This week the Orlando Sentinel reported the arrival of two cougars at Uncle Donald’s Farm, a petting zoo in Lady Lake. The animals were donated from Savage Kingdom, an infamous breeding facility for exotic big cats in Center Hill.
For decades, Robert Baudy, the owner of Savage Kingdom, sold tigers, panthers, leopards and other animals to circuses and private individuals. But in July a federal judge revoked Savage Kingdom and Mr. Baudy’s federal license after numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The government was forced to act after a 2001 incident in which a tiger broke through a rusted fence and attacked and killed a volunteer at the property (the tiger was subsequently shot dead). Click here to download the official USDA account of the incident. But there had been several troubling incidents at the breeding facility. Most recently, in January 2006, a cougar escaped from his cage and was strangled after workers trying to capture the cougar lassoed the animal with a rope.
Without a federal license, Mr. Baudy has been busy trying to find new homes for his collection of animals. Seven tigers from the breeding facility have been sent to Jim Fowler’s Life in the Wild, a new zoo under construction in Florida’s Panhandle. (In August, ARFF sent a letter to Mr. Fowler, urging that his new animal park be developed as a refuge for animals who have no place else to go—exotic animals neglected by private owners, or discarded from zoos and circuses.) Another six tigers and leopards went to a roadside zoo in Georgia, and five big cats remain at the facility. Unfortunately, life may not improve much for the cougars and other animals in their new homes.
At age 83, and without a federal license, Mr. Baudy’s destructive career as an exotic animal dealer is likely over. But there are many breeders in Florida eager to take his place. Strengthening regulations on the possession of big cats, monkeys, pythons and other exotic animals is one of ARFF’s priorities in the upcoming legislative session. We will need your help to be successful in Tallahassee. If you are not on ARFF’s e-mail list, please click here to sign-up to receive legislative updates.