animal rights, Animal Welfare Act, AZA, conservation, Doc Antle, HSUS, inspection reports, PETA, racketeering, transparency, USDA/Aphis, ZAA
HSUS Smear Campaign
Last month the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) attempted to smear the good name of TIGERS with lawmakers in South Carolina. They passed out a handout characterizing TIGERS as a “roadside zoo,” alleging “violations” of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), and citing “inspection reports” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Well nothing could have been further from the truth. TIGERS has never had a violation of the AWA. And now USDA has taken steps to prevent animal rights activists from misusing their good work to defame legitimate stakeholders.
As some of you may know, there is a bill in the South Carolina legislature that seeks to regulate the ownership of big cats, non-native bears and great apes. It will require owners to have a USDA license or register their animals with local animal control. Last month, TIGERS attended a committee hearing on the bill at the House Agriculture Committee. During the hearing HSUS testified that they would like to see all primates added to the list of animals regulated, and further, they wanted all owners to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a private trade association that has the endorsement of HSUS with an agreement to promote HSUS ideology.
Intention to Deceive
After the hearing, the HSUS lobbyist gave the bill sponsor a handout that implied TIGERS was a sub-par “roadside zoo” with multiple “violations” of the AWA. As evidence, the handout cited USDA “inspection reports.” When the citations in the handout were followed, they didn’t lead to the USDA website, but to the website for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA). PeTA, using the publicly available, pre-decisional reports that had been available on the USDA website, had created their own ideologically based interpretations designed to make stakeholders look like villains. The actual reports were quite benign, and amounted only to minor “non-compliance” issues that every zoo deals with every day.
A teachable moment is a minor non-compliant item that: 1) the facility is willing and able to correct quickly; 2) is not impacting the welfare of any animal(s); and 3) has not previously been cited. — USDA/APHIS, January 2016
There is a huge difference between a “non-compliance” issue, and a “violation.” These minor compliance issues are easily corrected prior to USDA follow up; facts conveniently omitted by PeTA, and happily exaggerated by HSUS to indict TIGERS for “violations.” Violations are serious, and constitute grounds for USDA to revoke a stakeholder’s license. Again, TIGERS has never had a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
TIGERS/ Myrtle Beach Safari
The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) is one of the top wildlife preserves in the country. We are accredited by the Zoological Association of America and licensed, inspected and regulated by the USDA. Our facility is built outside of Myrtle Beach on 50 acres and houses approximately 100 animals. We have invested millions of dollars in a state-of-the-art, interactive facility that is unmatched anywhere in the country. Our investment in handler training, humane care, secure containment, and enrichment for our animal ambassadors, is far beyond what is required by the USDA. We are proud of the fact that we bring millions of tourist dollars into South Carolina every year.
USDA Moves to Protect Stakeholders from Animal Rights Abuses
Because of abuses by HSUS, PeTA and other animal rights groups, the USDA has changed it’s policy about the types of information made available on their website.
USDA/APHIS is implementing actions to remove documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that contain personal information. These documents include inspection reports, research facility annual reports, regulatory correspondence, lists of regulated entities, and enforcement records (such as pre-litigation settlement agreements and administrative complaints) that have not received final adjudication.— USDA/APHIS, February 4, 2017
The USDA decision to provide some protection from the malicious characterizations of USDA reports is supported by the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), the second largest zoological accrediting body in the United States.
For too long the Federal Government through the USDA has been violating the privacy of citizens with its acts of intrusion in the name of transparency. The USDA records availability were intended for use by animal welfare advocates to monitor government regulation of animals and the treatment of wild and domestic animals. However, this welfare information soon became the fuel and ammunition of animal rights activists in a smear campaign to discredit zoos and animal owners.— ZAA, February 9, 2017
HSUS/ PeTA Track Record
It is important to understand, that while groups like HSUS and PeTA portend to protect animals, their interest is purely ideological. The primary mission of most animal rights groups is to raise money using slick propaganda designed to tug at the heart strings of an animal loving American public. They are very good at this, but HSUS and PeTA are not in the business of caring for animals. The idea that with no practical experience they could analyze and interpret USDA reports without ever visiting a facility is preposterous.
