Black bears naturally remain with their mothers for up to two years, and the maternal bond is essential to their development. But the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation has a long history of acquiring bear cubs who have been torn away from their mothers in order to get people to buy tickets to roadside zoos. Apparently, Kirshner prioritizes profits over the animals’ well-being, which is a clear example of speciesism—a human-supremacist worldview.
Since 1995, Kirshner has acquired over 100 baby wild animals from breeders and other roadside zoo operators, including “Joe Exotic” and Mario Tabraue of Tiger King infamy. More than 80 of these animals were under 3 months old when they were shipped to the facility. Kirshner has also sent young animals to notorious exotic-animal dealers, including Gregg Woody, who is known to send bears to slaughter.
In addition to rampant exploitation, Kirshner’s history is littered with abuse, attacks, escapes, fines for violating state and federal laws, and evidence of a chronic inability to meet even the country’s bare minimum standards for animal care. The roadside zoo’s operator, Roberta Kirshner, has been seen hitting animals used for encounters, including a lion cub named Samson, whom she reportedly hit with a broom while he had broken bones. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health fined Kirshner after a leopard named Royal escaped and attacked a volunteer, requiring hospitalization for puncture wounds to the neck. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also fined Kirshner over $5,000, a penalty the agency reserves for the worst violators.
Kirshner has repeatedly failed to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, including a lion cub named Lucie (pictured above as an adult), who was severely lame, uncomfortable, and unwilling to stand. From January 2021 to June 2022, the USDA issued Kirshner citations in seven straight inspections for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, including by dangerously allowing a volunteer to take a snow leopard to a juvenile detention center, failing to keep animals cool in scorching summer temperatures after an inspector observed leopards and tigers panting. Kirshner was issued an official warning for not having enough adequately trained staff.
Animals languish in the roadside zoo’s cramped, barren cages, and many of them are overweight, are in poor body condition, and pace frequently––a concerning sign of psychological distress.
Please e-mail Roberta Kirshner at [email protected] to ask that she transfer all the animals to reputable facilities.
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