Accountability Is Our Responsibility

The law is supposed to matter. It’s supposed to represent guidelines. That’s the entire purpose behind why laws were ever created in the first place. Laws are supposed to mean something. Far too often, however, laws are negated, emasculated, by loopholes, privilege, or the almighty dollar. Everyone, everywhere, has experienced the sensation of powerlessness and abandonment created when someone who has broken laws, hurt others, and sometimes literally gotten away with murder, walks off into the sunset without so much as a slap on the wrist, often with ill-gotten gains lining their pockets.

We all know what it feels like to watch injustice unfold.

So, Why do we let it happen?

I don’t mean why do we “let” the court system fail us. We can’t control the courts (not even from a position in the jury) so it’s literally impossible for us to stop injustice insomuch as it’s permitted by the courts in their lackluster support of existing laws.

We can, however, hold those who commit injustices accountable in the courts of public opinion.

It is our job to never forget what the courts failed to acknowledge. And it is our job to do whatever is required to make known the atrocities, abuses, and horrors that have been committed and subsequently ignored by our government, or any other government.

Yesterday, it was announced that Theo Bronhurst, the hunter and tracker who led dentist Walter Palmer on the infamous hunt which resulted in the illegal death of Cecil the Lion, was acquitted of smuggling 29 sables without paperwork. This after Bronhurst was caught redhanded with the 29 un-papered sables. His trial was repeatedly postponed, and he attempted to bribe a dismissal of the charges entirely. After all that, when he did go to trial, the judge acquitted him of all wrongdoing.

Bronhurst’s acquittal is only the most recent, and most public of case dismissals, or instances wherein grievous offenses of animal abuse are completely disregarded by courts, even when there are laws which could be enforced. In the matter of domestic animals, a Texas veterinarian, Kristen Lindsey is currently fighting to keep her license after shooting a neighbor’s pet cat in the head with a bow and arrow. Arguing–despite evidence of the contrary–that the cat was “feral” Lindsey says that she did nothing wrong. And the American court system agreed by proxy when the District Attorney chose not to indict Lindsey on charges of animal cruelty. Now, cat lovers everywhere wait to see if the Texas Board of Veterinary Medicine will agree that shooting a domestic cat in the head with an arrow is acceptable behavior for a licensed small animal vet.

In the world of captive exotic animal abuse, the list of those guilty of abuse, and those who still own and exploit captive exotic animals, are largely one and the same. Wherever you find a history of animal abuse accusations, fines, court cases, and acquittals, you will invariably also find someone who operates under more than one name or titles, who has owned or operated more than one business or “sanctuary”, who still maintains a pseudo-sanctuary, someone who still allows direct interactions between captive exotic animals, and someone who is still exploiting captive exotic animals in exchange for money. These abusers undoubtedly also still claim to be acting in the name of conservation.

But their own irrefutable histories reveal the truth.

I am going to list just a few of these repeat offenders, many of whom are still lauded by the public as excellent sources for “learning about exotic animals”.*

Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado

Has operated under the names:

Joe Exotic
Joseph Maldonado
Aarron Alex
Cody Ryan.

Has run businesses including but not limited to:

5 Continent Productions
Garold Wayne Interactive Zoo
G.W. Exotic Animal Park
G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Foundation
G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Park
Alex Productions
Awakening Productions
Awakening Rescue
Big Cat Rescue Entertainment Group
Corley’s Exotics
Mystical Magic of the Endangered
Tigers in Need
Welch’s Entertainment Group
Welch’s Tiger Experience
Welch’s Great Cat Adventure
World Magic

Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado owns 1500 exotic animals, including more than 150 tigers on just 16 acres of land. Current USDA regulations allow an adult tiger to be kept in a cage smaller than an average parking spot. Think about that. A 700 tiger contained–permanently for its lifetime–in an area the size of your car. A large portion of Joe’s income is derived from constant breeding of cubs, which are used in cub-petting scenarios, hauled across the country to shopping malls and other venues. When the cubs are too old to be handled, they’re “donated” or sold or retired to his own breeding group, where they’re used to perpetuate the abusive situation. Over the last decade, Joe Exotic has been cited repeatedly by the USDA, and is currently under investigation by the USDA in relation to the deaths of 23 individual cubs between April 2009 and May 2010. PETA has also investigated Joe.
Mahamayavia Bhagavan Antle

