GW Exotic Animal Park in central Oklahoma has 200 tigers and more than 1,000 other animals. Its owner, Joe Schreibvogel, has been in the news many times for running a substandard zoo and allowing dangerous interactions between children and baby tigers. But Schreibvogel’s recent erratic behavior before Ohio lawmakers has advocates worried that GW Exotic is a disaster waiting to happen.
Joe Schreibvogel traveled to Ohio in April 2012 to lobby against Senate Bill 310, the bill to restrict private ownership of dangerous animals kept in captivity. The bill is a result of the Zanesville animal disaster that left 49 exotic animals slaughtered and the owner of the facility, Terry Thompson dead.
Schreibvogel told legislators that Terry Thompson was “murdered by animal advocates to advance an agenda to ban private ownership of dangerous exotic pets.” In truth Thompson released the wild animals and shot himself. Schreibvogel also said if he was faced with a similar situation he would act as Thompson did.
Sensing urgency with GW Exotic, the Humane Society of the United States has been conducting an undercover investigation into the animal park since last summer.
Here are some of their findings:
- At least five tigers died at the facility during the investigation – two had been sick for months and a 6-week-old cub being raised inside the GW owner’s home sustained head injuries and had to be euthanized.
- In August 2011, according to GW’s assistant park manager, three people suffered tiger bites at a fair, including one child whose bite became infected.
- On Sept. 3, 2011, a tiger reportedly bit a young girl on her leg during the “play cage” portion of a tour.
- On Sept. 11, 2011, a tiger cub scratched a young child while the child was posing for a picture.
- On Sept. 17, 2011, a 20-week-old tiger named Dre knocked down and bit a small child. GW’s park manager told staff that the boy was bitten and scratched and that he would be bruised but that he (the manager) had “smoothed things over” with the mother and had her “sign the papers.” The next day, the same tiger was used for photo shoots at GW and photographers posed a small child bottle feeding the tiger.
“GW Exotics may have more dangerous exotic animals than any other roadside zoo in the nation—with approximately five times as many predators as the late Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “At this facility, children are allowed to play with tigers as if they are domestic kittens, rather than wild cats soon to mature into the some of the world’s most lethal carnivores.”
HSUS has filed complaints with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking for an official investigation.
Photo Credit: orchidgalore