Feds Push to Shut Down Local Big-Cat Magic Act for Cruelty to Animals

Feds Push to Shut Down Local Big-Cat Magic Act for Cruelty to Animals

For Immediate Release:
April 28, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Branson, Mo. – PETA has just learned that Branson-based magician Kirby VanBurch—whose exotic-cat act PETA has kept close watch over for years—is facing possible permanent revocation of his exhibitor’s license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has formally charged him with numerous willful violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

VanBurch has a history of confining the tigers, leopards, and lion used in his shows to small enclosures that deny them the opportunity even to stretch their legs, and he has admitted that the cats are removed from the cages only for performances. The charges from last month, which just became publicly available, allege that between 2011 and 2013, VanBurch willfully failed to provide exotic cats with veterinary care, including tigers and a leopard who suffered from paw pad lesions, lameness, and other painful conditions. One tiger, Charlie, was in such bad shape—lame to the point of walking on only two legs, reluctant to stand, and so thin that his ribs were visible and his shoulder and hip bones were prominent—that in 2011, the USDA confiscated him.

“It may soon be curtains for Kirby VanBurch’s use and abuse of the exotic cats suffering in his inhumanely small cages,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “PETA has been calling on the USDA to take stringent action against abusive animal exhibitors, and there’s no more stringent action that it could take than shutting an act down for good.”

The charges also allege that VanBurch failed to provide exotic cats with safe and sanitary housing, adequate space, and sufficient food. Other charges stem from VanBurch’s alleged decision to transport four exotic cats in a van without air conditioning on a day when the temperature reached a heat index of nearly 109 degrees—leaving the cats panting and struggling to breathe.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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