Has operated under the names:

Keven Antle
Dr. Bhagavan Antle
Doc Antle

Has run businesses including but not limited to:

Buckingham Zoological Park (VA)
T.I.G.E.R.S. Wildlife Park (Sevier TN)
T.I.G.E.R.S. (with two separate “public education” exhibits in Myrtle Beach SC)
R.S.F. (Rare Species Fund, Myrtle Beach SC)
Wild Encounters (Miami Beach FL)
Jungle Island (kept tigers at this institute)
“The Tale Of The Tiger” (yearly production, Boston MA)

“Doc” Antle has been breeding, exploiting and abusing captive exotic animals since the 1980s. He first opened, and then inexplicably abandoned a “zoological park” in Virginia. Officials found animals trapped in enclosures and left to fend for themselves. Just a year or two later, Antle made headlines when he allowed a model in NH to pose with one of his lions at a local fair. The lion subsequently bit the model on the head and face. Antle fled the state, taking the lion with him, while the model was in the hospital, leaving her to receive 70 stitches and rabies vaccines. Antle’s taste for mixing sexy models with captive big cats has persisted, however, and to this day T.I.G.E.R.S. features scantily clad women feeding adult tiger, lions, and ligers from baby bottles. Cub are continually bred in a production-line format, taken from their mothers immediately, and transferred to one of his two Myrtle beach sites. They are then used exclusively for “educating the public” which in Antle’s case, means being used as photography props. The cubs are also taken on the road to a variety of fairs and exhibits where they hare handled by hundreds of paying customers a day. All in the name of “education”. In addition, Antle breeds unnatural crosses between lions and tigers, and uses these “ligers” to draw in crowds, misleading the public to think that these crossbred animals are “rare” species. He touts his Rare Species Fund as a fund where the public can donate money which is then used to support wild conservation. However, the IRS has no record of such a nonprofit, nor is there any such entity under Antle’s name registered in the state of SC. Antle also claims to work closely with the Feline Conservation Federation. However, this is simply a private group which advocates for private ownership of exotic animals, and has nothing to do with actual conservation.
Bill Meadows

As operated under the names:

Bill Meadows

Has operated businesses named:

Tuttle’s Interactive Exotic Zoological Park, Tiger Safari

Just like the others, Bill Meadows has a laundry list of USDA violations against him and his park. At least one undercover investigation has shown proof of animal starvation and abuse, and multiple animals have died under Meadows’ ownership. He has received a multitude of warnings, each resulting in just enough compliance that farther charges are dropped. In at least once case, when Meadows was unable to properly house an animal, Joe Exotic traveled from his own zoo to take custody of the animal while Meadows fixed the enclosure. At that time, Joe Exotic himself was under investigation by the USDA for violations of his own.
Joe Exotic continues to operate his various enterprises, continues to breed animals, and continues to exploit animals. How can this be, you might ask? Because the law cannot be counted on to stand up for the rights of captive exotic animals, and in the absence of the law, the public continues to pay for the privilege of holding and petting baby big cats. The public continues to paint Joe as someone living the American dream and they continue to pay to visit the establishments owned by Joe, and the movie industry continues to pay him for use of his animals.

“Doc” Antle has a 20+ history of violations with both the USDA and numerous state agencies, including injuries to humans, escaped animals, and premature deaths of animals. Yet he’s worked on movies like Ace Ventura, The Jungle Book, and Mighty Joe Young. Hollywood, apparently, does not care how many animal abuse charges, or violations you’re associated with. And everyone who paid to see those movies (and any others Antle worked on) supported Antle’s abuse, and continued celebrity status. Even Rolling Stone overlooked the rampant abuse in favor of writing a fluff piece that not only cheered on Antle’s deplorable actions in building a fortune off animal exploitation, but teasingly stated that his enemies “hate him for it”.

