened. They become desperate as local citizens become discontent. Authorities often get involved and, before long, the innocent animal desperately needs a new home.

For 15 years, Turpentine Creek staff members have traveled the United States saving big cats. Every animal rescue is an animal saved. Their stories chisel the following statement deep into the heart's of the people who read them. Big Cats Do Not Make Pets.

Feb 12

Congressman McKeon and Congresswoman Sanchez Introduce Bipartisan “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection” Act

Washington, D.C.- Today, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.” An alarming number of wild cats have been bred and sold as domestic pets in the U.S. This trend threatens public safety and often results in the mistreatment of these animals. Just recently, the tragic events in Zanesville, Ohio, where 49 wild animals were killed after they were let loose on an unlicensed wild animal preserve, showcases the dangerous implications of this trend. Currently, only nine states have laws enforcing “no wild animals permitted,” and the remaining states have weak or no laws in existence. This bi-partisan bill will ensure that lions, tigers and other dangerous big cats, do not threaten public safety, diminish global big cat conservation efforts, or end up living in horrible conditions where they can be subject to mistreatment and cruelty.

The Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act would prohibit private possession of big cats except at highly-qualified facilities, like accredited zoos, where they can be properly cared for and restrained. Also, since nobody, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), state agencies, or local first responders knows exactly how many dangerous big cats are being kept in private hands, under what conditions, and in what locations, the bill would require any persons who currently possess big cats to register those animals with USDA in order to keep the cats they currently own. The bill would also outlaw the breeding of any big cat except at accredited zoos and research and educational institutions. Violators of the law could have their animals confiscated along with any vehicles or equipment used to aid in their illegal activity, and could face stiff penalties including fines as much as $20,000, and up to five years in jail.

“No matter how many times people try to do it, wildcats such as lions, tigers, panthers and cheetahs are impossible to domesticate for personal possession and require much higher living standards compared to a domestic house cat,” said Congressman McKeon. “When accidents happen and these wild cats are released into our neighborhoods, it causes panic, puts a strain on our local public safety responders and is extremely dangerous. This bill is a step forward in protecting the public and ensuring that wildcats reside in proper living conditions.”

“The events in Ohio last year showed the tragedy that can occur when exotic animals are privately owned by individuals, with little to no oversight,” said Congresswoman Sanchez. “Wild animals are dangerous and we clearly need better laws limiting their ownership. Exotic species should be regulated to high quality facilities with the ability to properly care for them.”

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is working on introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

“It’s a little hard to believe that there’s a crazy patchwork of regulations governing people who try to keep wild cats as pets,” said Senator Kerry. “I know it sounds like something you just read about when there’s a tragic news story, but it’s all too real for first responders who respond to a 911 call and are surprised to come face to face with a Bengal tiger. This bill will ensure that these endangered creatures are kept in secure, professional facilities like wildlife sanctuaries rather than in small cages in someone’s backyard or apartment building.”

This legislation is supported by the Roar Foundation, Shambala Preserve, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Born Free USA, Humane Society of United States, Big Cat Rescue, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Ian Somerhalder Foundation.


For questions or more information, please contact:

Alissa McCurley, Communications Director, Congressman Buck McKeon: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 202-225-1956

Adrienne Watson, Press Secretary, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 202-225-2965

Whitney Smith, Press Secretary, Senator John Kerry: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 202-224-4159

Feb 12

Exotic animals don't make great pets

Posted Feb 9, 2012 By EMC News

Many people have a fascination with owning a wild, dangerous, exotic pet. Maybe it's bragging rights among friends, or simply having something that few other people have. Too often injuries or fatalities occur at the paws of an exotic animal, and in many countries, including the United States and Canada, it is illegal to own exotic animals as pets outside of a wildlife facility or without special licensing.

Despite their popularity, the following pets can also be dangerous.


Outlawed exotic pets don't always have big claws and fangs. Turtles, for example, are banned as pets because of their propensity to carry salmonella bacteria. Since 1975, the FDA has placed on a ban on the sales of turtles at a size of 4 inches or smaller. Prior to the ban, researchers linked an estimated 250,000 cases of salmonellosis in children and infants to pet turtles. That's because the small turtles are irresistible to children, and the smaller the size the higher propensity the child may try to put the turtle in his mouth. Salmonella can also be contracted when handling a turtle and then putting fingers in the mouth.


Despite being well trained and experienced in tiger handling, illusionist Roy Horn of the long-running partnership Seigfreid and Roy was mauled by one of his show tigers in 2003. Big cats can be very dangerous to people, thanks in large part to their unpredictability. Also, the sheer size of a big cat can cause injuries to a person even if the cat is simply playing.

The size of a big cat also makes it a challenge to find a cage or enclosure to house the animal. In addition, feeding the animal is no small task, as larger cats need substantial amounts of food to remain healthy and strong.

Cats routinely engage in territory marking with urine and engage in combative behavior to defend their space. They produce a lot of waste that will also need to be cleaned. Pet tigers have been involved in several fatalities and maulings throughout the United States and Canada in recent years.


Constrictors and venomous snakes are generally outlawed due to the propensity for injury or death. Constrictors, as their name suggests, are equipped to constrict, or squeeze their prey to death through suffocation. Anacondas and boa constrictors can reach 13 feet or more in length and several inches around in body width. At this size, they can easily subdue a pet, child or even an adult caught by surprise. In the summer of 2009, a 9-foot albino python owned by a Florida man got out of his cage and strangled his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter to death.

Venomous snakes have powerful venom that can cause anything from neurological problems to paralysis and extreme pain to death. These snakes are formidable foes in their natural environments, and with the high chance of biting an owner, they are not safe to have as pets.

Too often snakes that become unmanageable are simply let out into the wild where they can become neighborhood menaces.


With a close resemblance to humans, and the frequency with which chimps are used in movies or trained for shows, people think that these animals are safe to own.

In reality, chimpanzees can engage in pack hunting behavior. They have been known to be very aggressive, feeding on other monkey species and even turning cannibalistic to earn a higher social standing.

Monkeys have large fangs and have been known to attack people and humans. Some species also throw feces and spray urine, something many people would not look for in a pet.

In 2010, Charla Nash from Connecticut was mauled by a 200-pound chimpanzee. Nash lost much of her face and her two hands in the attack. She no longer has eyes because they were removed due to infection.


Crocodiles and alligators start out as small, almost cute hatchlings, which are attractive to pet owners. But these animals grow very quickly in a short period of time. They can reach several feet in length and hundreds of pounds.

These animals have very powerful jaws capable of doing quite an amount of damage. It is not beyond reason for a croc or gator to drag a person into the water, where survival is difficult. They participate in a "death roll," where they spin like a top in the water, ripping and tearing flesh apart from prey.

Despite their size, these reptiles can charge rather quickly on land. In water they ambush hunters and can quickly surprise an animal or person.

Exotic animals might seem like a potentially interesting pet but the safety risk associated with these animals is simply too great to welcome such pets into a home.