In the midst of a lawsuit regarding the care and treatment of the endangered animals at Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary in Tyler, Texas, two tigers have disappeared.
On January 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted an inspection at Tiger Creek and counted 17 tigers. On July 20, only 15 tigers remained.
Former employees suspect tigers Bengali and Jasmine may have passed away. Bengali made national news last year as the oldest tiger alive in captivity.
Tiger Creek was sued by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) earlier this year for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Click here to read more about the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Tiger Creek director Emily Owen Brooks and her father, former director Brian Werner Ferris, were negligent in the care of numerous animals. Click here to read more about Werner Ferris.
Tiger Creek allegedly delayed medical care for big cats including two tigers who were left to slowly die while lying in their own urine. Several big cats were euthanized by stabbing them repeatedly in the chest with anesthetic, a prolonged process that caused the animals to shake, convulse and vocalize.
“I had never seen anything like (tiger) Sierra’s euthanasia in my entire life,” a former employee wrote in a declaration submitted in the lawsuit. “It is the most barbaric thing I have ever seen and I hope to never witness anything like it again.”
During one incident described in the declaration, the former head of animal care, Jared Johnson, who is now employed at Flint Veterinary Clinic in Flint, Texas, poured an entire bottle of vinegar onto a lion named Max, because Max wouldn’t give Johnson his food tray. The vinegar poured into Max’s eyes and mouth, causing him to roar in an angry tone and pull on the fence of his enclosure so hard that the bolts started to come out of the ground.
The employee reported the incident to Werner Ferris, who referred to it as “animal abuse.” Johnson was not fired for the incident and began penalizing the employee for speaking up about the treatment of Max, court records say.
The lawsuit 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, without obtaining the required permits from the Secretary of the Interior. Exotic and Antle were featured in the Netflix series Tiger King. Exotic is serving a 21 year prison sentence for charges of murder-for-hire and violating the ESA. Antle was arrested in June for money laundering and wildlife trafficking charges.
ALDF is asking for Tiger Creek to surrender all of their remaining endangered or threatened animals to be placed at accredited sanctuaries. Tiger Creek has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
Tiger Creek has not publicly announced whether the two tigers that disappeared between January and July have died.