Despite graphic photographs of animals in the last stages of starvation, as well as documented cases wherein veterinarians were bribed, or else wise involved with covering up abuse for Bill Meadows’ park, Meadows continues to operate. Not only that, but he continues to receive good publicity via news stations and travel ratings.

Now is the time to stand up for the exploited, to speak out against the injustice being suffered by these animals. One of the most important things to do which will help the animals being exploited in America, is to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

All of those listed in this particular article have faced law enforcement, and the judicial system, and in every case, every one of them has escaped without tangible, and lasting changes. Until American laws are changed for the better, it’s up so us, the public, to charge these abusers with accountability. We must step in to protect animals by not supporting the institutions which abuse them. Boycott the circus, that’s great, but don’t then turn around and go visit an “exotic animal encounters” park where captive exotic animals are kept, bred and exploited.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act can’t do anything to protect animals outside the USA, however.

This is the major problem with Eduardo Serio and his Black Jaguar White Tiger, which is based in Mexico. As I’ve said before, Serio is not famous for saving big cats, Serio is famous for being the man who plays with big cats. And for, if the “donation” to BJWT is large enough, being the man who can “hook you up” with the chance to visit BJWT and “play with his angels”. Right now, BJWT is running, and repeatedly advertising the chance to win a trip for two to their secret location so you can meet the cats. Serio is a man who blatantly and extravagantly exploits the big cats in his care right in front of millions of people, and no one seems to grasp what he’s doing. They don’t even seem to notice when he lies about genuine sanctuaries in an attempt to divert attention from the fact that his own pseudo-sanctuary doesn’t actually rescue animals. Nor do they grasp the fact that Serio cannot make BJWT a sanctuary simply by calling it one. And even if they fall under the term “sanctuary” as defined by Mexican law (I’ve seen no proof of this) BJWT is not GFAS accredited. Period.

Let’s be realistic. A civilian who privately owned a big cat, shared their bed with the big cat, and allowed it to live in their house, allowed their guests to play with the big cat in exchange for money would not ever be seen as a “rescuer of exotic animals”. They would be seen as someone incorrectly housing a big cat, and exploiting it. This is exactly what Serio does every day on his Instagram account. And yet, he’s touted by more than 5 million followers as being a “savior” to the cats he continues to exploit.

In Mexico, there is little to no oversight in matters of captive exotic animals. Serio regularly buys cubs from breeders to “save” them, and “receives” cubs from people he claims no longer wants them. Legally, there is nothing that can be done at this time, about Serio or BJWT. As long as he meets the requirements to own big cats under Mexican law there is not authority which can question what Serio’s doing. But that does not mean we should not try to have an impact on him.

Check out this petition in regard to a horribly damaged and neglected tiger cub, named Achilles, which Serio has possessed for more than a month now, without allowing the cub to be properly monitored by a big cat specialist. This situation goes beyond posting adorable videos of lion cubs snuggling in his bed. Serio is now putting up videos of an actively suffering creature, while claiming that he–and his followers–can heal it simply through the power of love and positive thinking. Meanwhile, Achilles continues to suffer the agony of multiple fractures.

As long as the public clicks on Serio’s videos, and shares them thousands of times, Serio will continue to make those videos. As long as the public continues to perceive sleeping with baby tigers, holding them, taking photos with them, and mishandling them in general as something “adorable” something to aspire to do, Serio will keep bringing in celebrities to pay to play with the animals, and post videos for fans to fawn all over. It is our job to hold Serio accountable for his atrocious behavior and exploitation. The petition to save Achilles might well be the first step in demanding that accountability. So please, sign it and share.

Law enforcement can only do so much. It’s the public who has the power to condemn the actions of people who cannot be reached by the Law.

Author: Artemis Grey

*I have drawn the statistics used for this article from various websites. Because the people listed here actively attempt to evade disclosing facts about their animals and businesses, it’s possible that the number of animals in their possession is either higher, or lower.

