Kirshner Leopard Attack Prompts PETA Complaint to Feds

For Immediate Release:
February 24, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Oroville, Calif. – PETA submitted a formal complaint to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Director of Animal Welfare Operations Robert Gibbens this morning calling on the agency to investigate the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation for apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) after a 3-year-old leopard named Royal attacked a volunteer and then escaped his primary enclosure at the roadside zoo on Saturday.

According to roadside zoo owner Roberta Kirshner and other staff, a volunteer entered the cage containing the adult leopard—a predator strong enough to carry three times his own weight into a tree—and he jumped on her, causing five puncture wounds in her neck. He then escaped into the fenced-in area outside his enclosure before being captured, all while guests were present on the property. PETA notes that these events appear to violate the AWA’s prohibition on direct contact between dangerous animals and the public, which can include volunteers, as well as its requirements that enclosures keep animals contained and that exhibitors demonstrate adequate knowledge of the species in their care.

“Any big-cat expert knows that sending a volunteer into a cage with a powerful predator is a recipe for disaster,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Debbie Metzler. “The Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation either doesn’t know what it’s doing or doesn’t care, and PETA is calling on the USDA to hold this sham sanctuary accountable for placing volunteers, visitors, and big cats at serious risk.”

In December, PETA alerted the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to the risk of Kirshner staff entering enclosures with leopards. In January, the USDA cited Kirshner for having no valid program of veterinary care and no attending veterinarian on record. The roadside zoo’s previous AWA violations include allowing members of the public to have dangerous contact with lions, tigers, and a bear.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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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