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PETA Reacts to Illegal Tiger Transaction

The animal-rights group PETA is getting involved in a illegal tiger transaction.

PETA sent a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture Thursday asking it to investigate the Spring Hill Wildlife Ranch near Calvert.

The organization wants the ranch's license revoked.

Federal agents are investigating its reported co-owner Michelle Ashton for allegedly trying to sell six Bengal tiger cubs in McAllen.

According to PETA, the ranch's owner, John Wallace, does not have the proper permits to sell internationally.

PETA says that could be in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Violating federal, state, or local wildlife laws is grounds for the revocation of a USDA license.

According to a PETA press release, Wallace frequently advertises in the Animal Finder's Guide, a trade publication for exotic-animal breeders and dealers. He has offered baby lemurs and two-week-old lion cubs, among other animals, for sale. He also offered to sell white tiger cubs for up to $6,000 each, and Wallace placed a wanted ad last year for chimpanzees who were one to four months old. Baby animals-who mean big money in the exotic-animal trade-are taken from their mothers before they are weaned, which causes extreme stress for mothers and babies. Had the tiger cubs been sent to Mexico, they most likely would have ended up in a roadside zoo, a tourist attraction, or a circus, where they would be subjected to training that includes food deprivation, whipping, and other harsh punishments.

"Money rules in the seedy exotic-animal trade, and the animals' fates are barely an afterthought," says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "If Wallace is found to have violated any laws, the best way to make sure that he never again breeds baby animals into a life of misery is to shut him down."

PETA's letter to the USDA follows.

June 19, 2008

Dear Dr. Gibbens:

Please consider this letter an official request for the USDA to investigate the following situation concerning John Wallace of Bryan, Texas, license #74-B-0498.

According to media reports, on Sunday, June 15, authorities thwarted the sale of six tiger cubs in a parking lot in McAllen, Texas. It is believed that the cubs-who ranged in age from 2 to 8 weeks-were bound for Mexico, because they were allegedly being transferred to a Mexican national in a vehicle licensed in that country.

The people allegedly selling the tigers were identified as employees of Springhill Wildlife Park and Ranch, which is owned by John Wallace. Springhill Wildlife apparently does not have the permits required to transport endangered species across international borders, which is a violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This matter is currently under investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Of additional concern is the fact that the buyers' vehicle apparently lacked air-conditioning, which would certainly pose a threat to the comfort and safety of the cubs if they had been transported across the border. Anyone who would sell cubs at such a young age and subject them to the stress of a long and stifling journey in a vehicle is clearly not acting in the best interests of the animals.

If Wallace is found guilty of any federal, state, or local charges, PETA asks that the USDA immediately terminate his license pursuant to 9 C.F.R. §§ 2.12 and 2.11, which provide that a the USDA can terminate a license when the licensee has "been found to have violated any federal, state, or local laws or regulations …."

Thank you for your time.
Sincerely,
Lisa Wathne
Captive Exotic Animal Specialist


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