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It’s All In How You Put On The Show

A month ago, I wrote an article for ICARUS about Eduardo Serio and his newest “rescue” a horribly damaged tiger cub he named Achilles. I have since gone back and added numerous addendums to the article linking to videos as posted by Serio. In my original article I stated that no rational vet would have suggested pursuing treatment in a cub that had 10 fractures throughout all four limbs, as well as other fractures, calcium deficiencies and spinal problems.

Let me be clear, at no point in my first article did I say that the cub should be euthanized because it would not live. The reason I said that euthanasia was the more responsible choice (and that is presuming that the cub actually had all of the injuries and issues Serio claimed that it had) is because should it survive, it would suffer from constant pain, would not live a natural lifespan, and would never have what the ICARUS team considered to be a “quality of life”. Just as the ICARUS team believes in hands off conservation, we also believe that the quality of a rescued animal’s life is of utmost importance.

There are times where an elderly long-suffering animal is rescued, and GFAS accredited sanctuaries have the chance to provide for that animal and give it a comfortable existence until the end of its life-which often comes much sooner than the animal deserved. However, in cases where a young animal is facing a lifetime of suffering, along with insurmountable defects or conditions caused by malnourishment, or injuries, we believe that it is the job of the rescuer to make the decision which will bring the most peace and comfort to that animal, not the decision which will drum up the most publicity. Yes, there are horrible cases in which an animal might make a full recovery. There are also cases in which the animal will never have a normal life, or even a comfortable one, and in those cases it is self-serving for a rescuer to keep that animal alive simply so they can say that they rescued it.

In the case of Achilles, Eduardo Serio has intentionally used the sleight of hand he’s known for with his “miracle” recoveries, acting not in the best interest of the animal, but in whatever manner will make him look like a savior able to heal anything “through love and positive thoughts”.

When Serio first posted photos of Achilles 5 weeks ago “just after his arrival” Achilles appeared to be about 2 months old. In the most recent videos wherein Serio and his followers are proclaiming Achilles’ “miracle recovery” and ability to “walk” the tiger cub looks–at least in body–to be approximately 6 months old. Achilles’ head, however, seems abnormally large for his body. This could mean that he’s actually even older than 6 months, and that his body is so shriveled due to lack of nutrition early on that it’s permanently stunted.

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We can’t know for sure, and details like that are brushed aside by Serio as inconsequential, and anyone who tries to find them out is labeled as a “hater” and blocked from his accounts. But nonetheless, something does not fit with Serio’s timeline of Achilles arriving, and only 5 weeks later appearing 4 months larger and older. Again, we can’t know the cub’s true age, because it’s something Serio doesn’t consistently admit to. It is just one more coin under the cups he constantly shuffles, revealing only what he wants the public to know. Serio’s lack of accountability is something well documented, and pointed out by others, like Jacalyn Beales.

By and large, the fact that Achilles can perform a sort of shuffle-limp-walk for several yards before collapsing has been lauded as a “miracle” by Serio’s followers, and accepted as proof that Serio can cure the ravaged with only the power of his love. The fact is, animals are indomitable in their drive to find some way of functioning, no matter how much pain it takes to do so. I have personally witnessed, during my years in the field, animals–both wild and domestic–walking on stumps of bone, functioning while missing entire portions of their skulls, with multiple broken bones, and with entire lower jaws blown off by shotgun blasts. These animals lived, sometimes, for years, with these catastrophic injuries, and without the aid of human intervention. The mere fact that Achilles is capable of attaining a walk-like gait for a few yards, or that he can slither-crawl onto a low mattress, does not indicate that he’s no longer in pain. Just as the fact that the cub has “been under the care of a veterinarian” does not indicate that he’s being treated by a vet who specializes in big cats, instead of one who specializes in, say, exotic birds.

