Update: Reports of Abuse and Deaths at Sham Sanctuary

Published by Jennifer O'Connor.

Update: In January of 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its order that the notorious Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation in Oroville, California, pay more than $5,000 in fines for chronic violations of the Animal Welfare Act, following an inspection prompted by PETA and numerous calls for investigations in recent years. Documented violations include subjecting animals to temperatures of over 100 degrees with no cooling measures, failing to provide a tiger who had an eye injury and a lynx who had limb pain with veterinary care, and allowing members of the public to engage in dangerous direct contact with adult lions, a tiger, and a bear.

Originally posted February 10, 2014:

Former volunteers at the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation in California have come forward to report appalling abuse and neglect and an alarming number of animal deaths at the sham sanctuary, which is operated by Roberta Kirshner.

Whistleblowers report a litany of serious abuses, including these:

  • Kirshner failed or refused to call in a veterinarian for many ill and injured animals, who were left to suffer and die.
  • A former volunteer reported that she personally witnessed Kirshner strike a bear—who was so young that she had not yet fully opened her eyes—with enough force to knock the cub backward. The witness stated that Kirshner struck the bear many times and even instructed the volunteer to do so in order to “teach” the cub.
  • Another volunteer reported that Kirshner instructed her to “discipline” a clouded leopard by repeatedly hitting her under her chin with her fist—even after the animal’s nose started to bleed.
  • A lion cub named Samson was reportedly taken out repeatedly for visitors to pick up and handle and was hit with a broom while he was suffering from broken bones.

Tiger Cub Baby Kirshner (2) Tiger Cub Baby Kirshner (1)

PETA has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calling for thorough investigations.

What You Can Do

Any roadside zoo, dealer, or breeder can call itself a “sanctuary” to draw in financial support. Never be duped. Contact PETA before visiting or supporting one of these facilities to find out whether it’s a genuine sanctuary, or visit the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries to learn more.

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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind