PETA Calls for Investigation of Former Drug Kingpin’s Exotic-Animal Business

Miami Animal Exhibitor Lobbying Against Legislation Designed to Protect Big Cats While Apparently Racking Up Animal Welfare Violations

For Immediate Release:
May 8, 2014

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Miami – Dozens of photographs from the Zoological Wildlife Foundation (ZWF)—a business that breeds, buys, and sells exotic animals and uses them for photo ops—reveal that ZWF regularly places members of the public, including babies and small children, in direct contact with tigers, lions, and other dangerous wild animals in apparent violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This morning, PETA sent a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking for an immediate investigation into possible violations of the AWA.

PETA’s complaint comes on the heels of a Mother Jones report that revealed that ZWF owner Mario Tabraue—a former cocaine kingpin—has spent $80,000 since last year on Washington lobbyists to oppose the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, which would prevent private citizens and unaccredited exhibitors from breeding and purchasing dangerous big cats.

“It’s no surprise that a man who profits from placing small children in direct contact with dangerous big cats would oppose legislation that would protect big cats and the public,” says PETA Foundation Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “Dragging lions, tigers, and other animals—including cubs who should be with their mothers—around Florida for photo ops is inherently cruel and almost always illegal.”

ZWF has a lengthy record of violating the AWA, including for keeping animals in unsafe enclosures and failing to provide them with clean drinking water. Tabraue has admitted to making false claims to federal authorities about his animal dealings—such as where he obtained the animals in his possession—and his long criminal history as a former drug kingpin includes convictions for racketeering and narcotics violations. His exotic-animal business served as a front for his drug-smuggling enterprise.

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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