Marketing materials showing abused dogs and cats suggest HSUS plays an active role in caring for homeless pets, however according to HSUS’ 2015 annual report, they took in over $194 million with less than 1% donated to animal shelters. They operate no animal shelters on their own. But HSUS did find enough in their budget to spend over $33 million on fundraising. Additionally, in 2014 HSUS and co-defendants were forced to pay almost $16 million to settle a Racketeering Lawsuit filed against them, after the judge discovered evidence of witness tampering and bribery by an HSUS subsidiary and their attorneys.
PeTA is just as bad, maybe even worse. According to a watchdog group, in 2009 PeTA “rescued” 2366 dogs and cats. 31 were transferred to other facilities. 8 were adopted out. 2,301 were killed at PeTA’s little shop of horrors in Norfolk, VA. That’s a kill rate of over 97%. PeTA’s idea of “rescue” appears to be euthanasia on a grand scale.
Thank You to the USDA/APHIS
It is a huge step for USDA to limit the ease with which animal rights groups abuse efforts at transparency. We consider USDA to be a crucial partner in creating an ever improving environment for our beloved animal ambassadors. With the help of USDA we bring the message of conservation of these magical creatures to thousands of people every year.
Contrary to the assertions above, there is no distinction whatsoever between a noncompliance and a violation. As the USDA Office of Inspector General has explained, the terms are used synonymously. See USDA, OIG, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care Program Inspections of Problematic Dog Dealers, Audit Report 33002-4-SF, at 1 (May 2010), https://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/33002-4-SF.pdf.
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Bhagavan Antle said:
Your interpretation of that 2010 document is inconsistent with clarifications given by APHIS. In addition to the citation in the article from 2016, the question was posed to APHIS leadership today, “is there a distinction between a non-compliant item and a violation?” The response from APHIS Animal Care was, “Yes, there is a distinction. During Animal Welfare Act compliance inspections, Animal Care Inspectors gather evidence regarding a facility’s compliance status and document such evidence in an inspection report. We refer to citations in an inspection report as a “noncompliant” item. However, the content of an inspection report (and any citation/noncompliance contained in the inspection report) does not constitute a finding of a violation. Only an administrative law judge and the Judicial Officer, who issues final decisions on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture for purposes of judicial review, have authority to conclude the AWA has, in fact, been violated. Such findings would occur through the administrative enforcement process.”
So your assessment that APHIS doesn’t make a distinction between “non-compliant” and “violation” is incorrect. But thank you for giving me the opportunity to highlight and clarify the very distinct differences, because that is precisely the issue at the heart of the abuses illustrated in my article.
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Wild Zoo News said:
Delcianna, as an attorney for PETA, you know Doc is correct, and know of the following by the USDA Attorneys representing case that PETA filed against USDA, and lost:
“Importantly, a citation issued to a licensee by an APHIS Inspector does not establish a “violation” of the AWA; it merely documents evidence of noncompliance that can potentially be used as a basis for a subsequent administrative enforcement action.”
MATTHEW L. FESAK – For USDA
Assistant United States Attorney
Defendants Reply : No. 5:15-CV-00429-D
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An Assistant United States Attorney has cleared up the distinction of “citation” and “violation”. PETA mixing up the two terms is not accident. Doc does not make that kind of mistake. I trust him.
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I don’t trust PeTA or HSUS to be open and honest with their horrible views on animal welfare. As people become more aware they will not mistakenly donate money to these dishonest causes.
I trust TIGERS because they understand modern extinction, everyday people learning from animal interactions, and the role of humans as guardians to world’s other species.
