Jan 27, 2016 1:12 PM by News Staff
Executives from the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation responded Wednesday to allegations that the center has mistreated animals over the past several years.
A letter addressed to Bernadette Juarez, investigator for the department of agriculture, provided to Action News Now by Roberta Kirshner, executive director of the foundation, outlines the issues the foundation has with charges, calling them “unjustified.”
“Your conclusions leave us disheartened and confused, as we submitted a great deal of explanatory paperwork and sworn statements during the course of this investigation which addressed and refuted most of these matters,” an excerpt from the statement reads.
The primary issue the foundation takes with allegations if the alleged handling of exotic and dangerous animals by “members of the public,” according to the USDA, which violates the law. Kirshner said these animals were handled by individuals who were volunteers of the center and who had received extensive training in proper care of the animals.
Another allegation against the foundation was that members of the community were allowed to handle a “juvenile” bear cub which equates to gross negligence on the part of the foundation. Kirshner wrote that, while there are no official regulations on how old a bear can be before being allowed to be handled, the bear in question was not considered a juvenile bear, but rather a baby bear cub. This 14-week-old bear cub was “of the age, size and temperament to be an appropriate candidate to be held and managed,” according to Kirshner and the foundation.
The foundation, however, did pay the settlement fine of $5,464, but said they did so with “strong objection.”
“We strongly object to having to pay this penalty, but do so because we simply cannot afford to pursue the USDA’s process wherein onerous financial penalties loom in the offing,” the statement read.
The statement by the foundation alleges stiffer penalties of “…$10,000, or other sanctions for each violation…” for attempting to fight violations.
There is no indication of when or how the USDA will respond to the allegations by the Kirshner Foundation.