The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Foundation
|Land area||16 acres (6.5 ha)|
|Number of animals||1400|
|Number of species||128|
The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Foundation, formerly known as G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Foundation and the The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in the United States. The organization's stated purpose is to provide care and shelter for exotic animals. It was founded in 1997 by the Schreibvogel Family of Springer, Oklahoma in memory of their late son Garold Schreibvogel (G.W.) who died in an automobile accident by a drunk driver. The current president is Joe Schreibvogel.
The foundation is supported by donations and visitors to the park as well as tours to malls and other businesses where the public can pose with a tiger cub for a fee. The foundation maintains its commitment to the breeding, rescue, care of endangered and exotic species of animals.
The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park is situated on 16 acres (6.5 ha) and began as a shelter for endangered and exotic species of animals. It currently houses and cares for over 128 species of animals and over 182 big cats. In total, the park has approximately 1400 animals under its care and shelter during the year.
The park itself offers tours and educational programs for visitors, all in keeping with the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Foundation's main cause of advocacy for the animals it hosts. The park has been visited by people from all fifty states, along with international visitors from over two hundred countries.
Accusations of animal abuse
In 2004, the animal park was accused by animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of harboring dying and injured animals in crowded conditions with a lack of food, water, veterinary care and insufficient and untrained staff.[not in citation given] These complaints were partially based on a Consent Decision and Order from the United States Department of Agriculture for willful violations of the Animal Welfare Act. In its decision, the USDA claimed that the park failed to provide adequate veterinary care, safe enclosures, clean food, clean shelter, and trained employees. The park failed to maintain records and to keep animals safely constrained to avoid injuries to the public. The park was fined $25,000 and their USDA display permit was suspended. The park's USDA license was reinstated when it complied with USDA regulations.
Between February and June 2006 PETA had an investigator pose as an G.W. Exotic Animal Foundation employee. The group subsequently released footage. PETA alleged that animals were starved and "routinely hit, punched, kicked, sprayed with cold water, and struck with rakes and shovels."
In 2011, Inside Edition ran a segment focusing on the park's traveling tiger exhibit. Cubs are taken to malls across the United States, where visitors can pay to interact with them. Cubs were noted to be sickly and distressed. The Born Free Foundation criticized the attraction, stating that it exploited the cubs and endangered the public.
In 2012, the Humane Society of the United States released video taken by an undercover investigator. It included footage of a tiger being dragged across gravel, big cats being hit, and Schreibvogel instructing staff to smack cubs to make them walk. HSUS claimed that 5 tigers died during their investigation, one of which did not receive veterinary care.
In May 2014, the USDA cited the park for failure to provide adequate veterinary care. According to officials, an injured bear's wound reopened and an employee attempted to stitch it. The injury became subsequently worse and the bear was euthanized.
The park also has a 20.6 mile lake resort with camping and fishing. The lake is stocked with fish and primitive camping and cabins are available.
The park is licensed by the State of Oklahoma as a rendering facility. President Joe Schreibvogel uses the stage name Joe Exotic at offsite appearances in a show entitled "Mystical Magic of the Endangered" at which he displays baby wild animals.
In 2010, the park and Schreibvogel created Big Cat Rescue Entertainment Group, Inc., referred to as Big Cat Rescue Entertainment. Big Cat Rescue, a critic of the park's practices, filed suit against them, claiming the name and logo similarities were used to damage their reputation and cause confusion. The defendants counter-claimed, stating that Big Cat Rescue had caused them financial loss. In February 2013, a judge rejected the counter-claim and Schreibvogel agreed to a consent decree of 1 million dollars. The park filed for bankruptcy shortly after and remained open to the public.
Accidents and incidents
A six-month-old tiger cub scratched a worker at the Northgate Mall in Cincinnati, Ohio. The cub was on display as part of the park's traveling tiger attraction. The employee described "blood everywhere."
The footage released from the HSUS investigation included a video of a young child being bitten a tiger cub, which Schreibvogel asserts the organization staged. Wayne Pacelle criticized the park for allowing public contact with "dangerous wild animals" and referred to the park as "a ticking time bomb." Schreibvogel responded that "It is a ticking time bomb - if somebody thinks they're going to walk in here and take my animals away, it's going to be a small Waco." HSUS claims that the investigator became aware of 6 instances where visitors were bitten or scratched during animal interactions.
On October 5, 2013, a female worker was attacked by a tiger after she stuck her hand inside its cage. The tiger grabbed her left arm and pulled it through a 4-inch square hole. She was taken to a hospital and treated for severe injuries. The employee announced her intent to return to work after recovery. According to Schreibvogel, she is expected to undergo multiple surgeries for two years.
In April 2014, OSHA fined the park 5,000 USD for failing to provide protective barriers in bear and cat cages, lacking a "written hazard communication program", not keeping a log of staff injury and illness, and for the October 2013 tiger attack. In December 2014, Schreibvogel was allegedly diagnosed with tuberculosis and brucellosis, both of which are transferable to humans and animals. PETA called on the Oklahoma State Veterinarian and USDA to quarantine the facility and test employees.
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