Joan Turpin said:
And I don’t trust people who dismiss organizations like PETA and HSUS who have decades long and proven track records of championing and supporting animal welfare programs and who fight for animal welfare instead of corporate and company/monetary interests. Everyday people handling baby tigers for photos and playing with chimps is entertainment, not conservation and not a plan to protect animal welfare, but to exploit animals. And why does every post here sound like it was written by a professional in the animal husbandry and welfare fields or someone with a stake in the program – or an attorney?
AngelaAndHolly Holt said:
I am neither an animal husbandry professional nor an attorney. I have seen first-hand the results of Peta’s corruption and monetary interests. T.I.G.E.R.S. does a lot of work in conservation around the world and makes a difference.
Joan, I am a computer programmer. I have no stake in the program. There is one attorney on the discussion, Delcianna, as an attorney for PETA. The better lawyer, IMHO, is MATTHEW L. FESAK – For USDA, Assistant United States Attorney. Matthew is quoted
Angela Flythe Holt said:
Thank you for sharing with the public what USDA, APHIS, HSUS, AWA, and PeTA truly are and what they do / how they function. When people are educated, they can make more informed decisions, particularly when it comes to animals and conservation. A poorly informed or misinformed person is more easily led and misled by emotions and propaganda. That can adversely affect the mission of those who work tirelessly to care for animals in captivity and save animals in the wild. Also, thank you for sharing with the public the difference between a “non-compliant” item on an inspection and a “violation.” Too many times, animal rights folks have misused those terms to slander zoos, animal parks, and others in the business of caring for animals. I applaud the work that you all do at T.I.G.E.R.S.! Thanks for helping people and animals worldwide!
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Cynthia Reed said:
I adore animals. I always have since I was a small child. I visited your Wild Encounters when I was in Myrtle Beach and have not stopoed thinking about it. I am planning to spend my 40th birthday Oct 6th on your safari. Although I love animals I never agreed with PETAs ways and I am sad that the Humane Society fights you too. I wamt to help animals and give to the humane society, but not when they are causing you harm. I enjoyed cat yoga with them just last week, to help spay kitties, but now knowing that they are against you I wont be able to do that again. I do also support the Lacey Fund, all animals can be protected and happy in human care. I mention it so that maybe you can work together with them. I first started following them after going to one of the last Bariaum and Bailey Circuses last year. I adored the parts with the animals and the gentleman with them. He was Alex Lacey I believe amd his brother is Martin Lacey Jr. I love seeing their posts on facebook as well as yours. I do believe that animals can be happy in humane care and they bring happiness to humans as well. I hope to one day work for you, either in summers once my daughter is grown and doesnt have lacrosse every weekend, since I am a teacher or full time when I retire. Id love to know what I could do to prepare to work for you. Obviously volunteering at thr humane society isnt it. Would volunteering at a zoo give me the experience I would need? Do you have any weekly volunteer opportunities. I live 8 hours away, but Id love to volunteer with you 2 days a week if possible in the summer. I love everything that you are doing. Thank you for all you do.
Cynthia Kline said:
I live in Ohio… tell the animal welfare advocates to come on over to my state Get to work since here we still have lax laws for wild life ownership and protections tho they have made the laws stricter since the Zanesville tragedy. They smear well run establishments who even if they did get a violation… are well funded and managed and make required corrections. For god sake , all businesses in every sector are not always perfect… even Michelin Star restaurants get violations in their kitchens and those people are the cream of the crop. Tell the nay sayers to start focusing on the real issues where animal abuse, neglect and management of facilities are horrendous and animals are suffering. No management or place is perfect but the health and well being of the animals is paramount as you can see it is at T.I.G.E.R.S. Thank you and God bless!!
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Harriet Cannon said:
PETA kills so many dogs and cats and they are revered by so many stars it’s just sickening!!! Humane society seems to be following in their footsteps.they both need to start saving animals and stop harassing TIGERS and Zoos who love their animals. They need to pay attention to their own issues like PETA killing thousands of cats and dogs and HSUS who gives less than 1% of what they take in on actual animals.
Thank you for your work at TIGERS. You have Happy animals cause they are truly loved!!!