OROVILLE, Calif. – Wednesday morning, PETA announced it submitted a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Director Robert Gibbens, calling on the agency to investigate the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation.
PETA submitted the letter this morning, saying they want the USDA to investigate the foundation for apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) after a 3-year-old leopard ‘attacked a volunteer and then escaped his primary enclosure at the roadside zoo on Saturday,’ according to PETA’s news release.
When Action News Now spoke to Kirshner about Saturday's incident earlier this week, Roberta said, "It was an incident because the girl was leaving the enclosure and she stumbled and the cat got confused and tried to get on her and it was just an excitement for him. Different things can bring out the wild in them. It is like your home cat, if you step on its tail it will try and bite you and that is your pet that sleeps with you half the time," she said.
PETA said they’re noting that these events “appear to violate the AWA’s prohibition on direct contact between dangerous animals and the public, which can include volunteers, as well as its requirements that enclosures keep animals contained and that exhibitors demonstrate adequate knowledge of the species in their care.”
In December, PETA also said it alerted the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to the risk of Kirshner staff entering enclosures with leopards.
In January, the USDA cited Kirshner for having no valid program of veterinary care and no attending veterinarian on record, according to PETA’s news release. The roadside zoo’s previous AWA violations include allowing members of the public to have dangerous contact with lions, tigers, and a bear.
70% of the animals cared for at the Kirshner Foundation have special needs and would otherwise be euthanized if not adopted by the Kirshner Foundation, according to Rick Carhart with CAL FIRE. The volunteer involved in this incident is now out of the hospital.