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The Healing Ground: Living Symbols

Sanctuary animals personify captive wildlife issues

All Animals magazine September/October 2012

  • Sheba the mountain lion. Ray Eubanks/The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center

by Michael Sharp

Sheba the ever-purring mountain lion was found in the back of a car during a routine traffic stop—declawed, apparently being trained to ride a horse. Samson the African lion once spent his days being prepped for TV and film productions.

Such beginnings don’t come without a cost—either to the animals, both of whom in this case have battled health problems, or to the animal protection groups and sanctuaries that are left to pick up the pieces. In 2012 alone, for example, The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, operated in partnership with The HSUS, will spend an estimated $42,680 to care for Samson, plus $21,136 more for Sheba.

They are two of 22 sanctuary animals on the property.

“When we accept a new animal, it’s often for the next 25 years,” says center director Ali Crumpacker. “There’s only so many I can take. There’s only so many sanctuaries that can take them at all. And there’s way more candidates for placement than there are places to take them.”

In that way, animals like Sheba and Samson are living symbols of The HSUS’s broader work, reminders of why campaigners are fighting to end the mistreatment and private possession of wild animals. In Ohio, following The HSUS’s push to ban the new ownership of wild animals, Gov. John Kasich signed the Dangerous Wild Animal Act into law in June. The organization has also used undercover investigations—like a recent look into G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Oklahoma—to expose the dark side of keeping exotic animals in captivity. One such investigation set in motion the HSUS Animal Rescue Team’s removal of three tigers, two mountain lions, two leopards, two wolf hybrids, and a macaque monkey from a roadside zoo in Collins, Miss.

Like Samson and Sheba, they are the lucky ones, finding sanctuary at The Fund for Animals Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch (an HSUS affiliate), Carolina Tiger Rescue, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, and the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary. So many more, though—from tiger cubs used in shopping mall photo shoots to other baby animals in traveling zoos—aren’t as fortunate.

“The breeders are not being charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the animals that they are producing have lifelong quality care,” Crumpacker says. “They’re products, and they’re a commodity, and when they’re no longer useful for that particular program, then they’re sold or killed.”

It’s a problem, a cycle, that The HSUS will continue to combat.

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