Victory! PETA Secures a Historic Win for Protected Cats

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2 min read

PETA has secured a first-of-its-kind agreed-upon judgment in its lawsuit against Rick L. Pelphrey, a veterinarian who admits to declawing lions, tigers, and big-cat hybrids illegally at a Charlestown, Indiana, roadside zoo quite accurately named Wildlife in Need.

“Declawing” refers to amputating the first digit of the claw, including the bone and muscle tissues, in a manner that permanently injures animals and leaves them with a lifetime of chronic lameness, pain, and psychological distress.

This historic federal court order sets the precedent that declawing endangered and threatened big and exotic cats when not medically necessary violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As part of the settlement, Pelphrey may no longer declaw endangered and threatened big and exotic cats or provide them with veterinary care.

Pelphrey had no specialized training to care for big cats, and they were left bleeding and in pain from his unnecessary and illegal amputations. PETA’s settlement will spare others a similar fate and make it harder for Wildlife in Need to find another veterinarian who is willing to declaw lions, tigers, and hybrids illegally so that they can be forced to participate in its cruel photo op stunts.

PETA notes that Pelphrey declawed approximately 12 big cats, without giving them any pain medication, at Wildlife in Need over the past three years, even though the American Veterinary Medical Association condemned the practice of declawing exotic cats eight years ago. A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report indicates that two tiger cubs had “[s]evere complications” from the amputations, leaving them bleeding, hesitant to walk, and in apparent pain. Both subsequently died.

Wildlife in Need, Indeed

PETA’s lawsuit against the owners and operators of Wildlife in Need for alleged violations of the ESA is ongoing.

In February, we won a preliminary injunction under the ESA that stopped Wildlife in Need from declawing big cats, separating them prematurely from their mothers, and using them in “Tiger Baby Playtime” events, in which cubs have been handled roughly, hit, and dragged.

Animals are suffering in roadside zoos across the country. Many big cats at these facilities are torn away from their mothers as cubs and endure a lifetime of suffering, just for a few moments of human entertainment. Click the button below to speak up for them by urging these facilities to close their doors and surrender the animals to reputable sanctuaries:

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