ZOO WARS~More Trouble Brewing in Lousiana with Big Cats
Yogie Cats Seized; Owners Cited
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries has seized – on paper only – the nine large cats inhabited at Yogie & Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary and cited the owners for having the animals without a permit.
The action caught Executive Director Jenny Senier and founder and board member Tim Mills by surprise since both thought improvements to the facility had met or at least partially met recommended upgrades from a 2009 compliance visit. Senier admits some of the items on the check list were not complete – such as building concrete dens for the big cats – but half are finished. And that’s an accomplishment in itself, she said, since Yogie does not have paid staff and solely relies upon donated funds and the availability of volunteers.
“We thought we were doing fine,” Senier said.
Instead, the list of noncompliance issues appeared to get lengthier. “We are trying, but we need the public’s help if we are going to get through this,” Senier said.
She fears if LDWF inspectors are not satisfied by the Sept. 3 court date then there’s a chance the big cats will be relocated.
“Moving them away from here will kill them. Our cats are old. They’ve been here 14 years now. They were all rescued before that. Moving them somewhere will stress them so much they will die. We fear for the lives of our animals now,” she added.
[Blogger Note: My cats were seized and most were old-those older cats have since passed-Their lifespan shortened as a result]
Maria Davidson, head of the LDWF Fur and Refuge Division in Baton Rouge, led the inspection team with another inspector and attorney in tow. Also accompanying them were three armed enforcement agents. Davidson did not respond to a message left at headquarters Tuesday morning seeking comment.
Capt. Richie McCarthy, of the Region 1 office in Minden, did not go to Yogie & Friends Monday but was somewhat familiar with the situation. He verified a ticket was issued and the cats were seized on paper.
“It’s been going on some time, and it just the got to point you’ve got to do something,” McCarthy said.
The citation, he said, puts the facility on notice that the guidelines have not been made. And seizing the cats means none can be moved or sold until a resolution is reached in court. But that doesn’t mean LDWF is assuming responsibility for feeding and care of the animals in the meantime.
“That is something you run into. If there is no facility in the state to take them, and obviously we don’t have a place to keep them, the only other option is to seize them and take them out of state,” McCarthy said, adding that’s not the optimal move since the issue could get settled by the court hearing, resulting in a judge ordering the return of the animals. “When you go to moving them you stress them and that’s not what we want to happen.”
Still, the goal is to make sure the surrounding public is safe and laws are followed he said. “I don’t know how this will turn out but I wish them the best. … We’re not haters. We’re animal lovers. That’s why we do this,” McCarthy said.
State Sen. Sherri Smith Buffington was contacted about the situation and is making inquiries concerning the inspection to determine if there is any information she can pass along to Senier and Mills.
Senier is still baffled about the citation – possession of animals without a permit – because Yogie & Friends has not been able to obtain a permit from LDWF except for the bobcat and servals. The tigers, lions and leopard are licensed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has considered the facility a Class C exhibitor in good standing since 2000.
A change in 2006 of a Louisiana law regulating the importation and private ownership of exotic cats put LWDF in the picture. A subsequent inspection pointed out needed upgrades at Yogie, including extending the height of the perimeter and interior fences and providing more secure shelter such as concrete or cinderblock dens.
None of the animals have been harmed during inclement weather and there have been no escapes or incidents, Senier said.
Yogie & Friends closed its doors to public visits in June to fall within its goal of serving as a sanctuary for the aging cats. Senier and Mills had wanted LDWF to certify the site as a sanctuary under the law change; however, it couldn’t because of a moratorium on applications.
Plus, said Senier, “it would cost millions to do.” So, Yogie & Friends, upon Davidson’s advice, applied to LDWF as a zoo not accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. “But we were told to use the AZA standards.”
Those standards, said Senier, lack specific direction for facilities such as Yogie. “There are no housing standards except for inside exhibits. We don’t have that. We built the cinderblock dens for the size we thought would work for the individual cats. We may not be that esthetic but the cats are well cared for and are safe.”
She added, “But if this what we have to do then we want to be compliant. We are going to need the public’s help with skilled labor to address the fencing and the rest of the dens. And with donations to buy materials.”
Who’s at Yogie and Friends
Here’s a list of the sanctuary’s inhabitants and when they were born:
Batman (lion), March 2002
Boo Boo (lioness), December 1999
Boudreaux (cougar), 1995
Gomez (tiger), June 2000
Mongo (serval), November 1999
Moses (lion), Feb 2006
Noodles (serval), May 2001
Putty Tat (tiger), September 1998
Samson (tiger), July 1995
Speedy (serval), January 2001
Taz (bobcat), June 2001
Tigger (black leopard), August 2001
Yogie, (tiger), May 2000
Disclaimer connected to this blog…Things said are of my opinion and the opinions of others…Stay tuned -B
TY Joey for the heads up!!!