While Serio’s followers are elated to see these videos, the ICARUS team aches inside, knowing all too well what sort of future problems Achilles is still facing. Problems he’ll have no choice but to suffer through as Serio continues to tout him as evidence of his own superiority. Unlike a proper tiger’s conformation–with prominent shoulders, vertical, straight, forelegs, a long flat back, powerful haunches, and well angled hind legs–

IMG_2103walking off the road

Achilles’ forelegs lack muscle development, his right foreleg sports visible deformities to the bones, and that foot turns under unnaturally, his back is prominently bowed in the center, and never flattens in a smooth line as it should, his hind legs show visible atrophy of the musculature and are extremely sickle-hocked, and he walks in a hunched manner, on his heels, rather than up on his toes as he should.

IMG_2352

This motion puts strain not only on all of his joints, but also on all of the connective tissues. The more Achilles moves in this fashion–and he likely can’t move any other way, due to his injuries and deficiencies–the more his muscles will develop incorrectly, and the more permanent these deformities will become. These are not things which can be corrected by love, no matter how much of it you give to him. He will continue to grow heavier–eventually reaching 500-700 pounds, and his own weight will continue to crush the deformed bones that are barely–infrequently–able to support the weight of a cub.

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In his first posts about Achilles, Serio mentioned multiple times that the cub had pins which had been incorrectly placed in his hind legs, pins which were causing some of his problems. He stated more than once that “in about 10 days” Achilles would go into surgery to remove the pins, as they were causing more harm than good. 5 weeks on, and no mention of any surgery has been made. We don’t know if the surgery has happened, if it’s not needed, if it’s still going to happen. All that Serio is talking about is how he “cried like a baby” when Achilles first did his walk-shuffle, and how his follows should continue to “think blue” and help heal the tiger cub. Again, the lack of transparency with Serio’s “rescues” and how they receive treatment raises more questions than it offers answers. To be honest, we don’t even know that Achilles actually had all of the fractures and problems that Serio said he had. It would not surprise me if some of the problems had been fabricated simply to make the “recovery” seem more miraculous. After all, the fact that Serio publicly lies, is something I’ve discussed before. The point is, scientific details aren’t something Serio cares about, and since BJWT isn’t accredited by GFAS, it’s not something they’re required to care about.

What Serio cares about is looking like a hero.

We will never know if Achilles has actually been at BJWT for months unable to walk, before Serio first posted videos of him, whether Serio waited to make sure the cub would live before revealing him to the public as if he’d just arrived, or whether Serio overplayed what was actually wrong with the cub, just so he could later defend himself against “haters” like us, and “prove” that his love could heal an animal not actually that badly injured. The unanswered questions about Achilles’ injuries and physical inconsistencies seen between the much younger looking animal in the first videos, and the much older looking one we see now, are just more shadows over the pseudo-sanctuary Serio takes such extreme pride in.

Achilles’ future looks no brighter. The best case scenario is that he’ll live for a while, dragging himself through Serio’s videos and acting as a poster child for a man who swears he can heal the sick and injured just by loving them (or perhaps “recover” completely because in truth his issues did not involve permanent bone damage) at the worst, he’ll disappear from BJWT’s social media accounts, just as numerous other cubs have.

The only sure thing about Achilles, is that we’ll never really know the truth about him.

We’ll only know what Serio wants us to think.

Artemis Grey

I decided to come back and put an addendum on this post, as Serio just put up a new video on Instagram wherein “The Starving Union” as he dubs them, “visits” Achilles while he’s eating. Our problem with Serio’s feeding situations aside, this offered a prime comparison between Achilles, who seems so much larger than his portrayed age would suggest, and two cubs who are approximately 5-6 months old, as per their appearance and introduction on Instagram by Serio. Shortly after Khloe Kardashian’s prominent visit to BJWT (wherein she learned all about the plight of wild lions and tigers, by bottle feeding and lying on the floor with newborn cubs) back in mid October of 2015, several new cubs appeared, and one was named after her. That would make the tiger cub in this photo, Khloe, between 5-6 months old. Yet she and the Sonny, the lion cub are dwarfed by Achilles, who is actually, according to the presentation on Instagram, supposedly younger than the other two. More questions without any answers. This is one of the ways in which cubs are shuffled and disappear, at BJWT, because ages are a never given, and thus cubs seem to come and go without being able to track their growth or lifespan. Again, something that’s enabled by the lack of GFAS accreditation.

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