Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary, a roadside zoo in Tyler, Texas, is arguing a lawsuit brought against them on behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) alleging they’re responsible for the death of numerous lions and tigers should be dismissed for lack of standing.
The lawsuit was initiated in March, alleging the actions of Director Emily Owen and her father, now-former Director Brian Werner Ferris, eviscerated the population of big cats at the facility.
“Among those deaths are a tiger who laid dying for days in his own waste without any veterinary intervention, a lion with gaping wounds who was forced to endure extensive and painful medical treatments to generate donations until his death, and immobile, dying cats stabbed repeatedly in their chest in a brutal form of euthanasia,” the lawsuit alleges.
ALDF argues Tiger Creek provides the animals with insufficient veterinary care, keeps animals in filthy enclosures and has fed the animals rancid emu meat. They also allege that Tiger Creek obtained six tigers from Doc Antle of Myrtle Beach Safari, and a black leopard from Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as “Tiger King” Joe Exotic, and the endangered animals were transported across state lines illegally without the required permits from the Secretary of the Interior. Read more about the lawsuit here.
A tiger named Sakima at Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary appeared very skinny after staff altered his diet.
On May 23, Tiger Creek submitted a Motion to Dismiss ALDF's lawsuit against them. Tiger Creek argues that they’re a 173-acre wildlife preserve and animal sanctuary, both claims that are verifiably false. In Tiger Creek’s most recently available tax filings they indicate the nonprofit roadside zoo resides on 15 acres of land, which is not owned by the sanctuary. Tiger Creek instead rents the land from Ferris and his ex-wife, with the nonprofit paying a total of $172,517 for a year’s worth of rent in the most recent tax filings.
The facility is also not a wildlife preserve or an animal sanctuary and is not accredited by any sanctuary accrediting organization. Records show Tiger Creek regularly purchases animals from other roadside zoos and notorious animal dealers rather than saving them.
Tiger Creek abruptly shut down in August 2021, claiming it was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their lawyer argues that the shut down led to lower financial resources, but that they continued to provide “the highest level” of care for the animals. IRS records indicate the income Tiger Creek generates from visitor’s gate fees makes up about 7% of the income they bring in each year. In 2018, $233,751 of the $3,204,042 in donations Tiger Creek brought in was attributed to gate fees.
In their motion to dismiss, Tiger Creek argues ALDF lacks standing because it has not alleged sufficient facts supporting an injury. They claim ALDF has not alleged that Ferris and Owen either “harm” or “harass” the tigers which is a requirement for an Endangered Species Act lawsuit.
ALDF must bring the lawsuit on behalf of itself instead of on behalf of its individual members, documents indicate. Tiger Creek argues that if ALDF brought the lawsuit on their own behalf they would lack standing because they do not have a personal connection to any of the animals.
Tiger Creek's lawyer wrote that Ferris and Owen are protected from liability by the nonprofit’s corporate structure and any claims against them must be dismissed.
“Plaintiff has not alleged Ferris or Owen personally committed any intentional or illegal acts independent from their positions as a former director of the sanctuary and the current director of the sanctuary, respectively,” their lawyer wrote.
None of the claims of animal mistreatment were addressed in Tiger Creek's Motion to Dismiss.
Download Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary's Motion to Dismiss: