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Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary sued by Animal Legal Defense Fund

A tiger named Gunther lies in an enclosure at Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary. Photo submitted to Roadside Zoo News.

Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary in Tyler, Texas, is being sued by Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

ALDF issued a 24-page complaint against the nonprofit Tiger Creek, its Director Emily Owen and now-former Director Brian Werner Ferris, on March 15. The complaint reads like something out of a horror novel, alleging that the actions of Owen and Werner Ferris have eviscerated the big cats’ population at Tiger Creek.

“Among these 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,” according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges negligence regarding the care of numerous animals at Tiger Creek including:

  • A tiger named Tibor who passed away after spending hours in the rain, lying on his side in his own urine.

  • A tiger named Lexi who developed festering wounds on her legs from lying in her own urine.

  • A lion named Scrunches who experienced a decline in health over several months but did not receive veterinary attention and was only euthanized after she began dragging her back legs around her enclosure, unable to walk.

  • A tiger named Greg who was observed eating sand and declining in health. Greg went months without veterinary care and was only euthanized after he developed a distended abdomen and refused food for several weeks.

  • A tiger named Kumari who was left in a transfer crate for more than 12 hours after undergoing surgery and was found dead in the crate.

  • A serval named Simba who spent days vomiting, becoming dehydrated and largely immobile, without receiving veterinary attention. Simba died without veterinary intervention.

  • A puma named Coco who underwent two failed surgeries on his front leg, an amputation, and an injury to his remaining front leg, before ultimately being euthanized.

  • A tiger named Sierra who was euthanized by repeatedly stabbing her with anesthetic directly into her chest, which caused her to twitch and convulse in a slow and protracted death.

  • A tiger named Nati who went nearly a month with a cyst in her abdomen that burst open and grew to the size of a dinner plate.

  • A serval named Dakari who the U.S. Department of Agriculture felt “should have received veterinary care sooner than [the serval] did.”

  • A tiger cub named Sitaara who Tiger Creek allowed to be handled by COVID-19 infected humans without protective equipment or safety measures, despite the fact that all felids are susceptible to the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • A lion named Max who was doused with vinegar that poured down his face and eyes and caused him to scream out.

  • A 475-lb tiger named Amir who went from being fed 16 pounds of food per day for five days a week, to 16 pounds of food per week, so that Tiger Creek could save money on food purchases.

  • A lion named Max who needed emergency surgery for a stomach blockage attributed to Tiger Creek’s practice of feeding chicken to their big cats.

  • Two tigers who were introduced to breed, despite the possibility that they were related, and began to attack one another. The male tiger was shot with a bean bag gun and the female suffered wounds on her side that left a skin flap hanging from her body that went untreated by a veterinarian.

  • A serval named Zuri that became so distressed that she bit the tip of her tail off.

  • A tiger named Bon that began self-mutilating his tail after being separated from his sibling.

Other allegations in the complaint include insufficient veterinary care, filthy enclosures, animal feed trays infested with maggots, big cats fed a diet that included rancid emu meat, and big cat pools that are green with algae and filth.

"The conditions of confinement, including lack of adequate enrichment, have also caused psychological distress that has been documented in the endangered and threatened animals housed at Tiger Creek," documents say.

Lexi the tiger.
Urine burns on Lexi's leg.
Tibor the tiger.
Nati the tiger.

The complaint alleges that Tiger Creek obtained six tigers from Doc Antle of Myrtle Beach Safari, and a black leopard from Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, whose roadside zoo was featured in the Netflix series Tiger King. The complaint alleges these endangered species were obtained across state lines, for use in commerce, without obtaining the required permits from the Secretary of the Interior.

ALDF is asking for Tiger Creek to turn over all of their remaining endangered or threatened animals to be placed at accredited sanctuaries. ALDF is also asking the judge to enjoin Tiger Creek from violating the ESA and to enjoin Tiger Creek from possessing, exhibiting, housing, transferring, or otherwise engaging in activities related to endangered or threatened animals.


Download the full complaint:

Download PDF • 557KB


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